Poland's Gabriela Janik on the floor during the gymnastic competition within the European Championships in Glasgow, Scotland, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018. ( Jane Barlow/PA via AP)

Between Rio and Tokyo, Paltrinieri looks for Olympic feeling

August 02, 2018 - 2:22 pm

GLASGOW, Scotland (AP) — Taking place between the Rio and Tokyo Games, Italian swimmer Gregorio Paltrinieri is hoping for some Olympic feeling at a new European multi-sport event.

Often struggling to gain much interest on a European level, swimming and six other sports have brought their stand-alone continental medal competitions together in the 11-day European Championships, which started Thursday in Glasgow with gymnastics, rowing and track cycling.

"It's kind of like a different emotion, different feelings, like the Olympics," Paltrinieri told The Associated Press.

The Olympic 1,500-meter freestyle champion will start his quest for a seventh European title on Friday, when aquatics get underway. Golf, triathlon and athletics, which will be staged in Berlin next week, complete the lineup of the inaugural European Championships.

Gathering various sports under one umbrella "is much better" than each federation staging its own event, according to Paltrinieri.

"At the Olympics or at the (university) Universiade, all the athletes are together from different sports," he said. "It's fine because we can talk with other people we usually don't meet."

Fans also benefit, Paltrinieri said, as "the people that are coming here have different options to watch. Everything is here and the focus is on Glasgow now. That is good for the sports."

Paltrinieri is one of five Olympic swimming champions, alongside Adam Peaty, Pernille Blume, Katinka Hosszu and Sarah Sjostrom, to compete at the Tollcross center, which also hosted the swimming events of the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Other favorites include Hungary's David Verraszto, who is after his third straight European title in the 400 medley.

"We are very happy that we can have one big competition with other sports," Verraszto said. "It's quite new, but I think it can work. We can (get) much more fans."

Five sports federations, later joined by gymnastics and golf, decided in 2015 to bring their European Championships together under one common brand, with a coordinated timetable to best suit media interests.

The first edition is spread over two host cities as Berlin had already been awarded the hosting rights for this year's European athletics championships.

The European Broadcasting Union supported the idea, guaranteeing widespread coverage on free TV to a potential audience of more than one billion. One aim is to put disciplines that otherwise could go fairly unnoticed, like synchronized swimming, in a spotlight unprecedented outside the Olympics.

The new event differs from the European Games, which were set up by European Olympic Committees three years ago and will have their second edition in Minsk next year. The European Championships are basically no addition to the crammed sports calendar but rather a rescheduling of existing championships.

One exception, however, is golf, which is introducing a new format with competitions for men's, women's and mixed teams at the 2014 Ryder Cup course in Gleneagles.

To avoid collision with Olympic Games or with world championships of key sports like athletics and swimming, the European Championships will be held in a four-year cycle, but how the event will look in 2022 is unclear.

Depending on the success of the first edition, other sports might join in four years — with a host yet to be found. Although two cities in different countries was not a deliberate choice this time, organizers won't rule out a similar setup for 2022.

However, Paltrinieri would rather see all athletes gathering at one host city.

"Now it's Glasgow and Berlin but I hope in the future it is the same city," the Italian said. "It's more like the Asian Games or the Olympics when everything is in the same city."

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