Matt Richards smile 100m Free title Aquatics GB Swimming Champs 2024

Richards rockets to stunning freestyle title on big night

4 Apr 2024

Matt Richards triumphed in a lightning fast Men's 100m Freestyle to bring the curtain down on a sensational Thursday at the Speedo GB Aquatics Swimming Championships that also featured a world record, new British record and a bucket load more Olympic and Paralympic nomination times met. 

In total, there were eight swimmers who rubber stamped their Eurostar tickets to this summer's Olympics - Richards, Duncan Scott, Tom Dean and Alex Cohoon all doing so after qualifying the Men's 4x100m Freestyle Relay spot, Max Litchfield - who also clocked a new British best in the Men's 400m Individual Medley - Anna Hopkin in the Women's 50m Freestyle, 1500m Freestyle man Daniel Jervis and Freya Colbert - for the second time - in the Women's 400m Individual Medley.

Katie Shanahan also went under the 400m IM Paris nomination standard, while Scarlett Humphrey joined Stephen Clegg and Alice Tai with Paralympic nomination times for their respective classifications. 

The curtain call for the third day of action at the London Aquatics Centre came with two laps of fierce men's freestyle, expectation already built after a pacey set of morning heats. 

Youngster Cohoon set the early pace in the final, but fastest-seed and British record holder Richards was always in contention and built his lead in the third 25m of the race to get in front and hold on to the wall in a 47.84, inside the 48.04 nomination standard, while Scott and Dean charged back late on to clock sub-48-second swims of their own, claiming silver and bronze respectively. 

With Cohoon swimming brilliantly for fourth, the combined times of that quartet ensured all will be going to Paris after qualifying the Men's 4x100m Freestyle team - as exciting a prospect as the individual honours for champion Matt.

"It's a great result for the team as a whole, that bodes extremely well for our relay. That's job done for today. To be honest, I thought I was capable of a bit quicker, it wasn't the best executed race for me tonight - but I can't complain with that, I've got the job done today and left plenty in the tank for us to improve in the summer," he said. 

4x100m Free London 2024
From left, Alex Cohoon, Duncan Scott, Matt Richards and Tom Dean

"Look, that race is just as high pressured as an Olympic final would be, because at the end of the day, until you get that done, you're not going to the Olympics.

"So the nerves and the pressure of that is a great opportunity to practice for the summer. Of course I'm enjoying that pressure, I like to be going in in lane four and trying to deliver for the people watching. I'm really happy with that tonight, it's great practice for the summer and we'll improve from here."

Earlier in the night, Litchfield put together a brilliant 400m of medley swimming, capitalising on his stronger strokes and powering down the final 50m of freestyle to not only secure his third consecutive Olympic place, but also a new British record for the event, the 4:09.14 surpassing the mark set by Duncan Scott in 2022. Charlie Hutchison got silver and George Smith the bronze.

"I'm a bit overwhelmed to be honest. The goal coming in was to qualify, and that's been ticked off - to get the British record back is amazing," he said.

Max Lichfield London 2024
Charlie Hutchison and Max Litchfield

"Duncan and I were saying this morning that we've never raced this long course together, I don't know how we've done that. To get that record back off him is awesome, and hopefully we can race that together for the first time at some point in the next couple of years.

"Now, I'm just really happy, and I'm just looking forward to the summer. If I want to medal in the summer, I'll need to be faster than that again I think, so there's plenty to improve on. But it's a first personal best since 2017, so it's exciting for the rest of the week now."

There was outstanding swimming all over the programme, as the Women's 50m Freestyle finals delivered more Paris nomination standards.

In the Paralympic programme, Alice Tai notched her second time and multi-classification British title of the meet, with S10 swimmer Callie-Ann Warrington finishing second and S11 athlete Scarlett Humphrey putting herself in line for a Paralympic debut in the summer as she took bronze in a time better than the S11 required mark. 

"I'm just really happy, I'm over the moon. I've dreamt of these days and I never thought it would be a reality and it is now so my emotions are really high and I can't really describe it," said Scarlett.

Scarlett Humphrey 50 Free London 2024
Scarlett Humphrey

"The 50m Freestyle is my best event and I know how to race it so I was hoping this would be my best performance and it was much better than I dreamed it could be - I got a 0.7s personal best in the heats and that's quite a lot in a 50m so I'm really happy. To be given the opportunity to race at a trials but also to meet that potential to qualify for a Games is even more amazing."

Meanwhile, Anna Hopkin will head to her second Olympic Games after going inside the 50m Freestyle mark twice in a day, dominating the final to defend her British title. 

"I'm happy with that. I've been a little bit quicker so far this season but you know when you've got the pressure of a time to get it adds another dimension to it so I'm just really happy that I could deliver a good time when it mattered," she said. 

The night started with a bang as Daniel Jervis, just as he did in the same pool in 2021, made the Team GB Olympic outfit over the longest distance, using the roar of the sold-out London crowd to carry him home and inside the Paris mark of 14:54.29 by a comfortable margin in the 1500m Freestyle.

Toby Robinson - who has already qualified his Olympic spot in the marathon swimming event - pushed him all the way for second, with the pair sharing their celebrations over the lane rope. Alexander Sargent was third.

"If I’m honest, that was so much harder to get to than the Tokyo Olympics. I’m three years older, it was hard three years ago but this year, I’ve really found training hard over the last few years, since Tokyo I’ve struggled with it. It’s been a mental battle as much as a physical battle. I’m not a young swimmer anymore," said Jervis.

"The training sessions hurt now. I get out of bed and I moan. That meant so much to me, that did, because I’ve got amazing people that I’m racing against. Toby already qualified and I was so happy for him. When I touched the wall and I turned round and saw that I’d made it, it was amazing. He already obviously made it, and what a moment, to be able to give him a hug and say we’re both going to Paris. It’s unbelievable."

Rounding out the Paralympic swimming programme for the night, Stephen Clegg followed Alice Tai in winning his second gold in as many days, this time in the Men's MC 100m Freestyle, on a tally of 927 points - and inside the S12 nomination mark. Finishing behind him for silver was brother and fellow S12 athlete James Clegg, while Roan Brennan rounded out the podium.

Anna Hopkin London 2024
Anna Hopkin

Bruce Dee, meanwhile, finished an impressive fourth, given earlier in the night he had swum the final of the Men's MC 50m Butterfly, taking the British title.

In the morning's freestyle heats, William Ellard set a new world record for the S14 category in the 100m Freestyle, his outside lane sprint to 51.36 surpassing the previous by Reece Dunn. In a non-Paralympic event for S14 athletes, Ellard was not eligible for the final here.

Finally, the Women's 400m Individual Medley saw another nip-and-tuck, centre-of-the-pool contest between Freya Colbert and Katie Shanahan. Colbert built a lead on the butterfly, Shanahan pegged her back somewhat on the backstroke and stayed in touch through the breaststroke, before Colbert nudged clear on the freestyle and kept that momentum through to the finish, a personal best of 4:34.01 ensuring her a second victory and Paris nomination standard of the meet.

Katie, meanwhile, has given her chances of an Olympic debut a brilliant shot in the arm by also breaking the 4:37.84 mark - and she will be aiming for more in the 200m Backstroke tomorrow.

Stephen Clegg 100m Free London 2024
Stephen Clegg

Watch the Speedo Aquatics GB Swimming Championships action online throughout this week on the C4 Sport YouTube channel, with finals (7pm) on BBC Sport and BBC iPlayer.