British record for women's 4x100m freestyle relay opens World Champs

23 Jul 2023

Great Britain’s women finished fourth in the Women’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay final in a new British record time on the opening night of swimming at the 2023 World Aquatics Championships, as Jacob Peters and Ben Proud made finals of their own in Fukuoka.

The relay quartet of Anna Hopkin, Lucy Hope, Abbie Wood and Freya Anderson took to the Marine Messe Fukuoka Hall A pool for the evening showpiece after qualifying fourth from the heats session earlier in the day, on the final event with British representation for the day. 

Olympic gold medallist Hopkin led the relay out for Britain well, taking it to the leaders to hand over to Hope in third, a place in the front pack well established. Hope - a winner of nine European relay medals for GB - then managed to keep a medal place alive by mitigating charges from China and the USA to see the team in fifth at the halfway stage.

Despite the fierce pace of the race and gaps growing, Wood's efforts on the penultimate leg kept the group well in the top five picture and on for a new British best-ever time, handing over to Anderson within a couple of seconds of the Chinese and Swedish teams – with the USA and Australia taking the race out way ahead of the chasing pack, with the latter team going on to break the world record with a dominant swim.

Anderson has been accustomed to making inroads for the group on the anchor leg of the race, with today being no different. Managing to reel in Sweden’s Louise Hansson down the final length and overtake the Swedes, she also made ground on eventual bronze medallists China before ultimately touching in a time of 3:33.90, with an outstanding personal split of 52.51. 

The result is a new British record for the quartet, who beat the time of 3:33.96 which they set themselves as a four at the Olympic Games in Tokyo two years ago.

“It's been a bit of an up-and-down day for GB in the pool really, so I think to come away with a British record solidifies that we are still as good as we were in Tokyo and we're really hoping to move it on next year," said Lucy afterwards.

Anna added: “It's always nice to start the week with this relay. We are gradually picking away at teams, we came fourth there, we are not that far away from the medals, and we've still got a lot to improve on and I think all of us know we've got more in there for next year.”

Anderson gave a bit of an insight into her impressive pursuit of the front-runners, on a night where three world records were broken in total.

“I knew I had to claw it back, so I was just trying to do that job. Like Anna said, it's just my favourite way to start any meet with the relay with the girls. We really moved it on from this morning, that's all we could ask for, that's all we were asked to do, be the best we could do today," she said.

“That was it. I think we're all a little bit gutted just to miss out on the medals, but still really happy to have moved it on as a quartet.”

Abbie concluded: "Fourth is always the hardest place to come in the field because you're so close. But I think coming fourth before next year could be a blessing in disguise because it will just make us hungrier for more for next year in Paris."

Jacob Peters and Ben Proud were first into the water for Great Britain during the opening finals session, as they both went into the Men’s 50m Butterfly semi-finals looking to secure a spot in tomorrow’s final.

Ben Proud Men's 50m Butterfly Semi-Final Fukuoka 2023
Proud will be looking to reclaim his title from 2017

Peters and Proud went in the first of the two semi-finals – after qualifying in second and ninth respectively following the morning’s heats session. Both athletes had the better starts of the field as they reached their breakouts, before settling into their strokes to fend off challenges from the majority of the field.

Their times meant that both of the men will line-up for the medal shootout, with Peters in joint third and Proud in sixth. Peters’ new personal best time of 22.85 from the heats puts him in and around those medal places, which will be a target for both him and the reigning Commonwealth champion in the event when they take to the blocks again.

When speaking on his result following the news of his qualification, Peters was in good spirits ahead of what will be a busy week for the Bath Performance Centre man.

“I’m really happy with this morning's swim, and then tonight's goal was just more of the same, just repeat this morning's swim and get back tomorrow," he said.

“I've qualified joint-third for the final, so anything is possible. We'll just have to try to get a little bit faster and see what happens. I knew I was in form, but it's great to have the results to prove it on day one, it's done great for my confidence going forward. We've just got to see what happens for the rest of the meet - it doesn't just happen, I've got to prepare for tomorrow and prepare for the rest of the week.”

Peters Fukuoka 2023 50 Butterfly Semi-Final
Peters in 50m Fly action

James Wilby opened his World Championships account by coming agonisingly close to making the final of the Men’s 100m Breaststroke – finishing in an overall 10th place across what were a rapid couple of semi-finals.

Despite improving on his heats time, the 29-year-old former World Championship silver medallist in the event came just four hundredths of a second away from that elusive eighth place as his usual back-end speed saw him finish fourth in his semi-final but just out of the final.

Katie Shanahan suffered an unfortunate disqualification in the Women's 200m Individual Medley semi-finals following a promising heats swim. The Scot did make a provisional finals spot after what was a solid performance, but will not be competing in tomorrow's final due to the DQ - although the performance bodes well for her outings in the 200m Backstroke and 400m Individual Medley later in the meet. 

Also suffering a disqualification on the first day was the Men's 4x100m Freestyle team. The team of Lewis Burras, Matthew Richards, Jacob Whittle and Duncan Scott put in some fierce swims across the four legs and looked set to threaten for the world title, but were unable to contest the final following the DQ decision. 

In the morning session, Keanna MacInnes finished in 20th place for the Women's 100m Butterfly on what is her debut at a World Championships. Freya Colbert finished 13th in the Women's 400m Freestyle, while Luke Turley's own Worlds debut saw him place 26th in the Men's 400m Freestyle heats.