Berlin (AFP) - Federica Pellegrini proved once again she is Europe's queen of the 200m freestyle after claiming her third straight title at the European Championships in Berlin on Saturday.
The Italian has topped the podium at Olympic, world and European level since her debut on the rostrum at the 2004 Games in Athens when she won a silver medal in the 200m freestyle shortly after her 16th birthday.
On Saturday, she denied Hungary's Katinka Hosszu a fourth individual gold medal with Femke Heemskerk of the Netherlands third.
Other winners at the Europa-Sportpark were Polish pair Konrad Czerniak and Radoslaw Kawecki in the 100m butterfly and 200m backstroke respectively, Great Britain’s Adam Peaty in the 50m breaststroke with the German men winning a thrilling 4x200m freestyle relay to conclude the action.
Spain's Mireia Belmonte Garcia won the 1500m freestyle relay while Britain’s Fran Halsall took the 50m backstroke.
Pellegrini was third at the halfway stage before she surged ahead and from that point there was no way she would yield, touching in 1min 56.01sec, 0.68 ahead of Hosszu with Heemskerk third.
Pellegrini hoisted herself on to the lane rope and waved to the crowd at the end and said: "I am satisfied with the race. It is good to win here in Berlin."
She then revealed that Sunday's 400m freestyle, in which she is a double former world champion, may be her last.
She said: "The 200 is the race close to my heart."
Hosszu had already won the medley double as well as sharing the 100m backstroke title with Mie Nielsen.
Dubbed the "Iron Lady" because of her ability to withstand a gruelling multi-event programme, she said: "I hate to lose. I love winning so much that finishing even behind Federica makes me angry."
She then returned to qualify fourth for the 200m butterfly final.
Czerniak, 100m butterfly bronze medallist at the 2013 World Championships, had qualified fastest and he led from start to finish to win in 51.38sec, a championship record.
The Pole became the fourth fastest man in the world this year but he said: "I expected more. Not for the medal, but for the time, I would have liked to be a little bit faster."
Laszlo Cseh, who needed to win a swim-off to even make the final, was last at halfway but he dug deep into the determination and experience that has guided him to Olympic, world and European medals to finish second, 0.51secs adrift.
Pavel Sankovich of Belarus was third.
Czerniak's fellow Pole Kawecki successfully defended his 200m backstroke title in 1min 56.02sec, 1.14sec ahead of Germany’s Christian Diener with Hungary’s Gabor Balog third.
Peaty claimed his third title of the meet as he followed up Friday's world record with gold in the 50m breaststroke.
The Briton had lowered the world record to 26.62sec and although he immediately identified room for improvement, he hit the wall in 27.00sec in the final.
It saw the 19-year-old add the one-length title to the 100m breaststroke and 4x100 mixed medley relay gold, earned by Great Britain in a world record.
Paul Biedermann anchored Germany to gold in the men’s 4x200m freestyle in 7min 09.00sec, an outcome that had the crowd rocking and the roof threatening to come off the velodrome.
Belmonte Garcia added the 1500m freestyle title to her silvers in the 800m and 400m individual medley. The Spaniard also claimed bronze in the 5km open water event.
The Spaniard sat ominously in lane four with Martina Rita Caramignoli the only swimmer taking it out.
Belmonte Garcia took the lead after 900m and eventually won in 15min 57.29sec, a championship record, as Boglarka Kapas claimed her third medal of the meet with silver and Caramignoli third.
Halsall -– better known as a butterfly and freestyle sprint specialist -– turned over to win the 50m backstroke in 27.81sec, 0.01secs ahead of fellow Briton Georgia Davies.
Mie Nielsen –- who shared 100m gold with Hosszu –- was third.