Newly crowned Olympic champion Tom Dean returned to the pool this evening to anchor home the British Men’s 4x200m Freestyle team to a centre spot in the final.
The Men’s 4x200m Freestyle has been a hotly anticipated affair, with competition for a place among the British team set at a high bar during the breath-taking domestic 200m Freestyle final at April’s British Swimming Selection Trials – and this morning’s historic one-two only adding fuel to talk of TeamGB’s medal potential.
Leading off the team, Matthew Richards more than held his own through the opening phase of the race, handing over to 2016 silver medallist James Guy, who began to put some clear water into their rivals.
Calum Jarvis only continued that trajectory, allowing Tom Dean to cruise by his own standards down the final straight, as the Bath National Centre based quartet comfortably qualified for the final top of the standings.
Guy, who had been seen full of emotion at Dean’s victory earlier in the day, joked he’d been ‘been crying all day’, before saying:
“Coming fourth in Rio for me was a massive disappointment for myself, and being with Tom every single day, he’s a very good friend of mine, we train day in day out and for him to win gold I feel a part of that because I helped him get ready for it.
“It was great to get the job done tonight. To go a good heat time is what we wanted before we move onto the final.”
Dean, not resting on his laurels, added:
“I tell you what, this morning feels like a million miles away, it doesn’t really feel like the same day.
“We’re just looking so strong, everyone’s doing great splits and I’ve got plenty more in the tank – it was quite obvious I took my foot off the gas in that back end because it was just about getting the job done tonight, making sure we secure a good lane for the middle of the pool tomorrow in the final.”
It was the youngest member of the British Swimming team in Tokyo, Jacob Whittle, that got the session off to a positive start. The Jamie Main-coached swimmer charged down the second length to go from eighth to first in his heat as he set a new personal best in the Men’s 100m Freestyle.
Squeezing inside the strongly contested semi-final places, the 16-year-old felt he could go a bit quicker with another opportunity, commenting:
“It was a good race, slightly slower than I expected but I’m really happy with it - a great experience obviously. An individual race is completely different to the relay we had the other day and the pressure is all on you.
“Seeing the results of others gives you that bit of adrenaline and makes you proud to feel part of this team.”
In the following Women’s 200m Butterfly, Laura Stephens and Alys Thomas found themselves in the unusual position of automatically qualifying for the semi-final, as the competitors entered in the heats reduced to 16 following a withdrawal.
Both women took the opportunity to produce a controlled swim, each placing inside the top eight times as they looked to shake out any ‘race nerves’ on their Olympic debut.
“[Competing here] is different and it’s not different, I mean I’m racing the same girls that I would at Worlds, but obviously there’s that big logo on the side of the pool here, so the circumstances allowed me to take it all in a bit more than I normally would do tonight.” said Thomas.
The programme continued with James Wilby and Ross Murdoch making a modest start in the Men’s 200m Breaststroke, as they shared an adjoining lane rope in the third heat.
With two seeded heats taking place after their swim, the pair had to slightly hold their breath until the final summary showed they’d indeed done just enough to progress.
Reflecting on his swim, Wilby commented:
“I made a bit of a mistake in 2019, being a bit too settled and easing in the first round or two, so coming off the back of the 100m didn’t really get stuck into the next event.
”Basically I tried to get stuck in down the first 100m there so I’m ready to push into the pain come the semi-finals.”
The final British action in the pool saw Kieran Bird swim the Men’s 800m Freestyle which has been newly added to this Olympic programme. Finishing in 25th, the Jol Finck-trained athlete was disappointed but keen to learn from the experiences of his debut Games.
Tuesday evening’s qualifiers will be back in action tomorrow morning (2.30am BST start) in a scheduled programme additionally featuring Abbie Wood and Alicia Wilson in the Women's 200m Individual Medley Final.