Hopkin and relay team deliver strong swims in Friday finals

16 Feb 2024

Anna Hopkin and the Men's 4x200m Freestyle Relay team put down some strong swims as they narrowly missed out on the medals on day six of swimming at the World Aquatics Championships in Doha. 

Hopkin was fifth in the Women's 100m Freestyle contest, before the quartet of Matt Richards, Max Litchfield, Jack McMillan and Duncan Scott played their part in a thrilling relay finale to the night, as the GB team finished fourth - each performance boding well for April's British Swimming Championships, the selection event for this summer's Olympic Games.

While there was no medal in the 100m Freestyle for Hopkin, the Mel Marshall-coached swimmer again showed the fine early-season form she is in at the start of this Olympic year.

Having played a crucial role with a flying anchor leg in the Mixed 4x100m Medley Relay bronze effort earlier in the week, Anna moved through the rounds well in the individual 100m freestyle event, delivering a time in the final that she has only previously bettered when competing at the Tokyo 2020 Games. 

She took the race out fast to turn in second place, holding her pace well down the second half of the race and ultimately touching in fifth place. 

"I'm really happy. That's the fastest time I've been since the Olympics. Obviously I want to be quicker at the Olympics this year, so being at this point in February is really encouraging," said Hopkin.

"It would've been nice to get on the podium, but I'm just happy to be in a good place right now, so it's good.

"This has been a really good competition. That was my fifth 100m of freestyle here in three days, so to get that much racing exposure at this time of year is really good. I'm just happy to be getting some good racing in!"

Rounding out the night was the Men's 4x200m Freestyle Relay, an event in which Britain were Olympic and world champions heading into the final. With the British Championships less than two months away and all eyes ultimately on delivering their biggest performance in Paris, a GB team training through this meet put in some impressive swims, with Richards laying down a solid opening leg, Litchfield matching his morning swim well, McMillan dropping good time from the heat and then Scott - who has had the busiest meet of the entire GB team - bringing things home with a strong finish. 

With a fierce race in front of them, the result was a fourth-placed finish - but Duncan knows this team - which included Joe Litchfield for his effort in the heats qualification - is in a very good place at this time of year.

Jack McMillan Doha 2024 GettyImages
Jack McMillan was part of the Men's 4x200m Freestyle Relay team in the Doha final

"I think we're all really happy with that. We were a bit disappointed with where we finished, and then on reflection, once we've looked at all the splits, I don't think as a team we had much more in us," said the six-time Olympic medallist.

"Credit to the other boys in that race, they swam really well. Looking ahead to Paris, with going in as Olympic champions, we've got that target on our backs, and I think we are ready for that. There's a lot to do between now and then, for sure.

"I'm really happy with this meet overall. I really didn't know what to expect coming in, from an individual point of view and relays. Obviously the first thing was qualifying that Men's 4x100m Freestyle Relay for Paris, and from there it was just about seeing what I could do.

"I'm  happy with how things have gone, I've been able to squeeze as much as I can out of myself, and hopefully this next six or seven weeks, I can start to get a bit fresher, get a bit more race ready and we'll see what I can do at British Champs." 

A couple of good progressions from Ben Proud and Freya Colbert saw them progress to Saturday finals, in the Men's 50m Freestyle and Women's 200m Backstroke respectively.

Ben was eighth-fastest into the 50m Freestyle semi-finals after his first swim of the meet on Friday morning - and the world, European and Commonwealth gold medallist showed his experience to move things on nicely in the next round, finishing second in his semi-final and third overall to make sure he will be in medal contention in the splash-and-dash showpiece.

"I've been around the field long enough to know that I can kind of play that game, make it through the rounds step by step and do what needs to be done," he said.

"Saying that, it was very quick tonight, so I had to be there. I came here not to win but to race - and that has clearly shown by what good form Cameron McEvoy is on, it's impressive to see and as a swimming fan, I love to see it.

"Now the fun bit happens, I've made it through the rounds and I can get stuck into a good race tomorrow. This year in total I've had the World Cups in Budapest, the European Short Course in Romania which was a great event, this event, then British Championships and then the Olympics, so the quality of racing is super high." 

Meanwhile, Freya secured herself a lane in the 200m Backstroke finale, qualifying eighth-fastest after progressing her swim from the heat. The Loughborough Performance Centre athlete fared well so soon after playing her part in the Women's 4x200m Freestyle Relay on Thursday night, showing good composure in her semi-final swim to come through the faster of the two contests.