British swimmers close out successful World Championships with seven medals

A historic 2024 World Aquatics Championships in Doha came to an end on Sunday with Great Britain’s swimmers wrapping up the competition with seven medals across eight days.

Their results helped lift GB to fifth in the overall medal table at the Championships following a fine few weeks across diving, high diving, artistic swimming, water polo and open water as well as in the pool.

The swimming efforts were highlighted by the nations first individual World Champions in 13 years as Laura Stephens and Freya Colbert’s both took to the top step of the podium at the Aspire Dome.

Stephens started things off with a thrilling gold on Thursday in the Women’s 200m Butterfly final.

She led the race from start to finish, holding off the challenge of Denmark’s Helena Bach by less than a tenth of a second at the wall.

Her win was the first from a British woman in an individual World Championship final since Rebecca Adlington’s victory in the 800m Freestyle in Shanghai in 2011.

“I’m definitely very happy, it’s really hard to put into words to be honest with you, I just can’t believe it!” she said.

“I came into this meet hoping for three solid swims, to learn through the process – and to come away on top of the podium is kind of crazy.

“I had no expectations in terms of time, it’s February, so I couldn’t even come into this hoping for PBs or things like that. But that is a really solid swim, it’s a great way to start off the long-course season and hopefully I can just get faster and faster.

“This definitely gives me a lot of confidence towards Paris. If anything, it just makes me more excited to get back into the hard work, into the training and to keep on improving.”

Colbert’s golden triumph

Freya Colbert then added to Stephens’ gold on the final night with a dramatic victory in the Women’s 400m Individual Medley final.

She overtook Israel’s Anastasia Gorbenko in the final 10m of the closing freestyle leg to get to the wall first and claim the first individual international gold medal of her career in Qatar.

It was a race that the Loughborough Performance Centre athlete timed to perfection, keeping in her cool in the early stages by sticking to the plan and believing that the race would come to her.

“It’s so amazing, I’m still in a bit of disbelief.” She said.

“I knew I could do it, that was probably one of the first races that I’ve gone into at this level with total confidence in myself and my race plan.”

“I just trusted that, not following the girls out on the butterfly, keeping true to what I know my strengths are and it really paid off at the end. I am so pleased!

“I felt strong coming off the backstroke leg, knowing I’d gone past Anastasia, but to be honest, she was the only person I could see, I didn’t even know what Sara [bronze medallist Sara Franceschi] was doing on the other side of the pool.

“I got a little bit stressed on the breaststroke because I thought I’d got in front, but then she came back again, and then I just had to give the freestyle my all.

“I know it’s one of my strengths individually, it’s not necessarily always a strength at the end of the IM – I just had to really trust what my coach Dave Hemmings had told me during all those weeks at altitude, throw my head down and give it everything to the wall.”

Olympian Max Litchfield earnt his first World Championship podium on the final night of action in Doha.

The 28-year-old – who was fourth in Tokyo on his Olympics debut – was second in the Men’s 400m Individual Medley.

He paced his race incredibly well as he moved into the leading pack across the backstroke and breaststroke legs before just missing out on the gold with a fast final 100m freestyle.

Speaking after the race he said: “The medal has been so close so many times, and it is just nice to break that.

“We’re in February, there’s a few people not here, but nonetheless, it’s a great swim, I’m really happy with how I processed the race. I’m just dead chuffed and looking forward to the rest of the year now.”

Relay medals and Paris quota spots secured

GB’s swimmers performances in Doha as well as last year’s Championships in Fukuoka also ensured they secured an Olympic quota spot for each of the seven relay events in Paris this summer.

One of those came in the Women’s 4x200m Freestyle where the quartet of Colbert, Abbie Wood, Lucy Hope and Medi Harris secured a silver medal with a time of 7:50.90.

Following a sixth place finish in the heats the British team knocked almost eight seconds off their time in the final to rubber-stamp their place in Paris.

It all began with Colbert’s strong opening leg before Wood’s powerful effort sent the team from fourth to first at the halfway stage.

Hope and Harris kept their composure in the closing legs to hold onto second place as China pulled clear to take the gold.

After an agonising fourth in Fukuoka last year, this was a hugely satisfying result that will give the Women’s 4x200m Freestyle Relay group even more momentum on the Olympic run-in.

“I think the disappointment of coming fourth at Worlds last year was the first time you could really tell the girls were actually gutted, and that we were taking it a lot more seriously,” said Wood afterwards.

“We have such a strong five girls, including Freya Anderson, that we can swap in and out. Getting a silver here without one of our best freestylers is just so exciting for Paris, and I think everyone is happy with their swims as well.”

One of the biggest targets for Great Britain was to secure those relay places and none were more at risk than the Men’s 4x100m Freestyle after setting no time at the Championships in 2023.

This time around the four of Tom Dean, Jacob Whittle, Matt Richards and Duncan Scott made no mistake as they settled in an impressive fourth place to book Team GB another lane in Paris.

Their effort in the heats was strong enough for an Olympic place but they improved that time in the final to miss out on the podium by just 0.26.

Britain’s Mixed 4x100m Medley Relay team also delivered a World Championship bronze.

The quartet of Harris, Adam Peaty, Richards and Hopkin combined to great effect, in an event where Great Britain aim to defend their Olympic crown this summer.

Hopkin – whose two laps in the final provided her second-fastest relay split ever, behind the one she swam on the way to Olympic gold in this event in 2021 – stood out after she was teed up well by her teammates to fire Great Britain home for a place on the podium.

James Wilby and Scott, also earnt a medal after playing their part in getting the GB cohort into the final as fastest seeds.

Peaty returns with bronze

Adam Peaty was back on a global podium on his return to the World Championship stage after claiming Men’s 100m Breaststroke bronze.

World-record holder Peaty went into the race ranked fastest from the semi-finals and was second at the turn in the final after moving his way through the field from the start.

He remained in a tussle for the lead before ultimately touching third, behind American Nic Fink and Italy’s Nicolo Martinenghi.

Reflecting on his comeback and his race Peaty said: “Last night (the semi-final) gave me a little glimmer of hope that I could get faster even today, and maybe I would have if I’d executed those skills. I’m disappointed in that essence, but I have also got to make sure I don’t wear it, because it has been a long time since I’ve been in this.

“But I said out there that if I’d got what I wanted tonight and maybe it would have equalled the best possible performance I could have done here, maybe that would have been just as dangerous as not getting what I wanted, because this is going to push me, to make sure we’re executing those skills perfectly.”

Ben Proud completed a hat-trick of World Championship medals in the Men’s 50m Freestyle with a breathless bronze.

It was a battle across the middle lanes all the way into the wall with Cameron McEvoy of Australia taking silver and Ukraine’s Vladyslav Bukhov claiming the title.

After the race Proud said: “I’ve been in multiple World Championship finals now, and I said a couple of years ago that if I’m not going to be the best in the world, I just want to be consistent, constantly top five – and in doing that, it delivers more medals now and then,” said the two-time Olympic finalist.

“All eyes are on Paris, so this is like a nice token to take back to the team and the family, and another point along the journey.

“I’m enjoying the sport a lot more than I used to. I look forward to coming out into the finals and racing at the Championships, whereas maybe when I was a bit younger, I was a bit more afraid and intimidated. Now I’m just loving the process, and every chance I get to stand in a world final and have a chance to perform is another moment along this journey.”

You can find the full results from the World Aquatics Championships here and the events are free to watch back on Eurovision Sport.