British men lead relay qualifying on final morning in Hungary

23 May 2021

Great Britain will contest eight of the nine finals on the last evening of European Aquatics Championships action after another good morning in the pool.

After a nervous wait while the results took an age to come through – the officials clearly scrutinizing the changeovers of all eight teams – it  was confirmed that the British men had topped the pile in the Men’s 4x100m Medley relay, securing lane four for tonight’s final.

Quality legs from Joe Litchfield on backstroke, James Wilby on the breaststroke, Duncan Scott doing a superb job for the team on butterfly and Tom Dean on the freestyle brought Britain home ahead of the rest, and they will now start as gold medal favourites in this evening’s penultimate medal showdown.

Litchfield led off well before 100m Breaststroke bronze medallist Wilby put the team in front at the midway point. Scott and Dean, who are multi-medallists this week, finished the job off to complete a very pleasing team effort.

Speaking on behalf of his teammates, Wilby said:

“We’re really happy with that and it’s always a good laugh when it’s the four of us, plus the other guys as well who’ll swim in the final. We all really enjoy it, get up and do some fast swims, and it’s always nice to be right at the top of the scoreboard – job done for this morning.”

It was a similar story in the women’s event, a long wait leaving everyone on tenterhooks, but with nobody disqualified, Great Britain again won their heat. It was a trio of 2021 breakthrough stars who made up three quarters of the squad, Cassie Wild, Sarah Vasey and Harriet Jones all looking at home in the arena as they battled for the lead on the opening three legs.

Jones touched the wall first after a competent fly swim, sending Freya Anderson into the water with a fractional lead and she did the rest, the David McNulty-coached freestyler blasting clear to see the quartet run out convincing winners.

Max Litchfield earlier made sure of a safe passage into the Men’s 400m Individual Medley final, a measured swim seeing him home within half-a-second of the fastest qualifier. Two 400m IMs on the final day of action this week is a tough ask for anyone, but Litchfield, known as one of the hardest trainers on the British team, looks more than up to the task at hand. Afterwards, he noted:

“That was alright – it was a pretty tough heat, but I’ve had a couple of days off so that should blow the cobwebs back out – it was a good time, so we’ll see what we’ve got tonight. It’s always a tough double but this is what we train for.”

Backstroke specialist Brodie Williams also toed the line after his swim-off heroics a couple of days ago, the Jol Finck-coached swimmer not able to do enough to secure a second swim tonight.

The other individual event taking place on Sunday morning was the Women’s 400m Freestyle, a trio of British women bidding for final places. Holly Hibbott got the job done as she goes in search of Olympic selection, and with a lane in tonight’s final, she’ll hope to both mix it with the best in Europe and dip under the 4:05.96 Tokyo consideration time.

There were further strong swims from Aimee Willmott and Tamryn Van Selm, who at opposite ends of their swimming careers have enjoyed brilliant weeks. Incidentally, both women were second in their respective heats, Willmott just short of a final place with Van Selm just shy of her personal best.

Full results can be found here