Eight medals in eight days as Great Britain’s swimmers make waves in JapanJuly 31, 2023
Great Britain’s swimmers have completed a successful World Aquatics Championships in Japan with their second highest medal tally ever at the event.
They recorded eight medals in eight days of competition at the Marine Messe Fukuoka Hall A and leave with optimistic feelings about their prospects for medals at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
From those eight medals, there were two golds, two silvers and four bronze with four individual medals for English swimmers across the programme.
The team kicked off their medal tally in unforgettable style on day three when Tom Dean finished just behind Wales’ Matt Richards to secure a show-stopping one-two finish in the Men’s 200m Freestyle.
The two Brits both pulled off a mighty last 25m’s as they powered past David Popovici (Romania) and Sunwoo Hwang (South Korea) to touch the wall first to claim the gold and silver medals.
There was just two hundredths of a second between the two Brits with Dean having to settle for silver as Great Britain replicated their result from Tokyo 2020 where Dean came out on top ahead of Duncan Scott.
Dean’s final time was a 1:44.32 with Richards finishing in 1:44.30 as he won his first world title in his first individual world final.
A hat trick of medals on day five
Two days later and GB were back on the podium with a hat trick of medals on day five where Lauren Cox became the first British woman to win an individual medal in eight years.
On her World Championships debut, the Loughborough University swimmer set a time of 27.20 as she raced to the wall for bronze in the 50m Backstroke.
Starting from lane three, Cox showed impressive speed in the closing stages as she timed her finish to perfection to gain on the leaders and take the final podium spot.
“I’m over the moon, it’s such a good feeling, it’s amazing. I couldn’t believe it, to be honest! I needed to look for about 30 seconds at the board before I could be like, ‘wow, that’s me!’” Cox told British Swimming.
“I couldn’t have asked for any more here. When I got here, my goal was to make a final, so to come away with a medal is just incredible. My 100m has gone well, but there’s stuff to work on which is super motivating. I’m more motivated than ever to get back for next season and see what I can do at trials in April for Paris.”
The night got even better for Great Britain as Dean and Scott made it a second double podium finish of the week.
This time Dean lost out to Scott as the Scottish swimmer won silver with Dean winning bronze in the Men’s 200m Individual Medley.
It was a unbelievable final 50m’s from Dean who came into the freestyle leg in seventh place but powered through the field for bronze in a total time of 1:56.07.
Only France’s Léon Marchand could defeat the two Brits as he set a new European record time of 1:54.82 to take gold.
The dream team strike again
The Tokyo 2020 Olympic gold winning quartet of Dean, James Guy, Richards and Scott then teamed up for world gold once again in the Men’s 4x200m Freestyle.
A stacked line-up of the Olympic champion and runner-up, a former world champions and the new world champion the British team came into the event as favourites and proved it with an impressive display in Fukuoka.
Scott led the team off and got the group straight into the mix for the lead before Richards gave Britain the edge against Team USA as it came down to a head-to-head battle for the title.
Guy held his nerve to deliver Dean around a half a body lead for the final leg where the Bath Performance Centre flourished like he always does to power the British team home almost a second ahead of the Americans.
The British team were the only group to swim under the seven-minute barrier with an overall time of 6:59.08 just 0.53 off the world record time.
After another phenomenal display from the group, Dean said: “We knew this was going to be probably our strongest relay of the whole meet, and I knew that when the four boys came together, something special would happen like it did last time we were in Japan.”
Guy – who has now medalled at five successive World Championships – added: “We won it in Tokyo and tonight, I think we knew we were the favourites deep down, but we’re not taking things for granted. It was nice to win but the world record was in the back of our minds a little bit – but everything happens for a reason.
“Winning tonight was really, really nice, this is our first time together since Tokyo, and it shows that we’re in a great place which hopefully we can build on that for Paris.
“At the end of the day, it’s about enjoying what we’re doing. We’re racing the best guys in the world on the world stage, it’s an honour to do that for your country. Hopefully we can progress that next year and progress with our individual swims.”
Joe Litchfield was also awarded a gold medal for his strong swim in the heats in place of Guy.
Proud sprints to bronze
Team GB’s final two medals came on the penultimate day where Ben Proud won bronze in the splash and dash 50m Freestyle.
The medal means that Proud has now made the podium at all six of the last major international competitions including the two World Short Course Championships.
As the reigning champion from last year Proud was one of the favourites for the event but an impressive display from Australia’s Cameron McEvoy saw him finish half a second clear of the rest of the field.
Proud matched the Australian in the opening stages and despite the challenges from across the pool he managed to touch the wall in third and just 0.01 behind USA’s Jack Alexy who took silver.
The reigning European and Commonwealth champion was happy with his performance as he looks to reach an Olympic podium for the first time next year.
He said: “It feels great. Coming back off last year, I wanted to still do well. I dove into the race and saw where McEvoy was, he was a clear winner, so I was just racing for that podium.
“So I’m really pleased – that was a nice swim to do, that was a competitive field and I’m glad to get my hand on the wall. Not much happens in the race, but a lot happens behind the scenes, a lot of work goes into the small details so that when you dive into the race, you know what you’re doing.
“I feel in a good place. There’s still more work to do, but it’s nice to come to Worlds and get another medal for the team. It’s nice to play that part.”
A new European record
Great Britain’s Mixed 4x100m Freestyle Relay team took the bronze medal in a new European record time to win the nations’ final medal of the meet.
The team of Anna Hopkin, Freya Anderson, Richards and Scott teamed up in the final with Dean, Jacob Whittle and Lucy Hope also awarded medals after a strong showing in the heats.
After setting a British record to finish fifth in the individual event earlier in the week Richards led the team out in second place after the opening leg.
Scott pushed the GB team into the lead before Hopkin battled hard to keep Britain in the medal positions after already swimming earlier in the session.
She passed onto Anderson in third place where she stayed and anchored them home to a new British and European record time of 3:21.68.
The result is Hopkin’s first ever medal at a World Championships, and Anderson’s second following a similar relay success in 2019.
Reflecting on the podium Anderson said: “It’s really nice. We’ve had two fourth places in the women’s freestyle relays, and I was anchoring them both. That has been on my mind, what I could’ve done differently, so it’s been about forgetting about that, refocusing for these guys and getting the job done, which we all did. So yeah, I’m pretty happy!”
There were a number of other strong swims throughout the week from various members of the squad.
The relay quartet of Hopkin, Hope, Abbie Wood and Anderson teamed up for fourth Women’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay final in a new British record time of 3:33.90.
Jacob Peters and Proud both impressed in the Men’s 50m Butterfly final as they narrowly missed out on the podium with a fourth and fifth place finish respectively.
And backstroker Oliver Morgan marked his British debut with a ninth place finish in both the Men’s 100m and 200m backstroke events.
You can find all the results from the 2023 World Aquatics Championships here.