Britain’s men’s 200m freestylers produced a truly world-class finale to the British Swimming Selection Trials in London as Duncan Scott and Tom Dean both went under the previous national record in breath-taking fashion.
The very last event of the week served up a field of eye-opening strength that hints at exciting prospects for the Men’s 4x200m Freestyle team in Tokyo later this year – with five athletes in total going under the consideration time in the heats alone.
After the big billing, the final did not disappoint, Dean taking it out powerfully over the first 50m and Scott turning at halfway close to world-record pace. Ultimately, the inimitable University of Stirling man held on down a dramatic final 50m to break his own British record of 1:44.91 by half-a-second, while Dean of the Bath National Centre also went under that previous mark.
Behind them, Matthew Richards, James Guy and Calum Jarvis - Bath teammates of Dean - all also dipped inside the Tokyo standard, sending the athletes, coaches and support staff in the stands into raptures.
“I’m delighted with the time, but just to get the win in that sort of field is really good,” said Scott, who equalled his British best in the 100m Freestyle earlier in the week.
“It was my first 200m Free tapered since August 2019, so it’s been a while. I believe Deano missed the 1:45s, he went straight from 1:46 to 1:44, fair play to him! It’s looking really good for the 4x200m, we need to just carry this on and that’d be great. It was just about trying to stay composed, trust what I’ve done in training and what I’ve done the last couple of years. I was just trying to put the strokes together because that was hurting!
“We were a little bit disappointed with 2019 (in the Men’s 4x200m Freestyle), but it was a really strong field for the rest of the world, there were 1:45s everywhere, and we had a relatively young team as well. I’m really looking forward to the 4x200m, and I think everyone else in that race should be too as well as British Swimming. We’ve got the European Championships and then some more events to work on it – I’m excited by that event!”
The versatile Dean added: “I’m absolutely buzzing. I skipped through the 1:45, I wasn’t expecting that, I’d have been happy with a 1.45. I think Duncan pulled me through there and it feels like it’s been a long time coming.
"I knew I was on good form, with PBs in the 100m and 400m, so I knew something special was going to happen – but that was better than I could’ve ever expected.”
On a night of brilliant finals, Sarah Vasey added her name to the lengthy list of swimmers to have gone under Olympic consideration times with an eye-catching win in the Women’s 100m Breaststroke.
The Mel Marshall-coached athlete had waited all week to make her mark in her one and only event for the meet, and she went out fast over the first 50m, holding off clubmate and friend Molly Renshaw down the closing metres to clock a lifetime best and go under the 1:06.79 requirement, finishing a mere 0.03 seconds off Siobhan-Marie O’Connor’s British record.
Renshaw, meanwhile, notched her second consideration tick of the week, a personal best by one one-hundredth getting her inside the Tokyo time.
“It’s been a really long and hard week, and I was really nervous this morning because I had no idea how I was going to go. Tonight, though, I was just excited to race – and it’s amazing to do it with Molly and Abbie [Wood] as well,” said Vasey.
“I feel like this season, I’ve learned a lot about my racecraft, to use that first 50m as easy speed and we’ve done so much work on that second 50m. I’m so glad it’s paid off now!”
Renshaw added: “I’m really happy. I knew Sarah would go out fast so I tried to stick with her as much as I could on the first 50m. I was completely rooting for her, I know she’s waited around all week and I’m so glad she’s done it. My focus is definitely the 200m Breaststroke, going into the summer it will continue that way – but it’s nice to see my 100m coming down and being a bit more competitive in that.”
Daniel Jervis vowed to “smash it” in the Men’s 1500m Freestyle after narrowly missing out on the 800m Freestyle consideration time earlier in the week – and the Swansea Aquatics man duly delivered on his promise with an outstanding, out-on-his-own swim to kick off the final session of the meet.
Jervis, who is coached by Adam Baker, knew it was always going to be a race between himself and the clock. He showed admirable composure throughout, clocking consistent splits and always keeping himself on track to throw his hat into the ring for Tokyo, ultimately touching more than four seconds inside the 14:55.91 consideration mark, to the delight of the man himself and those inside the iconic London Aquatics Centre.
“I think you only need to know me for five seconds to know that this is my dream! Ever since I was a young boy, I only wanted to be an Olympian, that’s all I ever wanted to be,” he said.
“I’m really happy with the time – but honestly, I don’t really care about that. All I care about is I’ve got the consideration time for the Olympic Games. Everyone who’s ever supported me knows how much that would’ve meant to me, I appreciate that so much. It’s come true!
“I was really happy with the 400m, the 800m, I just missed the time but that really gave me the confidence for the 1500m. I’ve found this week one of the hardest competitions I’ve ever done, not so much the swimming – everyone has swum fantastically – but being stuck in my room for a week, it’s been really tough, not being able to see many people. That’s the situation, and if we didn’t have that we wouldn’t be able to compete, so I’m very grateful for everyone who has put this competition on. This is an absolute dream. To my family at home, when I’m able to, I’m going to give you all a hug – I can’t wait to see them when I get back home. I’m sure my phone is exploding right now, I can’t wait to Facetime my family and have a takeaway tonight!”
Anna Hopkin was back in sprint freestyle action 24 hours on from going under the Women’s 100m Freestyle consideration time to triumph in the 50m Freestyle event.
Another of tonight’s performers coached by Marshall, Hopkin narrowly missed out on the 24.60 Tokyo consideration mark, although it was still a display that encouraged the swimmer over the ‘splash and dash’ distance.
“I’m pretty happy with that swim. I think that’s the fastest I’ve ever been outside of Worlds and definitely the fastest I’ve ever been at this point of the season, so to step on a little from the heat and put on a really solid time, I’m pretty happy with that,” she said.
“I like to focus on both the 50m and the 100m. I think the 100m takes precedence just because of relays and you always have to train up to the longest distance – but the 50m is always a fun one to do as well. It’s exciting to hopefully have a shot at being part of that relay. I’m just excited for the next few months.”
Aside from Hopkin’s success, there were promising displays from a host of young athletes elsewhere in the field, including Evelyn Davis of Bromley in fourth. Isabella Hindley and Lucy Hope were ahead of her in second and third respectively.
Luke Greenbank claimed the Men’s 200m Backstroke title with a solid swim in the event that brought him a World Championship bronze in 2019.
That medal secured Greenbank a pre-selection to the Team GB squad heading to Tokyo, and the former Cockermouth swimmer proved why he will be a part of that Olympic cohort in a few months’ time. Elliot Clogg recorded a new PB for second.
“I’m a little bit disappointed with the times. The training I’ve been doing coming into this was the best I’ve ever done, but I suffered an ankle sprain a couple of weeks ago, so it’s been a massively disrupted taper. It’s been a good opportunity to get some racing in, I’d have liked to have gone a lot faster but it is what it is,” said the Loughborough National Centre man.
“It’s probably about more of the same for me now. Like I said, it was the best block of training I’ve ever done, I was just unfortunate having far from the ideal taper. Considering that two weeks ago I was struggling to walk with my ankle, though, I’ll take these performances.”
The Women’s 1500m Freestyle fastest heat served up an agonisingly tight finish, after nearly 17 minutes of swimming.Leah Crisp of the Bath National Centre ultimately won out by just 0.17 seconds, taking the victory right on the touch from Lucy Charles-Barclay thanks to a strong final 50m, after Charles-Barclay went to the legs to take a lead earlier in the closing stages.
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