Sunday’s finale to the British Swimming Glasgow Meet open section ended in style with stunning 100m Freestyle wins for Anna Hopkin and Jacob Whittle, as well as a Tokyo consideration time in the bag for Joe Litchfield in the 100m Backstroke.
Litchfield has already been selected to represent Team GB at his first Olympic Games after a brilliant swim in the Men’s 200m Individual Medley at April’s Selection Trials – but this display only served to further outline the Loughborough National Centre man’s quality ahead of the summer.
After laying down a promising time in the heats, the 22-year-old – who trains under David Hemmings – moved it on well on Sunday morning, staying strong after a blistering opening 50m to dip under the 53.85 consideration mark by one tenth of a second. Craig McNally and Brodie Williams were second and third respectively.
“I’m so happy. A lot of us are pretty mentally tired right now, racing trials, coming out of that, holding into Europeans and then I didn’t quite get the time I wanted at Europeans, so Dave said, ‘so you want to train hard or do a bit more of a hold and try to get it at Glasgow?’” said Joe.
“Obviously you want another time, we knew I had it in me. Every time I’ve swam it, the front end or the back end was there, just not quite together, but it came together better than last night and I’m buzzing with that! It’s just another event to add to the Olympic programme.”
Litchfield’s speedy swim was followed up by several bursts of pace in the Women’s and Men’s 100 Freestyle finals.
Ellie Challis once again lowered her own S3 British record in the women’s multi-classification showpiece – and more on that later – before European bronze medallist Hopkin flew down two laps of the pool to take a chunk off her heats time in winning the women’s open contest ahead of the in-form Lucy Hope.
Hopkin’s time was also well inside the 53.88 Tokyo consideration mark that she had already bettered in London and Budapest, so it is no wonder the Chorley-born athlete is in such high spirits.
“I'm really happy with that. To be able to produce that kind of swim off the back of hard training, after Europeans and with morning finals, it gives me a lot of confidence going into Tokyo. Trials was a good place to start, but I've really moved my swims on since then in hard training, so it bodes really well for the summer,” said Hopkin.
“The next three weeks are going to be pretty hard, a lot of gym work to do and a lot of volume in the pool, and then when we fly out we can start bringing it down a bit. We're on the home straight now which is exciting.”
Straight afterwards, 16-year-old Jacob Whittle blitzed his own British age-group record to secure another personal best for the meet and win the Men’s 100m Freestyle title.
Whittle – who trains at Derventio Excel – built a lead in the second 25m and did not let up from there, beating Matthew Richards and Ed Mildred to the wall, that leading trio a sign of the young, up-and-coming talent in British men’s sprinting.
“It was a good swim. I'm feeling really tired now, I didn't have many expectations coming in, I'm training really hard so to come here and do PBs is really good, and I'm really pleased with the 100m,” he said.
“I'm really excited to see what's yet to come. I'm not tapered, unshaved, so there's more there and I'm really excited for the summer.”
And as for the aforementioned Challis, what did she make of her latest British record success at the end of a race that also saw involvement from Toni Shaw, Grace Harvey and Leah O'Connell?
“I'm really happy with that swim. I didn't expect it, I've only been back training again for four weeks, so I didn't know what coming into this competition was going to be like. I entered at the last minute and it was well worth it. I don't know when my next competition will be, so I'll go into the next block of training and see what happens - but this makes me feel really good," said Challis.
Shaw added: "Every chance you get to race you want to do it as there’s been so few chances to do so of late, so I’m happy with how the meet has gone and it has just been so nice to see everyone again." Earlier in the morning, Shaw was in MC 400m Freestyle action in a race that was won by Maisie Summers-Newton. Oliver Carter swam the men's race solo, building on his race experience in this competition environment.
The men’s multi-class race was won by Tom Hamer, who is only just back from a successful World Para Swimming European Open Championships. He finished narrowly ahead of fellow S14 athlete Louis Lawlor, with S12 Stephen Clegg ending a busy personal schedule with a solid swim.
Molly Renshaw completed the Women’s 100m-200m Breaststroke double to end her meet on a high in the longer distance, the European champion getting the better of training partner Abbie Wood, doing the crucial damage in the middle two lengths. As with so many of her colleagues, the lessons learned over four days in Glasgow could prove as valuable as the results.
“We always knew it was going to be hard, coming off the back of Europeans and into a meet like this, but it’s just great to practice morning finals, this is our only opportunity before Tokyo to actually do it in a competition,” said Molly.
“It’s about learning things along the way and hopefully perfecting them before the summer.”
In the men’s event, James Wilby produced a brilliant final 50m to overtake Ross Murdoch and claim victory. Murdoch – who went under the 200m consideration time at London – had a narrow lead for much of the contest, but the David Hemmings-trained Wilby paced himself to a tee and finished at an impressive pace.
A busy meet for Max Litchfield concluded with a dominant display in the Men’s 400m Freestyle. Despite taking it out strong, he showed no signs of easing down the final laps and finished well clear of the field, less than a second outside the Tokyo consideration time – before turning his attentions to the weeks of training ahead.
“That’s a really good swim to finish the meet off. To come in and do faster than Europeans heat, it’s good. It’s a good meet overall, I’ve got a lot more out of it than expected after Europeans, so it’s looking good,” said Max.
“I’m excited to get back home now, get this last block in and get ready for the summer. To be swimming this fast in season is great, there’s a lot of stuff we’ve been working on, technically and otherwise, it’s great to see that work.”
Holly Hibbott was victorious by a similarly comfortable margin in the women’s race, the Bath National Centre swimmer showing composure throughout to take the victory.
Elsewhere, Georgia Davies and Hannah Russell both swam well to win the Women's 100m Backstroke open and multi-class finals respectively.
Emily Clarke put together another controlled, well-judged performance of distance swimming to win the Women’s 1500m Freestyle at the start of Sunday’s finals, following up her win in the 800m the day before. Wycombe District’s Ella Dyson set the early pace at the front, but Clarke gained parity by halfway, with the two racing side by side until the final 100m, when Clarke (Loughborough University) turned on the speed to move clear and touch first.
The shortest distance then followed the longest, with Keanna MacInnes and Ben Proud claiming the 50m Butterfly titles. Proud is focused on the 50m Freestyle for Tokyo, but he showed what fine fettle he is in with a strong display, while MacInnes of the University of Stirling is enjoying an impressive season. There were also mixed-class wins for S7 athlete Leah O’Connell of Camden Swiss Cottage and Clegg (S12) of Edinburgh University.
The British Swimming Glasgow Meet has also featured a heat-declared-winner junior section on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The racing has provided an opportunity for swimmers to meet consideration times for selection to the British squad heading to next month's European Junior Championships in Rome.
Reflecting on the weekend's junior events, Tim Jones, British Swimming Head of Elite Development, said: "The most important thing is we've been able to give quite a large group of juniors an opportunity to swim, which for most of them will be the first time they've been back in the racing pool.
"Probably not unexpectedly, we've seen a bit of a polarisation in the results. We've seen some athletes who've been able to move things on who've probably benefited from being in the water slightly earlier than other athletes, and some people that have just had very limited levels of preparations for the meet.
"We hope that this, leading into the Festival of Swimming, will just be an indicator that we can restart the sport and re-engage with a much wider group of people. So while this has been for a limited group, we hope that the rest of the swimming fraternity look at it and see that things are starting to move in the right direction."