Duncan Scott served up a jaw-dropping British record in the Men’s 200m Individual Medley to bring the opening day of the British Swimming Selection Trials to a memorable end, on a night when every single race featured at least one athlete going under the consideration times for Olympic selection.
World champion Scott – one of four swimmers pre-selected for Team GB ahead of this meet – promised something special in the morning heat, and he duly delivered at the iconic London Aquatics Centre, leading after a strong butterfly leg and never letting up, powering down the final 50m on his favoured freestyle stroke to go inside Max Litchfield’s previous British best and record a 1:55.90.
The University of Stirling man was joined under the 1:58.32 requirement time by Max’s brother Joe Litchfield, who set a second personal best of the day - a 1:57.74 - to put himself in contention for an Olympic debut in Japan.
The biggest noise from the athletes and coaches in the stands, though, was reserved for record man Scott.
“It’s been a while since a long-course tapered meet, that was World Championships in 2019, so I’m just grateful to be here. I’m delighted with that swim, it’s a big PB and it's great to move things on too,” he said.
“Balancing the events I do, I’ve got to put that down to my coaches, Brad Hay and Steve Tigg, the way they are able to balance the sessions and the way they prioritise different things throughout the week. There’s been a lot of work on the breaststroke, I don’t know if it paid off, but I enjoy doing the medley stuff, it’s good fun.
“It’s happy days for me now, I’ve got a day off tomorrow, that’s doesn’t happen often – so it’s a lie-in!”
Earlier, Adam Peaty returned to the stage of his first ever Men’s 100m Breaststroke world record to make another big statement with a dominant victory in that event, his victory time ensuring he has now laid down the 20 fastest ever swims in the 100m Breaststroke.
Having set the world-leading time in the heats, Peaty again showed his intent with an eye-catching start – and there was no looking back from there, the Mel Marshall-coached man going well under 58 seconds as he looks to be the first Brit to defend an Olympic title later this year. James Wilby also improved on his heats performance in a time that would have earned him consideration had he not already been pre-selected, like Peaty.
And Peaty’s international rivals may be concerned to hear that the motivation just keeps coming for the 26-year-old.
“I’ve had a lot going on with a kid, moving house, so I’m happy to come here and put it down, consolidate the top 20 ever. It was good, the execution was perfect for me, I’m way ahead of where I should be now so I’ll take a lot of confidence into the summer, the Olympics and having Great Britain on my back and show the world we’re a force to be reckoned with,” he said.
“The motivation with a child, it’s like nothing else, it’s unreal. Every day he gets older, every day I get more motivated. He’s learning to crawl and getting teeth, that’s another achievement! It’s great to be a father and hopefully be an inspiration for him when he grows up.
“It’s been very tough, not to take anything from these athletes who’ve been out of the pool, but it’s been extremely tough – what got me through it was that little glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel. If you can keep your eyes focused on that and power through every single day waking up with a positive mindset, you prove you can do anything. The next generation of athletes, if you’re watching at home, you’re going to be the most important generation to see where the world can go after COVID in the next four, six, eight years, when the veterans are all retired!”
Freya Anderson got the opening night of finals off to a brilliant start by winning the Women’s 200m Freestyle crown, going under the Olympic consideration time in the process.
The Bath National Centre athlete was pushed all the way by the in-form Abbie Wood and Edinburgh University’s Lucy Hope, who swam strongly from lane six – but it was Anderson who had the pace down the final 50m to get inside the 1:57.28 consideration time, with Wood touching just outside in second and Hope taking third.
The consideration times just kept coming as Aimee Willmott ducked inside the 4:36.78 target in the Women’s 400m Individual Medley. The two-time Olympian took it out strong from the opening butterfly strokes, staying well clear of the field and holding on well down a tough final 50m of freestyle to achieve exactly what she set out to do.
There was a big personal best for Lily Booker of Millfield (4:43.40) to take second, while Hannah Miley’s return from injury saw her clinch third.
“It was tough. I knew it was going to be tough going into the race, me vs the clock, so I just really tried to get into my own race and thought, if I’m dying but I’ve gone for it and I miss the consideration time then so be it – I just had to give myself a chance,” said Commonwealth champion Willmott.
“It’s kind of strange because, after Rio, I didn’t think I’d still be swimming towards to Tokyo – and then it’s been another year, it’s been a five-year cycle. It’s a strange one, but I’m so happy to go under the time, fingers crossed it’s enough and I can finish on a high in Tokyo.”
Kieran Bird produced arguably the upset of the night in the Men’s 400m Freestyle, executing his race to perfection before charging down the final 50m to overtake Bath National Centre teammate Tom Dean and surge three-quarters of a second under that event’s Tokyo consideration time of 3:46.78, an eye-catching achievement and a huge lifetime best. Dean placed second, ahead of middle-distance specialist Daniel Jervis in third.
City of Cardiff’s Harriet Jones ensured the consideration time was met in every single race on day one in a tight Women’s 100m Butterfly showpiece. Jones – who had already served up a personal best in the morning heats – went out fast and maintained her efforts right to the wall to PB again and touch inside a 57.92 Tokyo requirement time, to the cheers of athletes and coaches in the stands.
Plymouth Leander athlete Laura Stephens also looked good throughout to finish an agonising 0.06 seconds adrift of the consideration time, with her favoured 200m Butterfly still to come later in the meet.
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