Freestyle fireworks close out incredible Champs in London

7 Apr 2024

Matt Richards triumphed in a breath-taking Men's 200m Freestyle final worthy of the Olympic stage as the curtain came down in style on the Speedo Aquatics GB Swimming Championships in London. 

In a race billed as the most competitive in the history of domestic British swimming, Richards produced a storming final 50m to claim his second title of the week in 1:44.69 and rubber stamp a place in the 200m Freestyle for Paris, while Duncan Scott showed incredible back-end speed to charge to the wall for silver, a tiny 0.06 seconds back and well within the nomination time. 

Tom Dean in third and James Guy in fourth played their part in something truly special as the same quartet that claimed Olympic Men's 4x200m Freestyle gold together in Tokyo combined to go well inside that relay requirement, ensuring all four will be on the Eurostar - Scott and Guy to a third Games.

The noise inside the London Aquatics Centre was incredible for a fitting end to a memorable meet - and it left Richards excited for what is to come in Paris.

"I'm so pleased with that, it's a great result, both for myself and for the team. That 4x200m Freestyle Relay is really exciting, as is the 4x100m Freestyle and the 4x100m Medley Relay so we've got some really exciting relays coming up in the summer," he said.

"I'm also really excited, for me now I've potentially made three individual events for the summer, so it's going to be a really busy eight or nine days - but I can't wait. I'm living the dream, this is what I've always wanted to do and I couldn't be happier.

"The goal in the summer is just to win as much gold as we possibly can. I'll dream big, work really hard over the next few months leading into it and the world is your oyster. 

Scott added: "It’s always a blanket finish in that event, you never really know for sure where you are in that race. I’ve had Jimmy (James Guy) next to me swimming that race for so many years. It's a really difficult final, there’s always so much emotion that comes with it. With guys either side of you, either really excited or locked out of it as well."

That race was not the only men's freestyle race of the night to provide world-class quality, as Will Ellard ended a brilliant meet for himself by equalling the S14 world record in the multi-classification Men's 200m Freestyle. 

Touching in 1:52.40, he smashed another Paralympic nomination standard for his class and claimed the British gold, his second of the competition, tying compatriot Reece Dunn's world record from the Tokyo Paralympics. Fellow S14 athletes Dylan Broom and Louis Lawlor were second and third respectively. 

Will Ellard 200m Free London 2024
William Ellard

"It's been really good and a lot of my swims I've been pleasantly surprised with - over the weekend, I've dropped massive best times in each event and the 200m Freestyle is a good one to end off with as I've been wanting that world record for a long time, so I'm happy to equal it," said Ellard. 

Over half the distance, Anna Hopkin booked her second confirmed Paris ticket of these Championships by claiming Women's 100m Freestyle victory. 

Having looked very good in the heats, Hopkin moved her swim on nicely down the second 50m in the final to touch in 53.33, two-tenths inside the Paris nomination time and ensuring she completed the 50-100m Freestyle title double. Behind her, 18-year-old Eva Okaro clocked a new personal best of 54.46 for silver, while bronze went to Freya Anderson, who was back in competition after overcoming illness in recent months. 

Speaking on her performance, Hopkin said: "I'm happy with that overall - two nomination times, two wins, I can't really complain. I would have liked to have gone a bit quicker like at Worlds, but I really can't complain with my consistent times throughout the year so far.

"I've had a lot of encouragement this week. We've only had two cycles so far, so there's another cycle to go and a lot more work to do, and I can take a lot of inspiration from how I went into Worlds and swam there, and how I went into this meet and swam here."

Tully Kearney, meanwhile, claimed an impressive victory in the multi-classification contest of that event, pacing the race well to claim a massive 1149 British Para-Swimming points and a comfortable gold - and Paris nomination time - ahead of silver-medallist Alice Tai and Toni Shaw in bronze.

"It's been a bit of a busy schedule for me and I'm quite tired now but I could not have asked for a better meet, so I'm pretty happy with that," she said.

On another night of closes finishes, the Women's 100m Breaststroke served up a tight one, as Angharad Evans claimed her maiden British title, leading well at the turn and then holding off the late charge of Kara Hanlon, who took silver, while Imogen Clark picked up the bronze. 

Anna Hopkin dive 100m Free final London 2024
Anna Hopkin

Meanwhile, there was absolutely no separating Brock Whiston and Iona Winnifrith in the multi-classification contest, as they claimed the only shared British gold of the meet - and both making Paralympic nomination times in the process. 

SB8 athlete Brock touched in a time worthy of 995 British Para-Swimming points, very close to that classification's British record, before SB7 athlete Winnifrith, aged just 12 years old, matched that points score with an impressive swim to put herself into contention for Paris selection. 

"I wasn't expecting that at all, to have been competing since day one and to then put in a PB tonight. Being in this final [against some of the stars of the sport] was really exciting as I'm only turning 13 next week and so be in the in mix with them is so wow!" said Iona.

"[The Paralympic dream] really only started in September when I got my first British record and from there going through international classification in Italy [at the Para-Swimming World Series] and setting good times both there and here is incredible."

In that same event, Maisie Summers-Newton (SB6), Rebecca Redfern (SB13), Grace Harvey (SB5) and Louise Fiddes (SB14) all also made Paris nomination standards for their respective classifications, each athlete enjoying strong meets.

Amelie Blocksidge notched her second British title of the meet the weekend before her 15th birthday, as she attacked from the gun to win the Women's 800m Freestyle.

Following up her 1500m triumph, the City of Salford athlete again showed her young age has no impact on her willingness to lead from the front, finishing comfortably ahead of Fleur Lewis for silver and Michaella Glenister for bronze.

In the multi-classification Men's 50m Backstroke, Tokyo 2020 Paralympian Lyndon Longhorne powered down one length solo to become British champion in a busy night which also saw him contest the 200m Freestyle final. 

The Men's 200m Backstroke served up yet another dramatic race, as Ollie Morgan's impressive week concluded on top of the podium again. 

Olympic medallist Luke Greenbank set the pace for much of the contest and would ultimately secure a nomination time in taking silver as he targets more medal moments in Paris - but it was 100m champion Morgan who showed an impressive stroke rate down the final 25m to claw the lead off Greenbank in the final few metres and touch well inside the 1:57.28 standard, with a new personal best of 1:56.27. 

Iona Winnifrith and Brock Whiston London 2024
Brock Whiston and Iona Winnifrith
Tully Kearney London 2024 Podium
Alice Tai, Tully Kearney and Toni Shaw

Watch back the Speedo Aquatics GB Swimming Championships action from this week on the C4 Sport YouTube channel and BBC iPlayer.