Russia’s starlets flexed their muscles at the Baku Aquatics Centre on Tuesday as Swimming got underway at the first European Games.
Three of the best teenage prospects in the sport, Arina Openysheva, Maria Astashkina and Daniil Pakhomov, led the Russian procession, qualifying for the next stages of their competitions in effortless style.
In the 50m butterfly, the biggest danger to the Russians were their own team-mates.
The biggest casualty was Vladislav Kozlov, who had gone into the sprint as the fastest in Europe this year, but who failed to qualify for Tuesday evening’s semi-finals because he was only the third-quickest Russian.
He was the fourth-fastest qualifier in the entire field in 24.24 seconds, but with each nation only allowed two swimmers in the next stage, he was ousted by Roman Shevliakov, the fastest qualifier in 24.10, and Pakhomov in 24.20.
Openysheva, the 16-year-old who has been nicknamed ‘Mini Phelps’, opened her bid for seven golds by qualifying for Tuesday’s 100m freestyle semis as joint fastest (55.18) alongside Dutch 15-year-old prospect Marrit Steenbergen.
Astashkina, another 16-year-old who won four golds at the European junior championships last year (where Openysheva took seven), looks odds-on to take another crown on Tuesday evening after qualifying for the 50m breaststroke final fastest in 31.84.
There will be seven finals on Tuesday night.