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Ben Proud storms into final but it’s agony for British relay teams in Budapest

Ben Proud stormed into the final of the Men’s 50m Butterfly on the opening day of the FINA World Championships – but Great Britain’s relay teams finished agonisingly outside the medals in Hungary.

Proud will be aiming to replicate his gold-medal winning success at the 2017 World Championships when he races in Sunday’s final at the Duna Arena in Budapest.

The 27-year-old was the fastest qualifier for the final as he won his semi in a time of 22.76.

He was 0.03 seconds quicker than America’s Caeleb Dressel, who clocked 22.79 to win the first semi-final.

It promises to be a thrilling final with 27-year-old Proud only 0.01 outside his time which won him the gold in 2017.

Proud said: “Today, being the first day of the competition, I’m just trying to shake out all the cobwebs after not racing.

“I find it funny to come back to Budapest, swim in lane six and go almost exactly the same time as I did when I won it five years ago. I’ve got very special memories of this pool, I love swimming here.

“Tomorrow will bring about its own challenges, especially going into the final first, that brings about a whole different set of challenges.

“But I came into this meet to have fun and enjoy it – if I get on the podium, that’s amazing, if I come eighth, that’s also fine.

“I’ve come here just to warm up into the year, heading into the Commonwealth Games and then building through over the next couple of years into Paris.

“That’s the thing about the first race, you get to see how your week is going to go – and I feel like it’ll be good fun this week.”

British record for relay team

The British team were within a whisker of taking their first medal in a thrilling Men’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay final.

Lewis Burras, Jacob Whittle, Matt Richards and Tom Dean clocked a new British record of 3:11.14 to take fourth place – only 0.19 adrift of the bronze-medal winning Italian team.

It was a spirited effort from the British team with Dean swimming a 46.95 final leg through choppy water in lane six.

Dean said: “It’s really special. It’s the first time us four lads have swum it together, it’s quite a young team, the first time Burras is on the team with us

“It’s so special, the British record, it just shows how strong we are with two years to go still to Paris.

“It’s like the 4x200m Freestyle Relay before Tokyo – the Worlds before, we came fifth and then we went and won it at the Olympics. We’re heading in the right direction.”

America won the gold in a time of 3:09.34.

Meanwhile, the Women’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay team were fifth in their final.

Anna Hopkin, Abbie Wood, Lucy Hope and Freya Anderson finished in 3:35.43 – 4.48 behind the Australia team who topped the podium.

Hopkin said: “It was good, it’s a good relay to get the week started with. It’s one we are hoping to build on through Paris, so getting a lot of experience with it is going to help us do that.”

Wilby fourth fastest

James Wilby finished second in his 100m Breaststroke semi-final and qualified fourth fastest for the final in an impressive time of 59.23.

The 28-year-old was only 0.34 behind Olympic silver medallist Arno Kamminga, who touched home in 58.89.

Wilby lowered his heat time of 1:00.14 by 0.91 seconds and will swim in lane six in Sunday’s final.

He will be looking to emulate the silver medal he won at the 2019 World Championships, in a time of 58.46, behind Adam Peaty, who is missing this year’s competition with a foot injury.

Despair for Abbie

Wood disappointingly missed out on a place in the Women’s 200m Individual Medley final.

She finished fifth in her semi-final – and 12th overall – after clocking 2:11.31.

The 23-year-old was sixth at the halfway stage but her dominant breaststroke leg saw her climb into third spot with the final 50m to go.

However, a blistering race for the wall saw her slip down the field and she will now set her sights on the 200m Breaststroke, with the heats taking place on Wednesday 22 June.

Stephens’ stepping stone

Laura Stephens finished 15th overall in the 100m Butterfly and said it was a useful warm-up for her speciality 200m event.

She improved on her heat time of 59.46 as she finished eighth in her semi-final in 58.71.

The 23-year-old said: “This is a really nice stepping stone towards the 200m and now I’m just excited for that one.”