Colbert closes out World Champs with glorious gold

18 Feb 2024

Freya Colbert claimed a dramatic Women's 400m Individual Medley world title with the final British action of the 2024 World Aquatics Championships, on a night of double medley success in the pool.

Freya followed up a superb silver for Max Litchfield in the Men's 400m Individual Medley by pacing her race in the women's event to a tee, overtaking Israel's Anastasia Gorbenko in the final 10m of the closing freestyle leg to get to the wall first and claim the first individual international gold medal of her career - and GB's second in the pool this week following Laura Stephen's 200m Butterfly success on Thursday.

In a race that always ebbs and flows, Colbert kept her cool on the opening 100m of butterfly, sitting sixth at that stage but quickly moving through the field to second after the backstroke section of the race. 

The Loughborough Performance Centre swimmer was still right in contention after the breaststroke, before the race came together on the closing freestyle leg, Freya showing the quality that helped set the Women's 4x200m Freestyle Relay team to silver earlier in the meet by holding her stroke rate and moving past Gorbenko in the closing stages for the gold.

"It's so amazing, I'm still in a bit of disbelief. I knew I could do it, that was probably one of the first races that I've gone into at this level with total confidence in myself and my race plan," she said.

"I just trusted that, not following the girls out on the butterfly, keeping true to what I know my strengths are and it really paid off at the end. I am so pleased!

"I felt strong coming off the backstroke leg, knowing I'd gone past Anastasia, but to be honest, she was the only person I could see, I didn't even know what Sara [bronze medallist Sara Franceschi] was doing on the other side of the pool.

Freya Colbert looks up 400m IM celebration Doha 2024
Freya Colbert looks up to the sky after winning the 400m Individual Medley world title

"I got a little bit stressed on the breaststroke because I thought I'd got in front, but then she came back again, and then I just had to give the freestyle my all. I know it's one of my strengths individually, it's not necessarily always a strength at the end of the IM - I just had to really trust what my coach Dave Hemmings had told me during all those weeks at altitude, throw my head down and give it everything to the wall." 

Colbert's golden triumph came moments after Litchfield had earned the first World Championship medal of his career with silver in the men's event. 

Pacing things with similar composure, the 28-year-old moved into the leading pack across the backstroke and breaststroke legs, and then showed good energy over the final 100m, his freestyle taking him past initial leader Carson Foster and into a race with New Zealand's Lewis Clareburt for the gold.

Clareburt ultimately got the touch but Max was following him right into the wall for the silver, a platform he is looking to build on in Olympic year.

"The medal has been so close so many times, and it is just nice to break that. We're in February, there's a few people not here, but nonetheless, it's a great swim, I'm really happy with how I processed the race. I'm just dead chuffed and looking forward to the rest of the year now," he said. 

Max Litchfield 400m IM SILVER podium shot Doha 2024
Max Litchfield (left) on the Men's 400m Individual Medley podium

"To be on the podium after all these years is amazing. I am really happy with the time and the way I executed the race, and just excited for the rest of the year now."

Anna Hopkin was the other Brit in action as the third World Championships in 20 months closed out, the sprint freestyler placing sixth in the Women's 50m Freestyle final.

Hopkin - a bronze medallist from the Mixed 4x100m Medley Relay - has had a busy meet and shown good progression in moving things on from round to round.

In this splash-and-dash finale, the Tokyo gold medallist mirrored her effort from Saturday's semi-finals, her pace yet another good sign of what could be to come at the British Swimming Championships in April.

Sunday night's results saw British Swimming close with seven medals - including two golds - in the pool programme from this unique World Championships, an impressive statistic given the training work that has still been going in across the team as they prepare for those British Champs.

Stephens (200m Butterfly) and Colbert (400m Individual Medley) ended with gold medals to their name, while Litchfield (400m Individual Medley) and the Women's 4x200m Freestyle Relay team of Colbert, Abbie Wood, Lucy Hope and Medi Harris claimed silvers.

Bronze medals went to Adam Peaty (100m Breaststroke), Ben Proud (50m Freestyle) and the Mixed 4x100m Medley Relay cohort - Harris, Peaty, Hopkin, James Wilby, Duncan Scott and Matt Richards. 

The focus for every swimmer now turns to the British Swimming Championships, the Olympic and Paralympic selection event. 

You can be in the crowd to watch your favourite athletes compete for British titles and their places on the team for Paris 2024 - get your tickets here.