MacInnes makes golden start to U23's as Britain take six medals

12 Aug 2023

Keanna MacInnes stormed to victory in the Women's 100m Butterfly as Great Britain took six medals on a stunning opening night of racing at the LEN European U23 Swimming Championships – kicking off the three-day competition by topping the medal tally in Dublin.

Photos courtesy of  LEN/István Derencsényi

The night was topped with a hard-fought gold medal from MacInnes in the event, with the reigning British champion having the edge over a strong field to take the win in what was a tight final – with all eight athletes separated by under a second.

It’s the first international competition for the 21 year-old since her time out in Japan for last month’s World Aquatics Championships, and she looked good value for her win as she went in lane three following a steady performance in the heats.

“It was really exciting”, said MacInnes, who becomes the inaugural European U23 champion in the event. 

“My heat wasn’t where I’d have hoped for it to be, but I definitely knew that there was some stuff that I had to move on from the heats to the final.

“I knew that having that American girl next to me who had been on her best time this morning would definitely push me on. Although I couldn’t see the Ellen [Walshie] I knew that she’d put in a good race as well.”

Lucy Grieve also took part in that final – finishing in eighth place and making up time from her swim in the heats.

There were two silver medals of British interest, with one at the beginning and one at the end of the night – starting with Charlie Brown putting in a scintillating swim in the Men’s 200m Backstroke final.

Lining up in lane four for the final following a seemingly smooth progression from the heats, he was always in with a shout for the top step of the podium – moving in and around those top five places as the four lengths progressed, but never moving away from making his mark against a strong field.

Coming in to the wall, he touched in an overall fourth place, which translated into a European silver medal following the removal of the non-European athletes.

It was a performance which Brown was happy with – speaking of his pride as he opened Great Britain’s account on Friday night.

Charlie Brown European U23 200m Backstroke start 2023
Brown looked strong throughout both the heats and final

“It was good! It hurt a little bit towards the end but I was with two quick guys so I just tried to stay in the race and bring it back.

“I kept the strategy the same [from the heats], I just wanted to get out a bit quicker on that second and third 50 metres, and bring it home as fast as I could. It’s given me good confidence going into the 50m tomorrow and the 100m on Sunday.”

Also taking a silver medal was the Mixed 4x100m Medley Relay team, who were part of one of the picks of the lot from a spectator standpoint – ultimately coming in just behind the Polish team to touch as the second best U23 team in Europe.

Following Jonathon Adam, Archie Goodburn, Lucy Grieve and Kate Clifton’s performance from the heats, Adam stayed on for the final and was joined by Greg Butler, MacInnes and Evelyn Davis for the last event of the day.

It was Adam who led the team off on the backstroke – going well to hand over to Butler with the team in the lead. With the Israeli team hot on his heels down the second 100 metres, the 22 year-old Commonwealth champion held his cool to retain the team’s provisional first place at the halfway stage.

MacInnes did well to mitigate charges from the American and Polish teams down the third leg of the event – making it a four-horse race as Davis dived in with 100 metres to go.

With the American team surging to victory, she was involved in a tight battle with the Poles before just getting touched out and seeing the team take the silver medal as the second-fastest European finishers.

It was a race to the finish which the athlete relished – giving some insight into what she was thinking as she took the anchor leg with the race drawing to a close.

“I just saw America and Poland next to me, but I wasn’t really too sure where we were exactly so it was a case of going out hard and managing the race on the way back.”

Adam also gave his thoughts as the only British athlete to take part in both the heats and finals of the event.

“I knew going in to the meet that I’d be in both the heats and the final. I think it was a case of progressing through the rounds and gaining the experience through racing against international athletes to develop ahead of the coming year.

“As we led off with two males, it was good to get clean water for the team to begin with. Touching first is always good to get the team ahead.”

Ed Mildred was another athlete to be amongst the medals as he took the final individual medal for Great Britain on night one with bronze in the Men’s 100m Butterfly.

The 20 year-old, who is a European medallist at senior level, looked strong in a field which had several changes of the provisional medals as the two lengths progressed.

Ed Mildred bronze Euro U23 100m Butterfly 2023
Mildred [right] did well to podium against established opposition

With the race really starting to kick-on for him after his breakout from the turn, he moved up alongside the frontrunners before touching in fourth place and earning a bronze medal as the third-fastest European finisher.

Lewis Fraser went in lane 0 for the final – placing in ninth and gaining valuable experience as he continues his transition to the senior scene.

Mildred gave a candid interview following the race – thanking those who have been a part of what has already been an impressive journey for the young athlete.

“I’m really happy with that, to be honest. This season’s been an absolute rollercoaster for me – anybody that knows me knows that I’ve swam pretty good my whole life, and then something wasn’t working at Trials which wasn’t what I wanted.

“I just want to say a big thanks to my dad, especially. We went back to the drawing board and worked through things with my coach and gym coach to get me back to where I was, so I’m really happy with that.”

Following Goodburn’s relay performance in the heats, he took an individual medal of his own with bronze in the Men’s 50m Breaststroke.

Lining up alongside compatriot Butler, who eventually finished as the fourth-fastest European, the 22 year-old looked strong throughout the length – never counting himself out of a place on the podium.

With the finish in sight, he made the most of being able to spot his finish and get his hands to the wall in third place and pickup the bronze. 

Archie Goodburn bronze 50m Breaststroke Euro U23 2023
Archie Goodburn [right]

“To swim that time to get on the podium at a meet where you need to is something I’m happy with”, said Goodburn following the race.

“There are a couple of things I could’ve done better, but I’ve recently just done a huge PB at trials so it’s always difficult to back it up, but to be on that kind of form is good.

“This competition is brilliant. It’s always good to have that gap bridged between junior and senior. I had a great junior career but have struggled a bit making that transition to the senior ranks. It’s good for the athletes coming through that are slightly younger and hopefully they can also progress better through to the senior environment.”

Completing the medals for the day was Fleur Lewis – the 19 year-old going in the fastest heat of the Women’s 800m Freestyle, which had already seen a big time laid down by one of the German athletes during the morning’s heats session.

With two further German athletes taking the fastest heat out – Lewis was left to fight for the bronze medal with the Italian, who did not make life easy for her. With the pair trading blows down the 16 lengths of the pool, Lewis managed to get half a body length ahead down the final length, before coming in and taking a momentous bronze medal.

It was an achievement which she was extremely proud of when commenting after the race, as she continues to build into what is still a busy programme to come.

Fleur Lewis bronze 800m Free Euro U23 2023
Fleur Lewis [middle right]

“I feel like I went out a lot harder than I normally do, so I was quite proud of that, as I’m normally quite hesitant, but what we were saying before was trying to go in fearless, so I really tried to do that. I came in and got a PB and a medal, which I’m really happy with.”

Elsewhere in the finals session, Evan Jones took a solid finish as the fourth-fastest European in the final of a stacked Men’s 200m Freestyle, and Clifton and Davis finished in sixth and seventh respectively in the final of the Women’s 200m Freestyle.

For the full results, click here.

To access the live stream for the event, click here.