Fabio Scozzoli of Italy dedicated his 100-meter breaststroke title at the European Championships on Tuesday to two-time champion Alex Dale Oen, who died suddenly three weeks ago.
Scozzoli took silver behind Dale Oen when the Norwegian won this event at last year's world championships in Shanghai - his country's first such title in swimming.
Scozzoli touched in 1 minute, 0.55 seconds. Valeriy Dymo of Ukraine took silver in 1:00.68 and another Italian, Mattia Pesce, took bronze in 1:00.93. Scozzoli propped himself up on a lane rope and flexed a bicep after his win, then revealed his dedication to Dale Oen later.
Dale Oen, who won this race at the past two Euros, died of cardiac arrest during an altitude training camp on April 30 in Flagstaff, Ariz.
"He accompanied all of my achievements and he accompanied me today, too, and I really wanted to win this to remember him," Scozzoli said.
Scozzoli's time was far off the 59.42 he swam in Shanghai last year. He attributed that to heavy training ahead of the London Olympics.
"I'm not in top form, therefore I had to prepare myself mentally," said Scozzoli, who will compete with two-time defending champion Kosuke Kitajima of Japan, Cameron van der Burgh of South Africa and a few Americans for gold in London.
Before the medal ceremony for the 100 breast, European swimming league (LEN) President Nory Kruchten presented Norwegian Swimming Federation President Per Rune Eknes with the International Fair Play award for having the entire Norway team present and competing so soon after Dale Oen's death.
In the women's 50 butterfly, Ingvild Snildal won a bronze for Norway's first medal of the championship. Sarah Sjoestroem of Sweden took gold in 25.64 and Triin Aljand of Estonia got the silver.
The 16 Norwegian swimmers competing here are wearing black swim caps with Dale Oen's initials on one side: "A.D.O."
Snildal is the only Norwegian qualified for London so far - in the 100 fly. She also took a bronze in the 50 fly at the 2009 worlds in Rome.
Rafael Munoz Perez of Spain defended his title in the men's 50 fly, with Fred Bousquet of France taking silver and Yauhen Tsurkin of Belarus bronze, while 2008 winner Milorad Cavic settled for a tie for fifth.
Cavic had surgery to repair a herniated disk in July 2010, and failed to qualify for any finals at last year's worlds in Shanghai. He is still to race the 100 fly, the event he lost by a mere hundredth of a second to Michael Phelps at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the closest threat to the American's record eight golds.
"I'm disappointed, because I didn't have it under control tonight," Cavic said. "I was over anxious. I haven't been training at all for the 50 fly."
The 50 fly is not an Olympic event.
Also, Aristeidis Grigoriadis of Greece took the men's 100 backstroke title in 53.86 ahead of Helge Meeuw of Germany and Yakov Yan Toumarkin of Israel - with co-world champion Jeremy Stravius seventh.
A year ago, Stravius shared the world title with French teammate Camille Lacourt, who is skipping this meet. Stravius failed to qualify for the event at the French Olympic trials.
In the women's 200 back, Alexianne Castel of France won gold in 2:08.41, beating Jenny Mensing of Germany and Duane Da Rocha Marce of Spain. Elizabeth Simmonds and Gemma Spofforth, who finished 1-2 two years ago in Budapest, were also absent.