Glorious golden double on opening night in Otopeni

5 Dec 2023

Britain enjoyed a golden start to the European Short Course Championships in Romania as Abbie Wood and the Men's 4x50m Freestyle Relay team delivered two European titles - with Freya Colbert and the women's relay quartet providing more day one silverware.

In the final action of the first evening session, the foursome of Ben Proud, Matt Richards, Alex Cohoon and Lewis Burras combined in devastating fashion to secure the top step of the Otopeni podium, smashing by more than a second the British record that had only been reset in the morning's heats, when Duncan Scott had played his part in getting the team qualified. 

After Proud's characteristically-strong start put Britain in front, Richards - thanks in part to some superb underwaters - strengthened the British lead, with senior GB debutant Cohoon showing great arena composure to deliver his leg well and protect the lead. 

It was then over to Burras to set the fastest split of the entire race and complete a victory in 1:22.52.

"Growing in the sport, when I was 11 or 12, all I wanted to do was make a national time. So 12-13 years later, hearing your national anthem being played, for a performance you have been part of, it’s a moment to remember. I don’t know if I’ll get that moment again, so I really wanted to savour that one," said Lewis.

Double world champion Matt added: "It was a great job from the boys tonight. To see four British lads all go sub 21 is something we’ve never seen and it shows the depth we’ve got. Year on year on year, we’re just getting stronger and stronger. It’s phenomenal and it bodes really well for the relays for the rest of the week."

As well as closing the night in style, the British team raised the curtain in memorable fashion, as Wood and Colbert combined for a brilliant gold-silver double in the Women's 400m Individual Medley.

The Loughborough Performance Centre teammates, who both train under coach David Hemmings, delivered on their favoured strokes, with Colbert taking charge after a strong backstroke leg to sit ahead at halfway.

But Wood answered back brilliantly across the 100m of breaststroke, those four laps proving crucial as she overtook her training partner and then defended her position with a controlled freestyle finish, touching the wall to claim her maiden senior individual title on the international stage.

Colbert followed her into the wall for the silver to fully kickstart the British medal tally, while a shout out goes to Katie Shanahan, who was third-fastest overall in the heats but did not progress as she placed behind Colbert and Wood in the two-per-nation rule.

Reflecting on her victory, Abbie said: "That's my first senior international individual title, so I can't be mad at that at all! It's getting my week off to a good start as well.

Abbie Wood GOLD Freya Colbert SILVER 400m IM European Short Course Champs 2023.jpg
Abbie Wood (centre) and Freya Colbert (left) take to the podium

"I wish I'd had more confidence going into that race, but I'm really glad I pulled it out in the end, so I'm really happy."

Freya added: "I'm really happy. It's great to be up there with Abbie, I love racing her as teammates. I would've liked to be up on the top, but it wasn't to be today!" 

In the Women's 4x50m Freestyle Relay, the quartet of Anna Hopkin, Freya Anderson, Lucy Hope and Medi Harris teamed up across both heat and final to get their place on the podium with a brilliant bronze. 

While the order was switched slightly from morning to evening - with the aforementioned rota selected for the key final swim - there was no difference in quality, as athletes that have begun to gain valuable relay experience together over recent seasons again shone on the international stage.

Lucy said: "I'm really happy to come third with the girls. The 4x50m is a bit unusual for us, it’s perhaps a bit short maybe, but really fun to get in there and kick things off with the relay."

Freya added: "It was a good result. I wasn’t too happy with my own performance but that doesn’t matter, the team got on the podium which was the important thing and it’s a nice way to cap off this first training block of the Olympic cycle. It’s a great place to race (here in Romania) and also train."

Other results 

Women's 50m Freestyle

Anna Hopkin - third into final

Men's 400m Freestyle

Tom Dean - ninth

Joe Litchfield - 12th

Jack McMillan - 15th

Evan Jones - 22nd

Men's 50m Backstroke

Oliver Morgan - ninth

Jonathon Adam - 13th

Cameron Brooker - 15th

Brodie Williams - 26th

Women's 100m Breaststroke

Imogen Clark - eighth into final

Kara Hanlon - 11th

Leah Schlosshan - 19th

Men's 100m Butterfly 

Jacob Peters - fourth into final

James Guy - sixth into final

Full results and information on how you can watch every single session from Otopeni 2023 is available on our 'What's On?' page