Written by FINA Press Correspondent in Portugal, Nuno Albuquerque
A top-class Futebol Clube do Porto as a team, and Diogo Carvalho individually were simply the best at the recent Portuguese Winter Championships (short course) in the ancient city of Leiria (129 km north of Lisbon).
From December 4-6, most of the best Portuguese swimmers gathered to the first national event of the season, without the presence of many valuable swimmers such as Simão Morgado, Pedro Oliveira, Carlos Almeida and Tiago Venâncio, in a meet where the club from the North of the country demonstrated its supremacy: 12 gold - 8 silver - 8 bronze medals, a total of 28, way far from Sporting (Lisbon) with 5-7-8, total of 20, but with more national records (counting all ages).
Twenty clubs earned medals, showing some good competition among the participants, proved by the establishment of no less than 23 national open records (47 in total, with junior records), making some to name this Nationals as “the best in the decade”, which is definitely too much... especially if we recall that the majority of the swimmers wore the pre-banned swimsuits, which will make its last appearance in Portugal in the Clubs I and II Division National Championships (Dec. 19-20, in Santo António dos Cavaleiros, 25m pool).
Individually it was, therefore, time for a mix of some of the old local stars, like Diogo Carvalho (MVP of the meet with a strong 53.71 at 100 IM), Duarte Mourão and Alexandre Agostinho, along with some of the new revelations.Santa came to town…
This was, undoubtedly the case of the new “kid on the block” Gustavo Santa (b. 1993) with a surprising 15:05.57 in the 1500 free (also junior record at 800 m, 8:00.80), only his second ever national record (first as a junior, and the first ever was in the 400 free), smashing the previous mark of 15:28.27 already from 2001, and pretty close to Portugal absolute limit of 15:04.78 from Fernando Costa (2005).
Santa’s talent was known, but the surprise was still big, since his improvement in the longest race of the pool (not the shortest and easiest as many times happens when it comes to young athletes) is considerable: in December 2007 his PB was 16:53.32, and one year after he improved to 15:50.63, i.e. showing a good career planning by his coach João Mendes, and promising to Portugal a strong long distance athlete, with a very good mental attitude, as demonstrated in the last 100 m of the race, with a powerful 56.02 (26.90 in the last 50m!), to beat veteran Paulo Franco (Nacional da Madeira) by 11 hundredths of a second, in “the race of the year” for some… For sure, the race of a lifetime for young Santa so far.
The title of Portugal national champion was not the only first for the promising swimmer from Sines (on the coast of Alentejo region, south of Lisbon); he also became the second best junior in Europe (ranking counting from Aug. 1 this year), only after the Hungarian Zsombor Szana (one year older than the Portuguese!) with the time of 15:01.60. He was also the 37th best in Europe, open category, before the Short Course Championships in Istanbul.
Also in the men’s field, second to the best swimmer in the country for the past years - Diogo Carvalho - was also a relatively young athlete, Pedro Pinotes (1989) with 4:10.55 in the 400 IM.
Among women, young Ana Rodrigues (b. 1994) also performed well: she won the 50 breast with 31.46, making her the second best in Europe for the age (!), only after an Italian (30.94), and 37th open category (before the Short Course European Champs), also promising the country another good breaststroker, along with Diana Gomes. Moreover, another young girl showed talent, this time in middle distance: 200 fly, where Sara Cruz (b. 93) won with 2:10.12.