Peters and Proud edged out in thrilling fly final

24 Jul 2023

Jacob Peters and Ben Proud finished fourth and fifth respectively in the Men’s 50m Butterfly final on the second day of swimming action at the World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka, as Matt Richards, Tom Dean,and Medi Harris all set up finals of their own tomorrow night.

In Britain's first shot at an individual medal of the meet, Jacob and Ben had the best starts of the field at the Marine Messe Fukuoka Hall A– both coming up at 15 metres just under half-a-body length ahead of the rest of the field, who were beginning to settle into their stroke as the race hit the 25m stage.

With both swimmers holding their strong form as the race came to a close, they were amongst a handful of swimmers who were in with a chance of the medals as they grouped together towards the line, in what became a bunch finish across the bulk of the lanes. 

Although both swimmers went better than their semi-final performances, which saw them qualify in fourth (Peters) and sixth (Proud), they were unfortunately beaten on the touch in the second-fastest event on the schedule, with Peters 0.02 and Proud 0.09 off the medals – finishing in fourth and fifth respectively.

Peters gave his thoughts on what was a new personal best time for the 22-year-old - his 22.84 dipping inside his previous best from yesterday - as he continues to build into what is his second World Championships.

“It’s not really kicked in yet. Obviously I'm happy with fourth in the world - it's a big step up from last year, last year I didn't even make it out of the heats," he said

“But obviously fourth place is probably the worst place to come in the final, especially when it's so close. I've got to take it on the chin, I've still got the 100m and the relays to go, so I've just got to reset and maybe I can get on the podium in the 100m, we'll have to wait and see. I'm in a pretty good spot, so I'll just try to use that momentum to carry me through the meet.”

Later in the session, Tom Dean and Matthew Richards qualified comfortably for the final of the Men’s 200m Freestyle as they both look towards making the podium tomorrow.

The two men -  half of the Men's 4x200m Freestyle Relay final team that took Olympic gold and set a European record in the event two years ago in Tokyo - lined up in lanes four and five for the first of the two semi-finals, after comfortably qualifying out of the heats in second (Richards) and fourth (Dean).

The race was headlined by what has become a trademark charge from South Korea’s Sunwoo Hwang, as he led the race for the whole four lengths from lane one by mounting close to a two body length lead over the Brits as the race hit the halfway stage.

With Hwang taking the race out, Dean and Richards both used each other in those middle lanes to carry them in front of the adjacent challengers – keeping them at bay as they comfortably cruised to a second and third-place finish respectively in their race, and an overall respective qualification of fourth and fifth, pacing themselves well ahead of the final. 

The result means that the pair will line up either side of the top three for the opening race of tomorrow’s finals session, as Dean will look to build on the bronze medal he won at least year’s event, while Richards will be eyeing a first individual medal on the world stage.

Tom Dean Fukuoka 2023 200 Free Semi-Final
Dean is the reigning Olympic champion in the event

“It’s exactly where you want to be. If you can put in a solid swim that's quick, gets you into some of those middle lanes and there's more in the tank, what more can you want from a semi-final?" he said.

“The first is about blowing away the cobwebs, second is see where you are, and now we know that, hit it in the final.”

Medi Harris began her 2023 World Aquatics Championships campaign in good form, as she qualified for the final of the Women’s 100m Backstroke in a new season’s best time, with compatriot Lauren Cox also going in the semi-finals for the event, Lauren ultimately just missing out on qualification.

Harris went in lane seven for the first of the two semi-finals – lining up alongside a host of athletes with wide-ranging international experience.

Having made the final last year, Harris produced a controlled swim to replicate the achievement this time around. Turning amongst the bulk of the group who were trying to go with the Australian and Canadian swimmers who were out in front, Harris made her move as the last 25m came into view.

Picking off those swimmers who looked to tire towards the end of the race, the 20-year-old maintained her stroke rate to finish in a time of 59.62, which sees her line up in lane eight for the final tomorrow.      

 Cox also went in lane seven directly after Harris, with the athlete making a solid impression on her World Championship debut. In what was the faster of the two races, the 21-year-old did well to use her easy speed down the first length, and never slipped out of contention for a spot in the final as the race developed.

Losing a bit of ground towards the end of the race, Cox still put in a personal best-equalling swim in the event, as her time of 59.79 saw her just under two tenths of a second away from a spot in that final in tenth.            

Lauren Cox Fukuoka 2023 100 Back Semi-Final
Lauren Cox

Oliver Morgan was first up for the British contingent on the second night, after he smashed his personal best in the heats earlier in the day to qualify for the Men’s 100m Backstroke semi-final in fifth.

Going in the second of the two races to decide who will come back tomorrow for the medal shootout, Morgan impressed on what is his maiden outing at a senior international championships from lane three as he lined up next to top seed Jiayu Xu of China.

Having one of the better starts of the field, Morgan asserted himself in the top three down the first length – matching the stroke rates of those in the middle lanes to see him hit the halfway turn in second place, whilst Xu exerted his powerful stroke to move ahead of the chasing group.

Despite falling behind the leader, the 20-year-old’s determination did not falter, as he ground out the final 15m against late charges from all lanes to get his hand to the wall in fourth place. Taking into account the other semi-finals, he just missed out on qualification in ninth.

Morgan’s time of 53.26 is a new personal best for the athlete, as he dropped 0.7 seconds on the time that won him the title in the event at the 2023 British Swimming Championships. Cameron Brooker was also in action in the heats – just missing out on qualification on his World Championship debut in 25th.

Despite the result, Morgan was happy with his performance in the event.

“I'm over the moon. The atmosphere was just unbelievable, I soaked it all up, did my race plan, clocked a big PB from heats to semis as well. I've just missed the final, but top 10 in the world, ninth overall, I cannot complain with that," he said.

“Hearing the crowd just gets you used to that arena. It's obviously my first time swimming in front of such a big crowd, but I think I managed it really well and the swim paid off. “

Elsewhere in the morning’s heats session,  Kara Hanlon opened her maiden World Championship account with a 23rd-place finish in the Women’s 100m Breaststroke. The 26-year-old will look to bounce back with her appearance in the 200m Breaststroke later in the meet.