Hungarian Laszlo Cseh powered to a convincing victory in the men’s 200 metres butterfly at the European Championships on Thursday and appeared relaxed about the possibility of an Olympic showdown with his nemesis Michael Phelps. World champion Cseh led from start to finish to beat Denmark’s Viktor Bromer by 2.44 seconds, with Tamas Kenderesi taking third for Hungary on a great night for the central Europeans in the same London pool where they endured a disappointing 2012 Olympics.
Asked about Phelps's comeback from retirement, Cseh told Reuters: "It is nothing special, I know maybe he will be in the Olympics, so I need to beat him and the others since I want to be the best. This is my main motivation, my main goal, to win a gold medal in the Olympics."
Gold eludes Cseh at Olympics
That is something that has eluded the 30-year-old throughout a long career which has brought him two world titles, spaced 10 years apart in 2005 and 2015.
He has often been the 'nearly man' behind Phelps, the most successful Olympian of all time, who retired after the London Games but reversed his decision two years later.
Cseh took Olympic silver behind Phelps in the 200m butterly and the 200m and 400m individual medleys in Beijing in 2008, and bronze behind Phelps and Ryan Lochte in the 200m medley in 2012. Rio represents almost certainly his last Olympic chance.
In other action, Cseh’s compatriot Katinka Hosszu beat Britain's Siobhan-Marie O'Connor and Hannah Miley to the gold in the women’s 200m individual medley, having grabbed the 400m medley and 200m backstroke titles earlier in the week.
But the self-styled Iron Lady of swimming, racing again less than 45 minutes after climbing out of the pool, was narrowly beaten by Denmark’s Mie Nielsen in the 100m backstroke final in which Britain’s Kathleen Dawson took the bronze.
Boglarka Kapas won gold for Hungary in the women's 800m freestyle, where she never looked threatened after grabbing the lead before halfway. She fended off a late challenge by Britain's Jazmin Carlin to win by 2.12 seconds, with Tjasa Oder of Slovenia in third.
In a hard-fought 4x200m freestyle relay, Hosszu pulled away strongly on the final leg to clinch Hungary's fourth gold of the night, ahead of Spain and the Netherlands.
Ross Murdoch of Britain gave an enthusiastic home crowd something to celebrate when he raced neck and neck with Germany's Marco Koch down the final length of the 200m breaststroke and snatched victory by 0.07 seconds, with Luca Pizzini winning bronze for Italy.
In the men’s 50m backstroke, Camille Lacourt of France got the touch ahead of Richard Bohus of Hungary and Grigory Tarasevich of Russia, with all seven swimmers finishing within 0.26 seconds of each other.