April 22 - Twice former world champion Javier Gomez and Nicola Spirig each claimed their third European Championships titles with superb performances in Israel.
With his victory in Eilat, Spanish star Gomez (pictuerd top) sent out a stark message to Britain's Brownlee brothers, world champion Alistair and Jonathan, that he will be a serious threat to their hopes of a home victory at London 2012.
Runner-up Alexander Bryukhankov and Ivan Vasiliev also finished on the podium as Russia enjoyed an excellent race.
Eilat, in Israel's south and noted for its searing heat, offered windy conditions as the men headed off the start line, with a large pack still in contention after the swim.
Anton Chuchko of Russia soon took the lead as gaps began to emerge, but halfway through the cycle leg a large group of 30 had formed at the front.
It was during the run that Gomez took charge, gaining ten seconds on France's Tony Moulai and getting stronger going into the final lap.
Moulai was forced to serve a time penalty after throwing his swim cap on the ground and lost out to Vasiliev in the final stages.
"It was a tough race with conditions in the heat and the wind," said Gomez, world champion in 2008 and 2010.
"The course was tough, too – it was very complicated but I felt good the whole time; I kept pretty solid on the bike and I knew I had energy for the run.
"Although it was not a very fast run, it was the same conditions for everyone.
"I managed to push hard on the first lap and make a pretty good gap and then I just kept it.
"I felt tired but pretty happy."
The top three results for Bryukhankov and Vasiliev consolidated Russia's fifth place in the national standings.
Russia now looks in good shape to take three men to London for this summer's Olympics.
Switzerland's Spirig (pictured above) edged out Spain's Ainhoa Murúa in the women's race – despite losing a shoe at one point – with Emmie Charayron of France third.
Spirig was part of a group of 11 women that led in the cycle leg and exited the water in ninth place.
The group was far ahead going into the sprint and Spirig's hopes suffered a further jolt when she lost a shoe.
She recovered, however, to join Murúa and France's Jess Harrison in the top three, with Denmark's Helle Frederiksen valiantly giving chase.
Defending champion Charayron, who had overtaken Harrison going into the second lap of the run, could not keep pace with Spirig and Murúa, and on the final corner of the race, the Swiss found a burst of energy to claim victory.
"I felt good on the run," Spirig said afterwards.
"My training has been going amazing – that's how it should feel in a race and I'm just extremely happy.
Spirig was also pleased to have fended off Murúa for a second week in a row, having just edged out the Spaniard in the battle for fifth place at last week's World Series opener in Sydney.
"It was same sprint with Murúa a last week in Sydney and I won," she said.
"We were discussing that and I told her that I am good in a sprint and I will beat you every time!
"She knew she had to get rid of me before the finish, and the closer we got to the line the more nervous she became."
Murúa congratulated the Swiss afterwards: "I knew that Nicola has a very strong final run.
"I tried to go hard on the last lap, pushing and pushing hard, but I could not get past.
"But after two years of finishing fourth, today I'm second – it has been a really nice race and I'm very happy."
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