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Great Britain record highest medal haul since 2018 at European Juniors

Aquatics GB’s European Junior Swimming Championship squad have come away from the event in Lithuania with their highest medal tally since 2018.

The 29-strong-team won 13 medals with three golds, four silver and six bronzes in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius with a number of English swimmers reaching the podium.

Two of the golds went to City of Salford swimmer Amelie Blocksidge – who pulled off a distance double – whilst the Mixed 4x100m Medley Relay team also took top spot.

It was an all English quartet that lined up for that relay final with Blythe Kinsman, Nick Finch, Max Morgan and Hollie Widdows leading Great Britain to glory.

In a back and forth race, Poland held the early lead after putting men on both of their opening two legs.

But Great Britain fought back with Finch setting a 52.78 split in the third leg to take GB up to second at the final changeover, just behind the Lithuanian.

That meant it all came down to a thrilling tussle between Widdows and Italy’s Sara Curtis as the host nation dropped off into third.

Less than half a second split the teams before the final leg but Widdows held on despite the pressure from behind to steer the British quartet to gold in 3:49.55.

Pheobe Cooper, Dean Fearn and Izabella Okaro also took gold for their impressive performance in the heats.

Speaking on the result Kinsman said: “It’s so special, I’m so happy.

“We knew we had the chance of potentially coming away with a medal but to actually do it is just crazy.

“I can’t believe it and I’m so proud of us, we all pulled through together and Hollie with the final split it was just so good.”

Morgan added: “It’s a dream come true. I never thought this would happen personally and to share it with these people, two of them it’s their last European Juniors, so this is amazing.”

Blocksidge at the double

City of Salford’s Blocksidge, the British senior champion in the 800 and 1500m freestyle, won her first European junior titles in the same events in Vilnius.

She started with the 1500m, where she was fastest in the heats and then was again in the final with a fantastic swim where she extended her advantage length by length.

She came home in 16:10.23 to win what was Great Britain’s first gold of the Championships to leave those behind battling it out for the minor places.

Speaking after the race, she spoke about her plan to gain the early momentum.

She said: “I enjoyed the result, the swimming was very tough but that’s what it’s all about. It’s about pushing myself.

“That was kind of my race plan just to get out there fast and continue because I know if I race fast and I can keep up that momentum.

“It’s a little bit of pressure (on the back of success last year) but I controlled my nerves better than I usually do and I think that’s why I got a good result because I’ve learned how to do that and I’m just learning every day.

“It means so much, I just love it.”

She followed that up with the 800m win a few days later in what was a new personal best tine from the 15-year-old.

It was a race which was much more of a battle at the front with Hungary’s Vivien Jackl beginning to eat in to the Salford swimmers early lead from lane two.

But Blocksidge dug in and responded to take her second title in a time of 8:30.05 with Jackl around two seconds further back.

Emotional bronze for Widdows

There was an emotional bronze for Widdows in the Women’s 100m Butterfly.

The Mount Kelly was in happy tears as the climbed out of the water and realised she her first individual European Junior medal.

She broke the one-minute-barrier to set a 59.16 as she battled through the pain to claim third spot.

She said: “This is just such a shock to me, a year ago I just missed out on making the team so to be hear at my first final and to medal is just a dream come true, I didn’t think it was possible.

“The past year has been a lot of hard work and I think the effort I’ve put into training really reflects how I was able to perform and just to be able to turn it around from certain events that I couldn’t do last year. So to be able to perform on the stage when it matters now is just everything to me.

“In the semi-final, in the last kind of 15 metres, I sort of had a little bit of a drop off so this time I was really fighting through those last 15 metres, trying to keep my stroke rate high. I knew going into the race it was going to be extremely close and if I wanted a chance I’d need to fight for my life.

“I honestly didn’t think I’d done it so when I looked at the scoreboard and I had that realisation it said it all.”

Mount Kelly’s Kinsman also found individual success in the Women’s 50m Backstroke. She won bronze in a blistering time of 28.29 where less than a second split the entire field.

Meanwhile Cooper’s individual medal moment came on Sunday night in the Women’s 200m Individual Medley final.

The City of Sheffield swimmer put in a major challenge for the gold but just missed out and had to settle for silver.

Spain’s Laura Cabanes Garzas, who is heading to the Paris 2024 Olympics, led from the off but Cooper kept some in the tank to make a charge for the wall as she closed down the deficit.

Unfortunately the Spaniard’s lead was just too much as she touched the wall in 2:13.25 with Cooper just behind in a stunning time of 2:14.27.

More relay success

There was relay success throughout the week for Great Britain which started when the Men’s 4x100m Freestyle relay team took bronze.

That medal on the opening night was the nation’s first of the competition where City of Leicester’s Jacob Mills put in a rapid anchor leg to move GB from fifth to third at the finish.

It was a consistent swim from all four swimmers with City of Leeds’ Gabe Shephard leading the team off with a 50.02 split to finish the opening leg in fourth place. Nick Finch then went even faster as him and Scotland’s Stefan Krawiec kept the team in the medal picture as they passed on to Mills for the finish.

With 50 metres to go Mills remained in fifth spot but powered home at the last to pip Serbia, Germany and Spain to third spot with less than half a second between the four teams at the wall.

They set an overall time of 3:19.49 with Italy coming out on top in 3:17.04.

A relay medal was also Great Britain’s last of the competition when the Men’s 4x100m Medley team took bronze in the final race of the entire competition.

Shephard, Finch, Morgan and Fearn teamed up for this one in the final where they set a 3:38.37 to round out the event in style.

Finch and Morgan particularly impressed in the middle two legs once again, each moving up position to leave Shephard in the bronze medal spot for the final 100m’s.

He finished with a split of 48.46 as he held off a fast finishing Croatia team to take to the podium whilst almost snatching second spot off Spain in the run to the wall.

Filip Nowacki, Krawiec and Chelsea and Westminster’s Henry Gray also took home a medal in the heats.

Jasmine Carter hits British age group record

Both Skye and Jasmine Carter took to the podium at the Championships in an incredible week for the pair of Basildon and Phoenix swimmers.

Jasmine Carter took silver with a new personal best time in the Women’s 50m Breaststroke final.

Despite being the youngest swimmer in the field, set a 31.39 to win her first European Junior medal and finished just 0.12 off top spot.

Coming from lane eight, she battled hard throughout the race as the 15-year-old set a new British Age Group record for her age in the event.

Skye then added bronze in the Women’s 50m Freestyle just a day later in an incredible swim from the 16-year-old.

She won bronze in 25.24 which was just narrowly behind her Commonwealth Youth Games record swim of 25.15 in Trinidad & Tobago.

Skye got off the blocks well and won the race to the wall in the closing stages as she held off the challenge of France’s Albane Cachot and Germany’s Julianna Dora Bocska for the final podium place.

There were also a pair of silvers in the 200m Breaststroke events with TigersJersey swimmer Filip Nowacki impressing in the men’s event.

He moved on to the shoulder of Doruk Yogurtcuoglu’s in the last 50m with the pair going stroke for stroke but it was the Turkish swimmer who got the touch in 2:12.66.

Wales Theodora Taylor took silver in the women’s race, missing out on gold by a thousand of a second before adding bronze on the final night in the 100m final.

You can see all the results from the Championships here.