Great Britain’s Mixed 4x100m Medley relay team obliterated the European record on Thursday night to clinch the continental crown by a hefty margin.
There was also individual success for rising star Freya Anderson, the 20-year-old winning her first individual international medal with bronze in the Women’s 200m Freestyle.
History was made in that Mixed 4x100m Medley Relay though, an event that will makes its Olympic debut in Tokyo, where Britain will start amongst the favourites if this display was anything to go by.
With 2021 breakthrough act Kathleen Dawson leading the team off, this foursome is better than ever before, and that told as they smashed the British, European and Championship records with a commanding performance at Budapest’s Duna Arena.
Racing the men and swimming in their wake, Dawson still posted a super-fast split, before Adam Peaty tore through the field to put the team in pole position at the midway mark. James Guy then took up the mantle on the butterfly leg, as he continues to go from strength to strength this week – and so by the time Anna Hopkin entered the water, the result was beyond doubt. The Mel Marshall-coached sprinter wasn’t for letting up though, her anchor swim securing the aforementioned records, with the world record only just out of reach.
Afterwards, Hopkin said on behalf of the team:
“These guys got me a pretty good lead, I really didn't want to lose that! I definitely felt a little pressure, but I tried not to overthink it – I didn't want to look at where anyone else in the race was and just focused on what I was doing.
“I was really happy with that. I'm building through the week so I was just glad to get a shot at it tonight. This relay, I know we've got a huge shot at Olympic gold, so it means a lot to be a part of it here. I think we can all get quicker going into the Olympics, so it's really exciting going forward.”
“Hopefully we can all perform at the Olympics as we should, get some good taper, some good individual performances and then that relay takes care of itself. This has made me more excited heading to the Olympics now, this event, it's the first time in a long time that we've felt we can break that world record. It's an exciting time to be a part of this relay, and as we mature and develop as a team, it's only going to go up from here.”
Earlier in the day Joe Litchfield and Harriet Jones swam the backstroke and butterfly legs respectively, two quality swims ensuring the team had lane four this evening and were able to bring home gold.
For Anderson, her 200m Freestyle finale was a coming of age moment, as having been part of multiple medal-winning relay teams, she now has the first individual European long-course medal of what will likely be an ever-growing collection. Lining up against a stellar field, the David McNulty-coached swimmer finished like a train to touch third, delivering the second-fastest time of her career when it mattered.
Speaking with a medal around her neck, Anderson said:
“I knew it was going to be a really tight race and the four of us were head-to-head the whole way. It’s nice to win my first long-course individual medal and it’s a good confidence boost for the summer.”
Ross Murdoch took a fine fifth in the Men’s 200m Breaststroke final, the Steve Tigg-mentored athlete going half a second quicker than he swam in London a month ago, showing his Olympic preparations are on track. Lining up in two, with James Wilby in lane one, Murdoch attacked the race, pressing down the third length to give himself an outside shot at a medal. In the end though he couldn’t quite overhaul his competitors, whilst 100m bronze medallist Wilby had to settle for eighth.
There was no medal to be had in the Men’s 200m Individual Medley, as Duncan Scott and Max Litchfield finished sixth and eighth respectively. Scott – who had booked his place in the 200m Freestyle final just 45 minutes earlier – and Litchfield both struggled to really get into the race, which was happening on the far side of the pool, and despite fast final 50m efforts, they were never really able to get into the mix.
Speaking openly afterwards, Scott said:
“I’m quite disappointed to be honest. I know how I’m feeling but I don’t think that’s a true reflection of the shape I’m at the moment. To go slower than the semi is really disappointing. I felt great last night; I had a really tricky double last night as well between the 200IM and the relay, but I was able to control the semi last night really well and felt quite comfortable. So I’m disappointed with that.
“There’s not many meets in the world where the 200IM and the 200 Free cross over, so I’m not sure I’ll have to do that again. That’s pretty tough. I know my Olympic schedule and I’m pretty positive with that. But a meet like this, it’s good to come and really test myself.”
Luke Greenbank chopped nearly half a second off his personal best thanks to a brilliant swim in the Men’s 100m Backstroke final. The World Championship bronze medallist in the 200m event showed he is in great form, despite injury hampering his efforts at the British Swimming Selection Trials last month, as he blasted to a 53.34 in seventh place.
“I’m absolutely over the moon with that. Coming into this meet, I just wanted to improve from trials, but to come away with a PB in the semis and the final I’m over the moon. The relay is up there with the 200m as a target in Tokyo so the fact that I’m dropping time now is really good, and hopefully come the summer I can get into the 52 points.”
The Women’s 200m Butterfly was the first final of the night, British duo Laura Stephens and Keanna MacInnes lining up in the outside two lanes. Attacking from the get go, MacInnes led after 50m, with Stephens touching third at the halfway mark, neither afraid to push the pace in their first European final. Despite valiant efforts, the pair would pay for their early exuberance, with Stephens seventh and MacInnes eighth come the finish, the latter on her senior debut.
Kathleen Dawson and Cassie Wild continued their fine form this week with a safe passage into tomorrow night’s Women’s 100m Backstroke final, Dawson leading the way with a Championship record, but a controlled final 25m suggested there was more to come from the Stirling swimmer. Both she and Wild will be in the hunt for silverware on Friday, with Dawson admitting:
“I was trying to hold back a bit for the Mixed Relay but maybe I gave it a bit more than I bargained for! There’s definitely more to give tomorrow though.”
It was a similar story in the Men’s 200m Freestyle semi-finals, as drawn in the same race Duncan Scott and Tom Dean produced textbook swims to book their final spots. Scott was out quickest of the two, with Dean coming back stronger; ultimately they would touch within 0.02 of a second of each other in second and third respectively, both in their race and overall.
Also drawn in the same semi-final were Abbie Wood and Molly Renshaw in the Women’s 200m Breaststroke, the National Centre Loughborough duo having won their respective heats earlier in the day. Going stroke for stroke in lanes four and five, the pair moved further and further clear of their rivals, with British record holder Renshaw eventually taking it. More than a second and a half faster than anyone else, the pair will head into tomorrow’s final full of confidence.
Great Britain remain second on the medal table with 11 medals after four days of swimming action.
Full results can be found here