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Great Britain's junior athletes excel at EYOF

1 Aug 2023

Great Britain’s junior swimmers finished third in the swimming medal table at the 2023 European Youth Olympic Festival (EYOF) in Maribor – amassing a total of fifteen medals across five days of high-quality racing in the Slovenian city.

[Images in this report are provided with thanks to Team GB]

The sixteen-strong team represented Team GB at the biennial competition amongst stiff competition from a number of other nations with significant junior setups, with many of the athletes at the event coming off the back of the European Junior Championships in Belgrade less than a month ago.

With the races following a similar progression pathway to the senior international events, whereby swimmers in races of 200 metres or less contest three rounds of competition (heats, semi-finals and finals) before medals are awarded, the athletes had a great opportunity to gain valuable experience on the EYOF stage ahead of their transition onto potential senior teams.

Such a chance was firmly grasped by a number of British swimmers from the get-go, as close to a dozen swimmers took to the evening session on the first day to contest semi-finals, with Amelie Blocksidge also competing in the Women’s 400m Individual Medley final – placing fourth.

Coco Croxford stepped up for the Women’s 200m Butterfly final to take the first medal of the competition for Great Britain on night two, as she managed to get her hand to the wall for the bronze medal following a tight finish involving a handful of swimmers for the podium places down the final length of the race. Filip Nowacki followed up the achievement shortly after with a strong showing in the Men’s 200m Breaststroke final, as he finished just seven hundredths of a second behind the winner and had to settle for the silver medal.

Blocksidge returned to the blocks in the finals session to contest the medal shootout for the Women’s 400m Freestyle. The 14 year-old, who was amongst the youngest in the field, put in a scintillating performance to break away from the chasing pack and challenge for the gold medal throughout the length of the competition. Despite just missing out on the gold medal on the touch, she still took a historic silver medal in the event – highlighting her performance with an enthusiastic celebration at the end of the lane when the result was confirmed.

The final British medal of the second day came in the Mixed 4x100m Freestyle relay final, with a solid showing from the team of Jacob Mills, Evan Davidson, Theodora Taylor and Phoebe Cooper to take the silver after fending off a late charge on their position from the German and Hungarian teams.

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Taylor was one of the athletes on-form throughout the week

Fresh off the back of his medal in the relay the previous night, Davidson returned for the Men’s 200m Individual Medley final – taking the bronze medal following a tight battle with Hungary’s Botond Zsolt Kovacs throughout the race. After falling to a near-two second deficit after the halfway stage, he used the final two lengths to work his way back into the fray – gaining on the athlete with frightening speed before running out of water and having to settle for third.

Taylor and Cooper were also back again on night three, as they were again in relay action, this time with Mabli Collyer and Hollie Wilson for the Women’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay final. In a three-way battle for the finish, they touched in unison with the Italian quartet – sharing the silver medal after touching just a tenth of a second behind gold medallists Romania.

Wilson kept the British momentum going on the penultimate day of competition – taking a silver medal in the Women’s 200m Freestyle final. Once again being involved in a close battle for the gold medal, this time with Germany’s Linda Eleonore Roth, she took nearly a second out of the athlete down the final length before coming up short despite her efforts and adding another silver to the already-impressive British collection.

The final night provided one last surge of trips to the podium for Great Britain’s young athletes – kicked off by Taylor in the Women’s 100m Breaststroke final. After hitting the halfway turn in third place, she performed a solid fightback down the final 50 metres, in a fashion which had come to be expected of the team through the course of the week. Taking Norway’s Karen Knutsen Klepp as they came into the flags, she took home a solid silver medal.

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Amelie Blocksidge

What was even more impressive was her Women’s 50m Freestyle final performance on the same night. Having one of the slower starts of the field, she worked her underwater and powered herself through to the front of the pack – touching for the gold medal to add to her already-impressive list of accolades from the week.

Gabi Freeman then took her first medal of the week in the Women’s 4x100m Medley Relay – leading off the relay on the backstroke leg with Taylor, Cooper and Wilson following in that order as the group were involved in yet another close finish on their way to taking the silver medal in a time that was just under half a second off being worthy of the gold.

The boys then followed suit, as Dean Fearn, Joshua Inglis, Charles Simpson and Jacob Mills were all in 4x100m Medley Relay action of their own in the men’s event, also taking the silver medal with a strong showing.

After taking a medal earlier in the competition, Blocksidge made a final statement in the Women’s 800m Freestyle final – equalling the EYOF record a she stormed to victory and her first gold medal of the competition with a commanding performance, following a short battle with Hungary’s Vivien Jackl.

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Inglis took Team GB's final male swimming medal

The final two events of the competition saw a further two gold medals for Great Britain as the curtain was brought down on what is always a vastly-enjoyable competition for those selected to represent Team GB for the event. Joshua Inglis stepped up first with a huge performance in the Men’s 100m Breaststroke final, as he came off the best of a five-man lunge for the wall with all of those athletes within four tenths of a second of taking the gold themselves, before Cooper took Women’s 200m Individual Medley gold in a stunning finals showing – getting her hand to the wall in commanding fashion after leading at every turn.

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Phoebe Cooper (centre)

The result means that a total of four golds, eight silvers and three bronzes were won by the British team – an achievement that Team Manager Kerry Wood was immensely proud of the team for bringing home.

“It was a very positive meet from start to finish with all the swimmers raising their performance levels from heats to semi’s and finals. They responded to challenges, fought hard in close races and were fiercely supportive of each other.

“As well as a chance to race against the best swimmers of their age in Europe, EYOF provided some great learning opportunities which will be of huge benefit in the future.”

British Swimming’s Head of Performance Development Alan Lynn added to Wood’s thoughts on how well the team performed, as a number of the athletes on the team get ready to move on to Trinidad and Tobago for the 2023 Commonwealth Youth Games.

“I am delighted to see the success of our next generation of swimmers in Maribor. Coming as it did, concurrently with the World Championships, it showcased the best of our potential senior swimmers of the future. I look forward to working with them and their coaches to realise their ambitions.”

For the full results from the event, click here.