Great Britain’s Men’s 4x100m Medley Relay team made history on the final night of the World Championships as they struck gold with a marvellous comeback.
The United States of America have been beaten just once in this event at an Olympic Games or World Championships, but a stunning performance from a relay squad of Luke Greenbank, Adam Peaty, James Guy, Duncan Scott and James Wilby saw GB snatch gold thanks to the second fastest relay split of all-time from Scott on anchor.
Greenbank has enjoyed a breakthrough World Championships at senior level and he once again produced a high quality opening backstroke leg, before double World Champion Adam Peaty tore through the field with a phenomenally quick leg to hand over to James Guy in the lead.
Guy is edging back to something like his best form and he had to be tonight if Britain were even going to get on the podium, the National Centre Bath swimmer delivering a strong butterfly leg to leave Stirling’s Duncan Scott in striking distance.
After a stand-out week in Gwangju, Scott wasn’t done, scorching down two lengths of the pool to overhaul the Americans and the Russians in the final 20 metres, with the South Korean crowd raising the roof. Punching the water in delight as his teammates jumped for joy on the boom, Scott had also anchored the team to a European record of 3.28.10 with his remarkable 46.14 split.
Speaking afterwards leadoff man, Greenbank, said:
“I just wanted to try and put the boys in the best possible position and I knew if I could get there within Peaty range he’d be able to pull it back and he did an amazing job.”
“I knew Adam would do a massive job for us and Luke did an amazing job as well, so there was pressure as we were all in a line together and it was a very close race. I know my back end, when I’m on form, is really good and if I could get there close to Dressel we’d have a good chance of medalling.”
Such was the magnitude of their achievement, the quartet were invited to a press conference, where Scott was asked about his staggering anchor leg split, responding:
“When you get to this level times well, they’re not irrelevant, but it just comes down to racing. The boys put me in an incredible position and I just had to try and execute a good race plan. I can’t say I thought I had that split in me and I’m sort of speechless.”
Of what it means, Peaty concluded:
“This is incredible! I thought Jimmy could hold his ground and as soon as Duncan dived in I thought ‘we’re going to get bronze’. With 25m to go I was jumping up and down like never before and the last 10 metres he just got his head down and took him out. For me, that’s better than Olympic gold and anything else, as when you do it as a team, and the fact the American’s have never been beaten in this event I don’t think, it’s just amazing.”
Anna Hopkin rounded out what has been a brilliant, breakthrough week, by finishing seventh in the world in the Women’s 50m Freestyle. At her first World Championships, the sprinter has set big lifetime bests in both 50m and the 100m, just missing out on the final in later.
On the final night of action, Hopkin delivered another high quality performance in her maiden global final, touching seventh in 54.40, just fractionally outside that lifetime best of 54.34 set yesterday. Leaving South Korea very proud of her achievements, Hopkin is also the fastest Brit in history over 100m (textile) and the second fastest in the 50m.
Of her efforts, Hopkin concluded:
“It was only very slightly slower than in the semi-final so I’m very happy to have been able to produce a consistent swim. Yesterday my start went so well, but I didn’t quite get the finish, whereas today I was just slightly off on the start, but these are tiny details I can work on next year.
“My goals were to make semi-finals – in the 100m and the 50m I was ranked 19th and 20th coming in, so the goal was to try and sneak into semi-finals, so to come seventh in the world in the 50 and just miss out on the final in the 100 is definitely more than I expected – I’m really happy.”
It was also seventh for Max Litchfield, as after a gutsy swim in the Men’s 400m IM. Laying it all on the line in pursuit of a medal, he faded down the home straight, slipping from fourth to seventh. The National Centre Loughborough swimmer put together three solid strokes, but didn’t quite have the strength he needed to bring it back, eventually finishing two and half seconds short of a podium place.
Afterwards he said:
“Yeah, I attacked it as that was the only way I was going to do anything, but I don’t really know what to say, it’s just disappointing. I’ve worked hard this year and I’ve had a great training year and that’s not good enough for me, nowhere near.
“We’ll have to look back at the race and see what we need to change and what we need to work on, but I’ve had a great year and it’s tough to not see the results I should be getting. But you make mistakes and you learn, so we’ll come back better.”
The final event of the championships was the Women’s 4x100m Medley Relay, a quartet of Georgia Davies, Molly Renshaw, Alys Thomas and Freya Anderson lining up in lane one for GB. As she did in the Mixed Medley relay bronze medal winning team, Davies swam a great opening backstroke leg, perhaps inspired the men’s success just minutes earlier. Renshaw, Thomas and Anderson followed suit with solid swims as the team went sub four again to finish eighth.
Full results from the FINA World Aquatics Championships can be found here.
GBR Swimming Medal Tally
Adam Peaty (50m Breaststroke), Adam Peaty (100m Breaststroke), Men’s 4x100m
Medley Relay (Greenbank, Peaty, Guy, Scott)
Silver: James Wilby (100m Breaststroke)
Bronze: Duncan Scott (200m Freestyle), Luke Greenbank (200m Backstroke), Mixed 4x100m Medley Relay (Davies, Peaty, Guy, Anderson)