18 year old Freya Anderson secured her first senior international title with a stunning swim in the 100m Freestyle at the European Short Course Swimming Championships on Friday night.
Lining up against a strong field, the talented youngster showed maturity beyond her years to deal with the favourite tag and clinch not only her first individual medal at senior level, but a European title.
Swimming in the highly sought after lane four, with teammate Anna Hopkin in lane six, it was actually Hopkin who took the race on, using her front end speed to head the field. Anderson didn’t panic though despite being second last at the halfway mark, drawing upon all her strength to produce a lightning quick final 25 metres to not only see her take the win by a healthy margin but set a third personal best in three races.
Winning her first senior title, the Ellesmere College Titans swimmer was naturally delighted, saying:
“It feels amazing – I definitely didn’t expect it! I came into this meet not expecting anything, so to come away with a gold, I can’t believe it. I was nervous before the final as being the fastest in the heats and semis was quite daunting, especially being in lane four surrounded by all those big names, but I could hear the crowd down the last 25 and I just thought come on, get your head down.”
It was a case of so close, but yet so far for Anna Hopkin, who was gutted to just miss out on a medal in fourth place, her personal best little consolation for missing the podium by just 0.02 of a second.
“I’m gutted not to get a medal as it was so close for silver and bronze. I could only really see the girl to the right of me but I figured it’d be pretty close for the medals, but it’s annoying when you’re on the wrong side of it. We’ve got a really good shot in the relay now so it’ll be fun to get in there with the girls and have a really good go at it.”
Duncan Scott and Joe Litchfield backed up their brilliant swims in qualifying this morning, but unfortunately Scott’s fourth place finish in the 200m Individual Medley became a bit of theme for the Brits on Friday night.
Both Scott and Litchfield had smashed their PBs in the heats this morning, the former breaking the British record, but despite strong swims neither could add to the British medal count, with Scott fourth and Litchfield eighth.
Afterwards Scott assessed things:
“I felt really good in the warm-up and was quite confident after the morning, as I had some good areas to draw on and it was a good all round swim. The actual time I am disappointed with, as it was bit slower than this morning.”
A makeshift Women’s 4x50m Freestyle Relay quartet of Anna Hopkin, Siobhan-Marie O’Connor, Georgia Davies and Freya Anderson contested the final event of the night, having broken a 19 year old British record in the heat to make it back tonight.
Whilst Hopkin and Anderson had already demonstrated their class, O’Connor and Davies aren’t natural freestyle swimmers, but produced brilliant legs as the team combined well to lower the record further, their 1.36.18 time good for fifth.
On the importance of the event, Davies said:
“It was a lot of fun and for me it’s a privilege to be on this team with these girls. It’s not that often I get to swim other event other than the 50 or 100 back, so I really, really enjoyed it and we set another British record, so it was fun.
“It was a lot of fun to swim in front of this crowd with these girls. It’s obviously not an event we’d usually do, so there was no pressure, it was just about having fun and seeing what we could do.”
There was another near miss in the Women’s 100m Individual Medley, Siobhan-Marie O’Connor putting together another really good swim, but missing out on the podium by less than a tenth of a second. Swimming from lane five, the Olympic silver medallist in the 200m Medley showed good speed, but driving for the wall down the final length she just couldn’t quite get there on the touch, with second, third and fourth separated by just 0.11 of a second.
“Obviously it’s disappointing to come fourth as I’d have liked to get on the podium. It’s a bit of a scrappy event, but I’ll try and put it right for the 200m tomorrow, which is more my thing. Ultimately it’s a similar swim to this morning so I can’t be too disappointed with myself.”
Laura Stephens was another Brit to finish fourth on the night, the 200m Butterfly specialist swimming a really positive race. The Plymouth swimmer was to the fore through the opening few lengths and remained in the mix the whole way as she improved on a solid swim in the heats this morning.
“That was better than this morning – I managed to move it on, which is a positive and, I’ll speak to my coach, but I think my skills have improved, but fourth is a bit annoying! It would have been nice to have made the podium and maybe swum a bit of a faster time, nearer to my best, but I’ll keep on pushing.”
There were no complaints from Luke Greenbank, as despite coming within less than 0.1 of a second medal of the championships in the Men’s 100m Backstroke, he was pleased to produce another personal best swim. In a race that ended in a blanket finish it was always going to come down to the touch, the National Centre Loughborough swimmer just missing out up in lane two.
Both the Men’s and Women’s 100m Breaststroke semi-finals were also contested early on in proceedings on Friday night, with Ross Murdoch producing a brilliant personal best to win his semi and secure one of the centre lanes for Saturday night’s final, afterwards commenting:
“I had a bit of chicken stew for lunch and I’ll be having that again because that was my best swim so far! I had cramp this morning straight off the dive; I was like a plank of wood trying to get through the first 50m, but it was all the different here. That personal best’s been a long time coming and I’m absolutely buzzing.”
James Wilby showed further improvement on his morning swim, but tenth overall just missed out, whilst it was even closer for Molly Renshaw in the women’s equivalent as just 0.02 of a second denied her a place in the final. Renshaw will now turn her attention to her favoured 200m on Sunday.
Full results can be found here
Tickets for the remainder of the European Short Course Swimming Championships can be still be purchased here (limited availability for some sessions), with live streaming of all of the final available via the the BBC Sport website.