James Wilby struck gold on the fourth night of the 2019 British Swimming Championships as he dug deep to produce a lifetime best performance and edge out a resurgent Ross Murdoch, in the race of the week so far.
Lining up in the Men’s 200m Breaststroke final, the pair were separated by Craig Benson, and that trio went tooth and nail the whole way. Murdoch got the better start, but Wilby was up by the first turn and by the halfway mark Benson had moved up onto Wilby’s shoulder. Locked in battle, the University of Stirling duo were chasing Wilby hard, but the Loughborough man kept his composure to strike gold by a whisker from Murdoch, with Benson having to settle for bronze.
In 2018 Wilby took Commonwealth Games gold and European Championship silver, but his time tonight, 2.07.49, was quicker than he’s ever gone before. With Murdoch also going sub 2.08, the first time he’s done that for two years, that race was the first time two Brits have ever broken that barrier in the same race. Both men also went inside the British qualifying time for the World Championships in Gwangju and coupled with victory, Wilby has automatically secured his place on the plane.
After clinching gold Wilby said:
“I’m really happy with that. It hurt on that back 50 – Ross and Benson were right there but I just focused on the wall and went for it. I’m really happy with that time.
“That’s the first time we’ve had two people go under 2.08 – we’ve got a phenomenal bit of breaststroke depth going on in Britain at the moment so it’s really exciting. We’re a year and a bit out now [from Tokyo] so it’s really exciting.”
“The race was pretty good! I probably went out a little hard in the first 50 as I was one stroke more than I wanted to be, but that doesn’t really matter as long as I execute the rest of the race correctly. I suffered in the last ten today and there are definitely things I can work on going into the summer, but I’m absolutely buzzing with that race. I’ve been looking forward to it all week! Just to see 07 on the board I’m absolutely delighted and it shows the amount of work I’m putting in. It’s looking really positive.”
It was also a special night for Freya Anderson, the 100m Freestyle specialist making it a hat-trick of 100m Freestyle titles, having been crowned British champion in the event in both 2017 and 2018. Despite starting as favourite, the Ellesmere College Titans swimmer couldn’t have left it much later, only overhauling Anna Hopkin in the final five metres.
Hopkin, the Women’s 50m Freestyle champion, was always going to be quickest at halfway, but touching in 25.54 she left the rest of field with some serious work to do. With 25 metres to go few would have bet against her, but Anderson finished like a train to take it on the touch. Anderson also went inside the consideration time for the World Championships, so will hope to secure a place on the GB team when it is announced on Wednesday.
“I came to Glasgow wanting to defend my title, I’ve had it for two years now so I guess there was an expectation for me to do that, but at the same time I don’t want to put that pressure on myself. With ten meters to go I couldn’t feel my arms but I knew I needed to just keep going and finish the race.
“I can’t wait to get back to my coach and find out what I can work on. I’m always looking for little things to improve on, I like to hear those things and see if I can take them into the second swim.”
James Guy secured his second British title of the week in the Men’s 100m Butterfly, swimming a typically aggressive race to take the spoils. Having looked good in qualifying, the Jol Finck coached swimmer was over half a second clear of his nearest rival.
Despite winning gold, Guy had hoped to hit the World Championships consideration time, afterwards summarising:
“If I’m being honest with myself that wasn’t great - I was hoping to go much faster than that tonight. I feel like I’m in a great place, I’ve been training really, really well, my weight is down and my lean body mass is up. The freestyle feels good though and it’s been feeling pretty good all week warm-up wise, so hopefully it will be a bit better on Sunday [in the 200m Freestyle].
Duncan Scott continues to go from strength to strength, as after a British 100m Freestyle record last night he reduced his personal best by over six tenths in the 100m Butterfly, finishing really strongly for silver, whilst Jacob Peters doubled his bronze medal tally having already achieved that feat in the 200m Butterfly.
In the Women’s 200m Backstroke pre-race favourite Jessica Fullalove delivered when it mattered, the National Centre Bath swimmer producing a commanding backstroke performance to take the title by almost a second. Fullalove set her stall out over the first length of the pool, pushing on all the way as she chased the swim of her life, which she truly delivered going inside 2.10 for the first time.
An emotional Fullalove said afterwards:
“I’m just so over the moon. I’ve had two years of injury and upset, so I’m just so glad that it’s finally happened for me. You really don’t understand how much it means to me. I’m actually quite emotional; the period of time where I’ve had to deal with my injuries has been so hard for me, so I’m just so proud of myself.”
City of Manchester Aquatics’ Chloe Golding took silver, with Kat Greenslade starting a busy night with bronze.
If you’re up in Glasgow, a limited number of tickets are still available on the door at the venue.
For full results from today’s action please click here