Freestylers secure Tokyo 2020 relay spot

21 Jul 2019

A new-look Men’s 4x100m Freestyle relay squad produced the swim of the morning on day one of swimming action at the World Championships, securing Great Britain a place at next year’s Olympic Games.

Lining up together for the first time, a quartet of Duncan Scott, James Guy, Ben Proud and Scott McLay showed the rest of the world what they are capable of, winning the second of three heats in fine style to qualify for tonight’s final as the second fastest nation.

Duncan Scott set the ball rolling on the opening leg, leading through 50m and handing over to James Guy with a small advantage, the National Centre Bath swimmer making his 4x100m debut at this level, blitzing his way to a 47.77 split, his fastest ever, to hand over with a healthy advantage.

More accustomed to one length of the pool, Proud swam a measured leg to ensure GB senior debutant Scott McLay would take off on anchor leg with a lead. McLay looked at home in this kind of arena, the South Korean crowd roaring him and the team home, stopping the clock in 3.12.42, a seriously impressive swim.

Speaking afterwards the team were naturally pleased with their efforts, Scott saying:

“That’s top 12 and we’ve secured that Olympic spot for next year! All the boys swam incredibly well, with two of them producing the fastest relay splits they’ve ever done, so I think we can be very happy with what we did this morning.

Guy added:

“I think that’s the first 4x100m relay I’ve done, so to go 47 point is pretty cool. The main focus was to get top 12 and Olympic qualification for next year, but hopefully we can have a good one tonight and see what we can go.

On doubling his usual distance, Proud remarked:

“That’s further than normal but I wanted to do my part for the team because it’s not often I get chance to be in a relay.”

Finally Scott McLay said:

“I’m very pleased – that was the quickest relay spilt I’ve done, before this it was Commies, and it was great walking out in that atmosphere and I was ready to go.”

It was business as usual for Adam Peaty, as he and James Wilby made light work of qualifying for the Men’s 100m Breaststroke semi-finals. Drawn in the final heat, Peaty produced the quickest swim of the morning, touching in 57.59 and was pleased with his efforts.

“That felt good. It’s probably one of the best swims, in terms of feeling, that I’ve done and weirdly it felt very similar to the Olympics. I’m out here to have fun, put on a good show and see what happens.”

Wilby went two heats earlier, also taking the win, his time of 59.15 seeing him through fifth fastest. Competing at his second Worlds, Wilby commented:

“It was a good start to the Worlds – I mean, last time I was in a World Championships I didn’t make it through the heats, so I’m really happy to put out a good heat swim and there’s still loads I can improve on tonight.”

Earlier in the session Siobhan-Marie O’Connor looked in good form as she finished second in fourth and final heat of the Women’s 200m Individual Medley to safely progress to the semi-finals.

“I’m pleased with that – it was a good first swim. I’m always nervous for the first one, so it’s good to get it out the way and hopefully I’ll just progress round to round now. I enjoyed getting out there and racing – it feels like we’ve been waiting a long time to race!”

In the Men’s 50m Butterfly reigning World Champion, Ben Proud, made sure he’ll be back this evening for the semi-finals thanks to a measured heat swim. Touching fifth in the tenth and final heat, Proud advanced as ninth quickest but knows he needs to move it on this evening.

“The race itself was ok. The first morning there’s a lot to look out for and it went ok – I’ve made it through to the semi-finals but I’ll have to step it up a bit tonight to make sure I qualify for the final well. If I can do that, tomorrow night it’s all about the race.

“I’m coming back as reigning World Champion but at the same time I’m not the top dog as there are quite a few people who have been swimming really fast, who will put up a good race. At the same time I’m confident in myself and of my abilities, so I’ll hopefully make it through tonight and it’ll be a fun race.”

Holly Hibbott rose to the occasion as she lined up in the final heat of the Women’s 400m Freestyle, taking on some of the best freestylers of all-time. Delivering a season’s best of 4.07.92 at the World Championships, the European medallist touched sixth, but ended up missing out on a final spot by just two places and 0.8 of a second.

Commenting afterwards she said:

“I’m a little bit disappointed as I’d have liked to get in that final and I was only .8 off making it. It is the fastest heat swim I’ve ever done, so I’ve got to take the positives and see what I can work on for next year, which is obviously the big one. It’s a season’s best and I wish I had the opportunity to go and do it again tonight, but I haven’t quite managed to make it back.”

The first British swimmer to take to the water at the 2019 World Aquatics Championships was Aimee Willmott and she touched seventh in the third of four 200m IM heats, missing out on semi-final spot by just two places as she warms up for her target event, the 400m IM, which takes place next Sunday.

1500m man Daniel Jervis opened his Gwangju 2019 campaign with a swim over 400m, acquitting himself well but not doing enough to make tonight’s final. It would have taken a lifetime best for Jervis to make it, but as it was he finished 17th overall having been drawn in lane two in the quickest of the heats.

Following Jervis was his Swansea training partner Alys Thomas, the Commonwealth and European medallist also stepping down in distance to contest the Women’s 100m Butterfly. Drawn in heat four of six, Thomas had a solid swim eventually finishing 24th overall, one second outside the kind of time required to secure a semi-final spot. She’ll be back for her target event, the 200m Butterfly, on Wednesday morning.

The action resumes at 20.00 local time (12 noon UK time) tonight - you can catch all the action live on FINA TV

Full results from the FINA World Aquatics Championships can be found here.