Adam Peaty and James Wilby made history on Monday night in South Korea as they delivered a stunning British one-two in the 100m Breaststroke final, putting the rest of the world to the sword.
After a mesmerising world record the previous day, Peaty was the overwhelming favourite, but with Wilby qualifying third quickest the target was to put two British athletes on the podium and that’s exactly what they did.
With Peaty in the centre lane, Wilby was on his inside in lane three, the former setting his stall out from the gun, blazing down the first 50m to reach the turn in 26.60, a full second up. Wilby was always going to swim the polar opposite style of race, using his strength to come home quickly, but he too was in the medal positions as they reached the wall.
Peaty continued to streak clear, stopping the clock in 57.14, the third fastest time in history, whilst Wilby poured it on, edging clear of the rest of the field to touch second. The Dave Hemmings coached athlete also made some history of his own as he swam a 58.46 lifetime best, which also makes him the third fastest man in history.
After standing on the podium and hearing the national anthem ringing out around the Nambu University International Pool, the pair were naturally delighted with their efforts.
Winning his third title in this event, world champion Peaty said:
“This is still very special to me, winning a World Championship title and faster than I’ve ever done it before. It’s obviously a little bit slower than last night as I made a tiny little error with speed on the first 50, but I think the most important thing going into next year is that I’m still learning about myself; it’s not like I’ve gone 56 and I’ve got no more learning to do. I’m ecstatic to come away with a world title.
“I’m very happy, but that constant expectation I put on myself there is a little bit of disappointment in me, but I think that’ll fuel me for next year as I want to go even faster now – for now though, I’ll enjoy the moment.
Asked about the British one-two, Peaty added:
“It’s not just a British one-two but a Loughborough one-two! We’re training partners, well he trains in a different group, but we train in the same centre, and I’m stoked for him. It’s looking like Britain is a stronghold for breaststroke and it has been for a long time now.”
After winning his first global medal, Wilby commented:
“I’m really happy. After the Commonwealths and Europeans last year this was always the next major international and the one last stepping stone towards Tokyo, so I’m really happy to get that silver medal and a Britain one-two means an awful lot to us as well. I’m buzzing for the 200 as well, because I focus on them both and that 100 makes me excited to see what I can do in the 200 now.
“After the World Championships in 2017, which was a bit of a shock for me as I wasn’t quite full prepared for it mentally, I sat myself down and thought ‘right, I’m not going to be in this game forever, so it’s time to go’. I just really got myself motivated and have been keeping it going ever since and constantly learning.
“It’ hard to describe the setup we’ve got in Loughborough with an amazing group of staff. It’s individual races, but it’s a team effort at the same time, as I couldn’t do a single thing without any of them behind me doing their various things.”
Peaty returns to the pool tomorrow morning for the first round of the Men’s 50m Breaststroke, whilst Wilby can enjoy a couple of days off before his 200m Breaststroke campaign gets underway.
Ben Proud put up a brave defence of his 50m Butterfly world title but it wasn’t to be today, the sprinter having to settle for seventh in an electric final. Progressing round by round, Proud went quicker again in the final with a 23.01 swim, but such was the quality that was only good enough for seventh on the night.
Reflecting afterwards, Proud said:
“The final wasn’t quite as fast as I could have hoped or expected, but at the same time I’ve stepped it up from the heats, to the semis, to the final and that’s my job. The fly for me hasn’t really come naturally the last two days but I don’t expect it to have any correlation to the freestyle, as I’ve been doing a lot more work for that; I’m hoping come Friday I’ll be feeling better and hopefully give that a good go.”
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor matched Proud’s effort in the 200m Individual Medley, the Olympic medallist producing a good performance, both in making, and being competitive in a global final after a less than ideal year.
Putting together a strong first three lengths of butterfly, backstroke and breaststroke, O’Connor was right in the mix, but just didn’t quite have the reserves to contest for a medal down the final 50m, as she finished seventh in 2.10.49.
“I can’t take for granted a fourth world final but I’m not 100% happy with it; 2.10 isn’t what I wanted to go but I think it just shows where I’m at for next year and I’ve just got to take the positives from it. To 150 I was there or there abouts, so I know it’s just fitness and that’s something I can great right if I work on it and can get a great training block behind me.”
Molly Renshaw outdid herself in the Women’s 100m Breaststroke semi-finals, smashing her lifetime best to book a spot in tomorrow’s final. Finishing like a train thanks to her 200m strength, Renshaw touched fourth in the second semi with a 1.06.73 swim. That was her second PB of the day after a 1.07.43 time in qualifying.
“I wasn’t expecting to go that fast! I came here with the 100 being my secondary event and just a setup for the 200, so now to be in the final I’m a bit overwhelmed – I’m over the moon. I swim with blinkers on so I couldn’t really even see what the girl next to me was doing – I’ve always wanted to go 66!”
The Men’s 200m Freestyle semi-finals were quite the spectacle, Duncan Scott and James Guy both playing their parts, drawn in adjacent lanes in semi-final two. Having led gun-to-tape in his heat this morning, Guy was out hard again, whilst Scott was slightly more patient, but as they reached halfway there was very little to choose between the field.
Here Scott started to put his foot on the accelerator to put himself in pole position, but down the final length it really was anyone’s for the taking. Scott got the job done though, touching second in 1.45.56, a season’s best to advance to tomorrow’s final, however Guy faded slightly but was still rewarded with a season’s best and was back down inside 1.46.
Speaking afterwards, Scott commented:
“It’s been a tough day and it was a bit of a scrap towards the last 10-15m, but I felt like I was in control and knew where I was in the race. I was fourth two years ago so I’d like to say I’ll go and better that tomorrow night, but a lot of boys are trying to get on that podium so it’s going to be a dog fight again!”
In the end Guy finished 11th overall, just 0.2 outside the top eight spot needed to progress.
Luke Greenbank was also making the most of the opportunity a World Championship semi-final, in his second event, offered, as he hit a PB of 53.75, two tenths quicker than his old best set at British Championships in Glasgow. Seventh in his semi in the Men’s 100m Backstroke, the Mel Marshall coached swimmer will hope to go even better in the 200m.
In the women’s’ equivalent Georgia Davies fell just two tenths of a second short of a final place as she once again went sub 60 to finish sixth in semi-final two. She’ll take a day off before swimming the 50m Backstroke and the Women’s Medley relay at the end of the week.
The action resumes at 10.00 local time (02.00 UK time) tomorrow - you can catch all the action live on FINA TV
Full results from the FINA World Aquatics Championships can be found here.
Highlights will be shown on the BBC Two as follows:
15.45 – 17.15:
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday
15:00 – 16:00: Saturday
15.30 – 17.00: Sunday
*highlights will also be available on the red button at select times.