Maskill clinches gold in close 200m contest

2 Apr 2024

A thrilling multi-classification Women's 200m Freestyle was won by Poppy Maskill as multiple swimmers put themselves in contention for Paralympic selection on the opening night of the Speedo Aquatics GB Swimming Championships. 

Maskill's 200m Freestyle triumph headlined the multi-classification racing on the opening night of racing for British titles in London, with Sam Downie (400m Freestyle), Grace Harvey (50m Butterfly), Lyndon Longhorne (150m Individual Medley) and Harry Stewart (100m Breaststroke) all securing gold in front of a sold-out crowd.

Meanwhile Adam Peaty brought the curtain down on the evening as he secured his spot at a third Olympic Games with a stunning Men's 100m Breaststroke victory. The Olympic champion in that event in both 2016 and 2021 - was one of six athletes to secure their Olympic ticket on the Eurostar for Paris 2024, with Keanna MacInnes (200m Butterfly), Freya Colbert, Abbie Wood, Lucy Hope and Medi Harris (all 200m Freestyle) making nomination times. 

Both of the major Women's 200m Freestyle finals served up thrilling contests. First up was the multi-classification para-swimming race, with brought with it no fewer than five swimmers going inside their respective classification's nomination time.

It was a blanket finish across the centre of the pool, with the S14 quartet of Poppy Maskill, Olivia Newman-Baronius, Louise Fiddes and Jessica-Jane Applegate all right in a line after matching each other throughout, Fiddes having set the early pace.

In the end, it was Maskill who just did enough to get the touch ahead of Newman-Baronius in second and Fiddes in third, the trio separated by a cumulative 0.2s, but all going inside the 2:10.49 consideration mark, as did Applegate behind them. Meanwhile, S5 athlete Suzanna Hext swam well inside her required mark of 3:05.07, finishing fifth overall in the points system to do plenty for her bid to go to Paris.

"It means quite a lot [to win tonight] as I didn’t think I’d be the best in the 200m Freestyle. I was pretty nervous but I’m really happy with the way it turned out. It means a lot to go under the Paralympic [consideration] time as that’s my dream," said Maskill.

Straight after that race came another nip-and-tuck 200m Freestyle race on the Olympic programme. This one saw a Loughborough Performance Centre gold-silver-bronze combo, with Freya Colbert coming out on top as she took charge early on and held off a late fight back from Abbie Wood. 

Both went inside the 1:56.85 individual nomination time - and on top of that, the times of third-placed Medi Harris and Lucy Hope in fourth meant that all four of that group are going to Paris as their combined times qualified them by virtue of securing the Women's 4x200m Freestyle Relay place at the Games. 

Afterwards, Freya said: "It’s nice to take that bit of pressure off selection, I know I’ve booked my ticket on the Eurostar with that swim so it’s a great way to start the week!

"I had a bit of a build year last year, I think I swam well in Japan at the World Championships and was pleased with the result, but always looking for that extra step further and this has been the best preparation for my Olympic year that I really could have asked for and everything is going my way so far and hopefully it’ll continue to do that."

200m Free London 2024 Relay Consideration
Lucy Hope, Freya Colbert, Abbie Wood and Medi Harris

The Men's 100m Breaststroke showpiece was the customary finale to the first day of action in London, with Peaty leading the way after a strong heats showing. 

Nine years on from breaking the world record for the first time in this very pool, Adam again delivered across two fierce lengths of breaststroke swimming, taking things out fast and building a lead from there, ultimately stopping the clock at 57.94 to go more than one full second inside the Paris nomination time and secure the British title. 

James Wilby was charging down the final 50m in his own bid to reach a second Olympics, getting to the wall an agonising 0.02 seconds outside the nomination mark but doing plenty to put himself in the selection conversation even before the 200m Breaststroke later in the week. Archie Goodburn, meanwhile, placed third, and Max Morgan came fifth as he broke the British junior record. 

As for Adam, his swim left him reflecting on both his performance and his journey over the past 12 months. 

"I'm not fully back, I've still got a second [to his world record of 56.88]! I'm always going to have that mindset, but I've got a healthy approach to it. A few years ago, I'd have come out of there disappointed," he said.

"I've learned to appreciate the moments of greatness for myself, not even relative to the world. For me, that was a great swim, executed well - but the most promising thing is that I'm finding peace in the water now, instead of anger and just fighting it, and trying to win like that.

"I'm finding a new version of myself which I'm really liking, and I think that's a version that can do really well at the Olympics. 

"It's been nearly 10 years since I went a 57.9 here - where does the time go?! Old people always say that, I never knew what they meant. I'm just getting more wisdom and more peace. I know that I'm incrementally getting better."

Adam Peaty London 2024
Adam Peaty

Earlier in the night, Keanna MacInnes was the first athlete of the week to book their Olympic spot, with the University of Stirling swimmer now set for her Games debut after a stunning battle with Laura Stephens - who also went inside the nomination mark - in the 200m Butterfly final.

Stephens took the race out hard and led for the majority of the contest, although MacInnes paced herself well and stayed in touch right down to the final 10m, where she began to move level with and then move past the swimmer in lane five. 

They both went to the wall together, Keanna ultimately claiming the British gold and that Olympic nomination spot with a 2:07.24, well inside the 2:07.96 nomination mark. Right behind her, Laura clocked a 2:07.37 to ensure she has given the selectors plenty to think about. 

"I’m quite emotional to be honest with you. This has been the dream for my entire swimming career. There was a lot of emotion coming into this meet and I’m quite relieved it’s been done on the first day," said Keanna afterwards.

"I felt it was the most confident, happy and excited I’m ever been going into a race, but also the most uncertain. The most difficult thing about that race was the fact that there were two other really, really good girls there, so I knew there was potential that I could do a massive PB and go well under the consideration time and still not quality. I’m just so pleased that that wasn’t the case and I did come away first."

Behind them both, 2023 World Championship competitor Emily Large took home the bronze. 

Keanna MacInnes reaction Olympic qualification 2024
Keanna MacInnes

Elsewhere on the night, Sam Downie won the Men's MC 400m Freestyle by a narrow margin ahead of Tomas Navarro-Barber, before Kieran Bird came within a whisker of a nomination place in the Men's 400m Freestyle finale, pushing all the way across the eight lengths and building a lead all the way to the wall, where he touched just 0.2 seconds off the required 3:45.43 mark in what was a new personal best.

Grace Harvey took Women's MC 50m Butterfly gold ahead of young Iona Winnifrith as both athletes opened their programmes for the week, while Lyndon Longhorne won the Men's 150m Individual Medley crown and Harry Stewart edged out Scott Quin to take the Men's MC 100m Breaststroke gold.

Watch the Speedo Aquatics GB Swimming Championships action online throughout this week on the C4 Sport YouTube channel, with Finals (7pm) on BBC Sport and BBC iPlayer.