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Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-08-09

As the 2010 European swimming championships begin in Budapest on Monday, Hungarians will focus on their own champion Lazslo Cseh. The "King" bids for a third consecutive continental title in the 200m and a fourth in the 400m.

AFP - Hungarian medley king Lazslo Cseh and Italy's Federica Pellegrini will be among the star attractions at the European swimming championships which get underway on Monday.

Europe's top swimmers will compete on Margaret Island, in the middle of the Danube in central Budapest, before heading into the final two-year run-in to the London Olympics.

The 24-year-old Cseh will spearhead the home nation's hopes as he bids for a third consecutive continental title in the 200m individual medley and a fourth in the 400m medley distance.

Cseh has won everything in the discipline - apart from the Olympic title which is held by US superstar Michael Phelps - and will be keen to lay the groundwork ahead of his 2012 bid.

Pellegrini, meanwhile, arrives as the overwhelming favourite to take double gold in the women's 200m and 400m freestyle events - distances in which she holds the world records.

On paper few can match the Olympic 200m gold medallist, not even Olympic 400m champion Rebecca Adlington of Britain, who has struggled to find her form from Beijing two years ago.

The Italian will be relishing her return to Budapest, four years after she failed to dethrone France's Laure Manaudou, who has since retired and is the mother of a four-month-old daughter with French swimmer Frederick Bousquet.

Bousquet, 19, a triple medallist at last year's worlds, will compete in the 50m freestyle, his favourite distance, in which he holds the second best time this year (21.71).

His biggest rivals will be his compatriots, as France currently dominate European sprinting. Four French swimmers will compete in the 50m freestyle, including Olympic silver medallist Amaury Leveaux.

And Bousquet admitted they had been boosted by the recent strong performances of their compatriots at the European athletics championships.

"When you see a French athletics team which is the revelation of the European championships that pleases us," said Bousquet. "We want to emulate them and to continue on from their successes."

Alain Bernard will also be competing over the sprint distances but his hopes lie mainly over the 100m freestyle in which he holds the Olympic title.

Bernard said he was relishing the chance to show how he has progressed from the French championships this spring when he failed to win both the 50m and 100m freestyle races.

"I've done good things in training and that gives you enormous confidence," he said. "It's a key date because we're two years before the Olympics. It's important to compete and do things well."

France will also be hoping to finally capture the men's 100m freestyle relay, an event in which they have been favourites on paper over the past three years, but have not managed to win.

Runners-up behind the United States at the 2008 Olympics, France missed out on the world title behind Russia, who will be among their leading rivals in Budapest.

Clashes are also expected between Germany's defending 400m freestyle champion Paul Biedermann and rising French star Yannick Agnel, 18, who won five gold medals at the European junior championships two weeks ago, and will be competing in his first major competition.

Date created : 2010-08-09