Sunday, June 19, 2022

Relay girls take Hope from World Championships showing

The FINA World Aquatics Championships burst into life yesterday, with a number of strong swims from British athletes, competing under the GB banner.

Lucy Hope, Scotland’s sole swimming representative at the championships, helped the 4x100m Freestyle relay team to a promising 5th place in the final.

Lucy, who took the third leg of the relay in the final, improved on her time from earlier in the day going 54.00, after hitting 55.12 in the semis – where the University of Stirling swimmer led off.

Lucy said: “The four of us have been a team since last year, we had Medi in this morning to help us get through and then we have another couple of girls at home that are there or there abouts.

“If we can get a group of six or seven girls, to be able to rest people for finals even, come Paris I think we’ll be really competitive.”

The team were agonisingly close to 4th place with Freya Anderson putting in an impressive final 100m, eventually just being pipped by the People’s Republic of China – despite her storming 52.70.

Freya said: “It’s nice, I feel settled into the arena now, the atmosphere is really good. It gets me excited. I’ve got a day off tomorrow and then we’ll get the ball rolling again.”

Elsewhere, Lewis Burras, Jacob Whittle, Matt Richards and Tom Dean combined to smash the British Men’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay record, while Ben Proud and James Wilby produced eye-catching swims of their own to secure final berths after a busy opening day at the World Aquatics Championships in Budapest. 

The men’s relay quartet – which saw double Olympic champion Dean come in for five-team Olympic medallist James Guy after the heats – clocked a blistering 3:11.14 to go nearly half-a-second inside the previous best British mark, set at the European Championships in the same pool 12 months ago.

Burras again put in a solid opening leg, before handing over to Whittle, in second after anchoring the morning effort. He kept the Brits in contention, with Richards following suit courtesy of another well-paced two lengths. It was then over to Dean, who showed no signs of rustiness in his opening swim of the meet by recording a stunning 46.95 split.

Agonisingly, it was not quite enough to haul in Italy in third, meaning a fourth-placed finish for GB – but the team are under no illusions that this is only the beginning for an event that can go from strength to strength in the coming years.

“It's really special. It's the first time us four lads have swum it together, it's quite a young team, the first time Burras is on the team with us,” said Dean.

“It's so special, the British record, it just shows how strong we are with two years to go still to Paris. It's like the 4x200m Freestyle Relay before Tokyo – the Worlds before, we came fifth and then we went and won it at the Olympics. We're heading in the right direction.”

Whittle added: “This team is definitely moving forward and we are definitely getting a lot closer and learning how to swim it properly. I feel like we went in a bit blind in Tokyo, but we are definitely learning and getting better.”

A maiden World Championship experience is one that Burras will never forget, with the sprint freestyler saying: “I've never experienced anything like that before, great support from the crowd. Just going off the back of what these boys have said, it's the start of something special. We have so much room for improvement, and to get to know these boys over the next year two years and beyond is an honour.”

Richards concluded: “I'm sore! It's good, like the other boys have said, we're in a great place. It's tough to come away from it, missing out on a podium by that much, but I think it just makes us hungrier and we'll come back stronger.

“For myself, it's been a tough season, it hasn't been quite where I wanted, but it's nice to see I'm back at the sort of times I want to be doing again, and we're all on the up and up heading towards Paris.”

Article in collaboration with British Swimming