Spectators in venue and fans watching from across the continent were treated to eight spectacular days of swimming in Serbia.

The 37th edition of the competition saw a record number of nations earn at least one title in the pool – 19 – smashing the previous landmark of 14, set two years ago in Rome.

Hungary claimed the team title for their best-ever overall medal haul of 27 honours, 10 of which were gold.

Here World Aquatics takes a look at some of the standout individual performances from Belgrade 2024.

David Popovici – Back In Olympic Medal Contention

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Two years ago the Romanian was the most talked about swimmer on the planet as he completed a clean sweep of the 100m / 200m freestyle titles at both junior and senior European as well as World Championships.

His crowning glory came at the Rome Europeans where he downed the 100m free world record – set 13 years earlier during the infamous ‘super suit’ era – with a time of 46.86 secs. 

However, the following 18 months saw him struggle recapture that form, as he finished without a medal at the 2023 Worlds before claimed just a sole bronze at the European Short Course Championships in his homeland, at the end of the year.

Then earlier this year a new 100m freestyle landmark time was set by China’s Pan Zhanle – of 46.80 – at Doha 2024.

The now 19-year-old admitted learning that news had “shocked” him, but he delivered an eye-catching response in his first major event since the record was broken by recording a time of 46.88 in Belgrade.

Popovici was “surprised” what was the third quickest time in history given his preparations were geared towards peaking at the Olympic Games rather than Europeans.

That time – combined with commanding victories in both the 100m / 200m free – sends an ominous message to his rivals that Popovici is back and peaking right at the right moment for a Paris 2024 podium push.

Kristof Milak – The Comeback Continues But Questions Remain

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During a four-year spell, from 2018-2022 the Kristof Milak could seemingly do no wrong, landing every major 200m butterfly title across the European and World Championships as well as Olympic Games.

The Hungarian also smashed the World record previously held by American great Michael Phelps in 2019 (1:51.51 to 1:50.73) before further lowering it to 1:50.34, two years ago.

In April 2023 he appeared, as he typically does early in the season, at the Hungarian National Championships, but Milak looked some way off his best and subsequently revealed he needed a rest.

He would miss the 2023 and 2024 World Aquatics Championships and there was great secrecy as well as speculation around his physical and mental health before his coach, Balazs Virth, revealed earlier this year that the Olympic champion had returned to training

Belgrade 2024 marked his first major international competition since the Europeans two years ago and while the Hungarian would come away with two titles – in the 100m and 200m butterfly – there were many unanswered questions.

Milak decided against competing in relay events and did not stop for any media interviews despite numerous post-race requests during the Championships.

His times of 50.82 and 1:54.43 are some way short of his respective personal bests in each event, which currently stand at 49.68 and 1:50.34.

However, his best time for the 200m this season currently ranks him in second in the world, while his quickest effort in the 100m puts him sixth in the standings for 2024.

It suggests that despite the challenges the 24-year-old is still likely to be a medal contender at the Olympic Games.

Anastasia Gorbenko – Four Golds ahead of the Paris 2024 Games

Image Source: Detail of the Olympic rings tattoo on the ankle of Anastasia Gorbenko (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

With World, European and Youth Olympic and Maccabiah Games to her name Anastasia Gorbenko was already Israel’s most successful swimmer of all-time before entering Belgrade 2024.

However, she further extended her record medal-haul – in spectacular fashion – in Serbia.

The 20-year-old not only won the 200m individual medley (IM) event for the third Europeans in a row, but also added the 400m IM crown to her collection, as well as two relay titles.

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The swimmer is fully aware of her position as a role model and what a first-ever Olympic medal in the pool would mean to her nation this summer.

However, while she is making continued progress there should be a degree of caution, with athletes from the USA, Australia and Canada ahead of her in the 200m IM standings this year.

Her time of 4:34.87 places her fifth in the 400m IM event though and as is so often said of Olympic finalists – ‘if you’ve got a lane, you’ve got a chance.’

Kuzey Tunçelli – Teenage Türkiye Talent Emerges

Away from the established names there were a number of younger swimmers who upstaged their more senior rivals and Kuzey Tunçelli certainly marked himself out as one-to-watch.

The 16-year-old looked strong in the 800m, claiming a more than credible sixth in his first senior final.

Just four days later, though, he returned to the pool and produced a breath-taking performance in the 1500m, where he beat Olympic silver medallist Mykhailo Romanchuk.

Two weeks later his would go onto set a new World Junior record in the event at the European Junior Championships and that time – 14:41.89 – currently places him fourth on the global standings for 2024.

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That puts him behind Daniel Wiffen (IRL), Bobby Fink (USA) and Gregorio Paltrinieri (ITA) but ahead of reigning Olympic champion Florian Wellbrock (GER) as well as a host of other swimmers who would be considered podium contenders for Paris 2024.

Vivian Jackl – Hungarian Junior Record Breaker Secures Senior Success

Whilst several of the strongest nations chose to continue their Olympic preparations away from the full glare of TV cameras at the Europeans Hungary provided a welcome alternative, with their full-strength Olympic-bound team swimming in Serbia.

At 15-year-old you might think Vivian Jackl is one-to-watch for the Los Angeles 2028, but she marked herself out as a potential successor to Olympic champion swimmer Katinka Hosszu by winning the Hungarian trials in April.

The swimmer initially rose to national prominence at the age of 12 when she beat an age-group record which was set by another Hungarian legend, Krisztina Egerszegi, back in 1987.

Jackl secured her first European Junior Swimming Championships title last year and added a senior 1500m gold, as well as 400m IM silver, to a growing honours list in Belgrade.

Her time of 16:06.37 puts her tenth in the world this year, while 4:34.96 in the latter ranks her sixth and given she is primed to peak in Paris, she could well challenge for a place on the podium, in either or both events, this summer.

Other Performances Of Note At Belgrade 2024

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Hungary’s Hubert Kos, who trains under Michael Phelps’ former coach Bob Bowan and alongside France’s star swimmer Leon Marchand, in Texas swam a brutal schedule in Serbia, racing 16 times across the eight-day competition.

That did not include his strongest event, the 200m backstroke, but he still took home five medals including gold in the 200m IM which he also won back in 2022.

Camilia Rebelo of Portugal claimed her nation’s first-ever European swimming championships title with a shock victory in the 200m backstroke final, while Eneli Jefimova also secured a landmark national first for Estonia in the 100m breaststroke.

Helena Rosendahl Bach, was inspired by watching Pernille Blume become her nation’s first- Olympic champion in 68 years back at Rio 2016 and is now mentored by the Danish icon.

Having claimed European and World silver medals in recent years Rosendahl Bach finally secured a maiden major title with a hard fought 200m butterfly victory over teenage talent, and defending champion, Lana Pudar.

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Apostolos Christou (50m / 100m backstroke) of Greece, Czechia’s Barbora Seemanova (100m / 200m free) and Hungarian Ajna Késely (400 / 800m free) also impressed with two individual titles each.

Alaa Maso, originally from Syria, but now based in Germany, became the first representative of the European Aquatics Refugee Team and competed in the 50m, 100m and 200m freestyle.