Back to business for Brits in Budapest

19 May 2021

The British team continued to go about their jobs in a business-like manner in Budapest, securing all bar one qualification spot available to them on Wednesday morning of the European Championship swimming programme.

The action on day three at the Duna Arena was kick-started by the first round of the Men’s 200m Individual Medley, which featured a full complement of four Brits. As expected, world champion Duncan Scott made light work of his heat, a calculated race seeing him take the lead when he needed to down the final freestyle length and book his place in the next round.

Max Litchfield, going in the previous race, also set up his swim in a similar fashion, bringing it home strongly to touch second. His time was in fact 0.02 quicker than Scott, that pair second and third ranked heading into tonight’s semi-finals.

With LEN’s two-per-nation rule in force, half of the GB entrants wouldn’t be able to take up a spot in the next round – and this was the fate of both Joe Litchfield and James McFadzen. Litchfield took victory in heat three, posting the fifth fastest time of the morning, so his omission feels extremely cruel, whilst young McFadzen would have also made it back for another swim on his senior debut. Afterwards, he commented:

“That’s my first senior international so I just wanted to give it my all – I wasn’t really bothered about the time, the outcome, or what anyone else was doing - I just wanted to put my best performance out there and I think I did that. I knew what I needed to do to try to progress, but I knew the guys ahead of me are class, so it would take a pretty special swim – I’m not a million miles away and I’ll look forward to the next opportunity.”

After showing great form in the 100m event, Laura Stephens returned for her target Women’s 200m Butterfly event and wasted no time in booking her place in the semi-finals, a polished performance seeing her through third quickest overall.

The previous heat saw Stirling youngster Keanna MacInnes also demonstrate she’s in fine form, as she touched second in one of the fastest times she’s ever produced, to give herself a really good shot of a place in the next round.

“I’m definitely pleased with that! I think it’s the fastest heat swim I’ve ever done and close to my PB from before trials. I just had to go as fast as I could in the heat, as there’s the two-per-nation rule, which is probably the biggest step to overcome to make it into the semis – we’ll just have to see what the other girls do now.”

It would prove enough for MacInnes, as despite solid swims, Emily Large and Alys Thomas would fall foul of the aforementioned two-per-nation rule.

The Men’s 100m Backstroke was up next, Joe Litchfield returning just 20 minutes after his medley outing. The Dave Hemmings-coached man edged out Brodie Williams and Elliot Clogg, who were all drawn in the same heat, but ultimately his time wouldn’t quite see him through.

British record holder over the longer 200m event, Luke Greenbank, got the job done though, as from lane two he produced a strong heat swim to advance. Afterwards he noted:

“It was really tough – but that’s to be expected really. I just went in and tried to focus on my own race and I think that’s my fastest heat swim, or there or thereabouts, so I’m chuffed with that. Coming off the back of trials we had three big weeks – high volume and quite intense – so I’m certainly not tapered, but luckily I’ve had a couple of days of rest coming into this, so I’m happy with that with the shape I’m in. Hopefully I can build on it tonight now.”

Freya Anderson showed her class to advance amongst the favourites in the first round of the Women’s 200m Freestyle, taking victory in the sixth of seven heats. Drawn one lane outside of the National Centre Bath lady was Lucy Hope, and she also had a strong swim to touch third, but it was Tamryn Van Selm who surprised everybody, including herself, to secure a spot in the next round, meaning Hope and Holly Hibbott missed out.

Going in the final heat, Millfield swimmer Van Selm used the fast pace to her advantage, as despite being over in lane one, she clung onto the coattails of her rivals to finish sixth, but crucially ninth fastest overall across the seven heats.

Afterwards the 17-year-old said:

“I’m really pleased with that – I just wanted to enjoy the experience and give it my best shot – it was really fun and I think I’ve made it back tonight! I knew that I was in great shape and my coach gave me a lot of confidence so I just wanted to enjoy it – I always swim fast when I’m happy and enjoying it.”

On making her senior debut she said:

“The experience has been amazing so far. I’ve watched most of these swimmers for years and I had a photo pop up the other day of me with Adam Peaty five years ago and now I’m on the same team as him. I’ve learnt so much from everyone and it’s been such a great experience – I’m really looking forward to using all the information that I’ve learnt from everyone and applying it to myself to help me improve in the future.”

The Men’s 200m Breaststroke was the final individual event of the session on Wednesday morning, Ross Murdoch and James Wilby making extremely light work of their passage into the last 16. Drawn in adjacent lanes in heat three of five, both men were always to the fore, but it was Steve Tigg-coached Murdoch who upped the pace in the second half of the race to take the win, with last night’s 100m bronze medallist Wilby right there with him in second.

The Men’s 4x200m Freestyle relay team also comfortably booked their place in tonight’s final, and will line up as one of the favourites for gold, hopefully continuing Britain’s stunning relay record this week.

Max Litchfield, Calum Jarvis, Matt Richards and James Guy was the line-up for this morning’s heat, that team running out winners by a good two seconds, never headed throughout the 16-length contest.

Speaking afterwards Litchfield, who had already been in individual action at the start of the session, said:

“That was a good team effort – we’ve done enough there to get a middle lane tonight and we’ll give it a good shot later.”

Reflecting on his medley swim earlier in the session he added:

“It was a really good swim – both that relay and the IM actually – both were faster than trials, so something is going right! It was good swim, I’m happy to get through and we’ll see what we’ve got tonight.”