Britain's swimmers claimed a marvellous hat-trick of gold medals on the penultimate night of action at the European Short Course Championships to sit top of the medal table ahead of the final day in Otopeni, Romania.
Abbie Wood doubled her golden tally for the meet moments after Matt Richards led home James Guy in another world-class British one-two in a barnstorming Men's 200m Freestyle - before GB's Mixed 4x50m Freestyle Relay quartet of Ben Proud, Lewis Burras, Anna Hopkin and Freya Anderson delivered a British and Championship record to claim the title.
This all came after Medi Harris opened the evening with silver in the Women's 100m Backstroke, as this British Swimming cohort look to sign out in style from 2023 as they build towards the Olympic focus in 2024.
The closest result of the lot came in that stunning 200m Freestyle finale, where world champion Richards served up a repeat of his perfectly-timed race plan from July's World Championships to triumph over the short-course event.
Sitting second at the halfway stage and third - albeit in the tightest of leading packs - at 150m, the Millfield man surged down the final 25m to clock a new personal best of 1:41.01 and take the touch, ahead of his training partner and compatriot Guy.
For James, the 2015 world champion in the long-course 200m Freestyle, his bold attack of the race was a symbol of the form he is currently in and ensured that, just as in the 50m pools of the Olympics in 2021 and the Worlds earlier this year, it was a British gold-silver combo.
Reflecting on his victory, Matt said: "I’m over the moon with that. It’s a great result to try to build that momentum on from Worlds into short course. I’m definitely better long course so this is all a challenge and a learning experience to refine some of my skills, but I’m over the moon to come out on top. I am so, so pleased to see Jim on the podium as well.
“In sport one minute you can be on top of the world and the next you can be nowhere so it’s one of those where I’m trying to enjoy the journey and every day as it comes. I’ve a fantastic team around me which makes it so much more fun and enjoyable and hopefully we can keep building on this momentum now going into Paris and there’s so much more that I want to do and want to achieve."
James added: "I've not had an individual final and to get an individual podium is amazing. I’ve waited for a long time for it to happen. The last time I did a 200m free and got a medal was 2016, so seven years is a long time, so never give in!
"Things happen in life but don’t give up. I’m 28 and still PB’ing and I’m happy with what I’m doing so bring on next year."
The Union flag was to get even more of an airing as the evening went on, with Wood climbing to the top step for the second time this week after a dominant triumph in the Women's 200m Individual Medley.
Having already claimed the 400m IM title, Abbie looked in control of this one throughout, leading at every single turn across all four strokes and showing impressive consistency across the eight laps to claim gold by an entire second. Fighting for a medal throughout, 200m Backstroke medallist Katie Shanahan just missed out in the final strokes of the freestyle to finish fourth.
"I think I should have backed myself more coming into this meet because it’s been amazing. It's been tough doing the IM double but I’m really proud," said Abbie.
"The girl in the next lane surprised me by how quickly she went out but I always know I can trust my back end so I went out hard and fought for it. I need to give Dave Hemmings (Wood's coach) a shout out and I hope he starts to get the credit he deserves because what he’s doing with Medi and I is great. She’s smashed it this week too. It was a bit of a surprise when he said we would be training partners but it’s working so well for both of us."
Another relay success rounded out the evening for GB, as they kept up a record of winning a medal in every relay so far this meet.
Individual 50m Freestyle champion Proud led off the mixed freestyle quartet with another stunning two laps to set the tone, with Burras picking it up and strengthening the platform with a strong leg.
A quick takeover and lightning 50m from the in-form Hopkin - who clocked the fastest leg of any woman in the race - ensured it was Britain's to lose as she handed over to Anderson, who closed things out as she always does to clock a new British and Championship record time of 1:27.75 to secure the gold.
Alex Cohoon and Lucy Hope, who played their part with important swims in the heats, also collected gold medals as a result.
"I’m really buzzing with that, I really didn’t want to let the team down, it’s such a great team of sprint freestylers and it’s out of my comfort zone but I’m so glad I could get the job done for the guys," reflected Freya.
Lewis added: "Two national anthems in four days, I couldn’t really ask for more, wonderful. It's uplifting, motivating and I hope with this there are some kids back in the UK watching it and being inspired by it."
Completing the quintet of medals for the night was Medi Harris, whose outstanding meet continued with 100m Backstroke silver. Winner of the 200m event, Harris showed good composure in the face of pace either side of her to stay in contention for the win and ultimately touch second, while the returning Kathleen Dawson again performed well despite narrowly missing out on the podium in fourth.
In the night's other final to involve a British athlete, Jacob Peters set a new British record of 22.10 to miss out on 50m Butterfly bronze by a mere 0.06 seconds.
Other results (* denotes athlete missing out on qualification for semi-finals due to two-per-nation rule)
Women's 200m Freestyle
Freya Anderson - first into final
Freya Colbert - seventh into final
Lucy Hope - fourth in heats*
Men's 100m Individual Medley
Joe Litchfield - first into final
Women's 50m Breaststroke
Imogen Clark - fourth into final
Kara Hanlon - 14th
Men's 50m Breaststroke
Archie Goodburn - sixth into final
Greg Butler - 14th
Men's 100m Freestyle
Matt Richards - third into final
Jacob Whittle - fourth into final
Tom Dean - ninth in heats*
Women's 50m Butterfly
Keanna MacInnes - 21st
Men's 200m Backstroke
Luke Greenbank - first into final
Cameron Brooker - fifth into final
Brodie Williams - ninth in heats*
Oliver Morgan - 11th in heats*
Full results and information on how you can watch every single session from Otopeni 2023 is available on our 'What's On?' page
Images courtesy of Speedo/Charles Flautre