Shanahan earns maiden GB medal on big night in Rome

12 Aug 2022

Katie Shanahan claimed her first senior medal for Britain with a stunning 200m Backstroke silver, while Freya Anderson and the Mixed 4x100m Medley Relay team picked up bronzes on a successful second night of the European Aquatics Championships in Rome.

Eighteen-year-old Shanahan kicked off the evening at the Foro Italico by putting in a sensational performance in that final of the Women’s 200m Backstroke event, going stroke for stroke with the field in a composed display for such an occasion.

After laying that platform in the opening 125m, she began to move away with the leaders towards the final turn, with a strong final 50m ensuring she eventually touched for the silver.

The European podium placing adds to what is becoming a dream summer for the City of Glasgow Swim Team athlete, with this medal coming only days after she picked up a pair of bronzes for Team Scotland at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

Speaking after the race, Shanahan was understandably delighted with her performance.

“I have no words right now! I’m ecstatic and just over the moon. I didn’t expect to come in and get a medal, I knew I had a chance, but to come away with a silver is amazing. Coming off the back of Commies I obviously got those two bronze medals, so to come off that meet and do it again - I have no words," she said.

“The crowd is amazing; I don’t think I’ve heard a louder crowd in my life. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to swim this type of meet in a pool like Rome, and I’m just to grateful to be here - let alone get a silver medal.”

With the British cheers from Shanahan's swim still ringing, Freya Anderson stepped forward to add to the medal haul, as she produced a gutsy swim to take bronze in the final of the Women’s 100m Freestyle. 

After qualifying in fourth position, the Bath Performance Centre woman did well to keep up with the pack early on, that group going out quickly down the first length, before surging alongside the leaders with 25 metres to go. 

A faster start was part of the race plan Anderson had devised for this event, meaning she was then engaged in a top-three shootout with the leaders, ultimately finishing for the bronze medal, shy of the silver medal by just 0.01 second.

Freya Anderson 100m Freestyle BRONZE podium Rome 2022.jpg
Anderson retained the bronze she won in Budapest last year

Anderson was in high spirits when speaking after picking up the second individual European medal of her career.

“I’m really chuffed with that. Me and my coach always knew there was a chance but I had to adjust my race plan to be in with a chance; just go out and hold on, I thought it paid off and I’m really happy," she said.

“Having done three meets this summer, you can learn so much every time you race, so definitely this year has been filled with a lot of learning experiences and I’m really happy that I could use them to better myself at this meet. [The medley relay final yesterday] gave me confidence but also I was really angry that I just missed out on the gold, so I did sort of use that to my advantage. I was just really itching to get going and get myself on the podium.”

The Mixed 4x100m Medley team final provided the curtain call for the action on day two - and Medi Harris, James Wilby, Jacob Peters and Anna Hopkin duly delivered another bronze medal for the group.

With a strong history in this event - including the world record set by Kathleen Dawson, Adam Peaty, James Guy and Hopkin on the way to Olympic gold last year - the Brits in Rome looked to make an impression, with Swansea University's Harris doing well to stay relatively in touch with a half-male field after the backstroke leg, handing over with the team in fifth place.

Wilby was then engaged in an intense battle with the chasing pack on the breaststroke, as he gained some ground on the leaders, a strong effort given he had gone in the 100m Breaststroke finale earlier in the session - more on that later.

It was butterfly swimmer Peters who gained a position, giving Hopkin a chance of battling for the medals as he handed over in fourth, before Anna - a part of that history-making Olympic title-winning quartet - ground out the anchor leg to touch just ahead of the Polish team, a superb final 50m giving Britain the bronze.

There were also first ever European medals for Lauren Cox and Greg Butler, whose backstroke and breaststroke legs respectively played their part in the heats.

Mixed 4x100m Medley Relay BRONZE podium shot Rome 2022
Anna Hopkin, Jacob Peters, James Wilby and Medi Harris

Reflecting on the result, Harris - who has become a key part of the British relay cohort in 2022 - said: "It's really special to be part of that team again, from Worlds, to be able to step it up and be on the podium this time, we were really happy with that. 

"With the amount of racing we've all done this season, I don't think anyone can complain with where we are. I'm just really happy to have another opportunity in my first year of being in the British team, so it's all really good."

Earlier in the evening, Wilby had continued his busy summer as he went in the final of the Men’s 100m Breaststroke. Starting from lane eight, he had work to do in eighth position at the halfway turn before using his impressive endurance to up his stroke rate, gaining ground on those in front at pace in the final 25m and moving back a few places before ultimately finishing in fourth position, just four hundredths of a second outside of the medals after a glide to the wall. 

"These sort of things, they happen. You mis-spot the wall and you don't quite get it right, you're either going to be long or you're going to be short. That's something that is probably a symptom of the fatigue that we've got. That's the way it is - but I'm still really happy, I've really made a move from last night, went in slowest and came out fourth," he said.

"I gave it a good race. There are more races to come in this Championships, I'm really loving it here, a really enjoyable pool to race at, a great crowd, and I'm not going to let that bug me. I'll get focused for the next couple of races, particularly the mixed medley relay tonight." That certainly proved to be the case, given his important leg in that race.

Kara Hanlon went in the first semi-final of the evening, as she lined up for the Women’s 100m Breaststroke. Among a stacked field, the Edinburgh University competitor repeated her feat from the heats, building into the race well and moving through the back of the field down the final 25m, getting her hands to the wall in fifth position in the faster heat to place eighth overall, qualifying for her maiden European final tomorrow evening courtesy of a new personal best of 1:07.35. 

Also managing to make a final tomorrow night was Tom Dean, the double Olympic gold medallist putting in a solid performance in the semi-finals of the Men’s 100m Freestyle. In what has become a trademark performance for the swimmer, he kept in the mix before a noticeable increase in pace saw him touch fifth in the middle of what was a quick field, before the second semi-final classified him in eighth. Matt Richards was 15th overall. 

The rain began to fall at the outdoor venue in Rome as the Men’s 200m Backstroke semi-finals lined up, with Luke Greenbank and Brodie Williams back in action just 10 days after they competed in the Commonwealth final of the same event.

Greenbank went in the first semi-final, as he put in a textbook performance of pacing, comfortably finishing in second place after four solid laps, qualifying him for tomorrow night’s final in third place. Williams had a bit more of a battle, as he took the race out, touching second at the 100m and 150m marks. After a hard race with Lorenzo Mora of Italy, who went out at the front of the pack with him, he ultimately slowed down the last length and touched in sixth place and 13th overall.

For full results, as well as information on how to watch every session on the BBC, click here.