Newman-Baronius equals world record as Proud lights up the lanes

6 Apr 2024

Olivia Newman-Baronius equalled a world record, Abbie Wood clocked a stunning new 200m Individual Medley personal best and Ben Proud delivered one length of freestyle fire on a red-hot Saturday night at the Speedo Aquatics GB Swimming Championships.

For Wood, her 2:08.91 was another rubber stamp on her Eurostar ticket to a second Olympic Games - with Freya Colbert also doing the event nomination time - while Proud will be targeting a third successive Olympic final after obliterating the 21.88 Men's 50m Freestyle nomination standard. Matt Richards added silver and a Paris standard in that one to follow up his 100m Freestyle triumph. 

Before that, Newman-Baronius notched her fourth Paralympic nomination time of the meet by matching the 1:03.33 S14 world record on her way to the multi-classification Women's 100m Butterfly title, while Tully Kearney (Women's MC 50m Backstroke), Brock Whiston (Women's MC 200m IM) and Stephen Clegg (Men's MC 50m Freestyle) all made required times in claiming British golds. 

The highlight on the Paralympic programme was that world-record effort from Olivia in a thrilling Women's MC 100m Butterfly contest, as she took it out hard and held off a brilliant challenge from Poppy Maskill to touch in a 1:03.33, right on the existing S14 world best and securing her the gold on 1000 points. Maskill took silver on 983 points - and her latest nomination standard - while S10 pair Faye Rogers and Callie-Ann Warrington were third and fourth respectively, both getting inside their class's Paris mark. 

Asked whether she could go under the world record, Olivia said: "Hopefully by the summer. The week has got better as it's gone along, I had two days off so that was nice but yeah it's been fun - I like racing here so it's good.

"The Para Swimming World Series event in Italy helped a lot for this [week's experience] because it was my first time performing in front of the cameras there, and here has a bit more publicity so it's good experience."

The night closed with an outstanding display of medley swimming from Abbie Wood, fourth in the event back at the Tokyo Olympics. In a strong field, the Loughborough Performance Centre athlete attacked the race from the off, capitalising on some brilliant underwater work and a strong breaststroke leg, before freestyling to the wall to easily surpass the 2:10.62 Olympic nomination time and go under 2:09 for the first time. 

Freya Colbert closed strongly for silver, while Katie Shanahan - who has already gone inside two nomination times this week - completed a podium that shows the strength and versatility of the team ahead of the summer. 

Abbie Wood London 2024
Abbie Wood won the Women's 200m IM title

"Those final metres really burned, but I'm really glad it was tight on the front end, because that really made me honest on my backstroke, where sometimes I can ease. So to have two really good backstrokers either side, and Freya a good freestyler pushing me all the way, it felt so good. The last 10m, I was hoping she was dying as much as me!" said Abbie.

"The 200m IM is always my baby, and I just really wanted the opportunity to do it at the Olympics again, and hopefully do as well as I did in it last time.

"I know the event has moved on, and I just wanted to move on with the top girls. Everyone is within inches of the world record, there are 2.07s and 2.08s being churned out, and I wanted to be a part of that, so hopefully that's a good first stepping stone."

There were so many reasons for another packed London Aquatics Centre crowd to raise the roof - and the exploits of Ben Proud were among the biggest.

The two-time Olympic finalist looked in impressive form by going inside the nomination mark for this sprint event, and so it proved, Proud coming up clear of the field from the start and methodically carving his way down a superb 50m of sprint freestyle swimming, clocking a 21.25 that ranks as his third-fastest ever.

Behind him, Matt Richards' eye-catching meet continued as he also surpassed the Olympic standard to take silver ahead of Sunday's 200m Freestyle showpiece, while Alex Cohoon's memorable meet continued as he claimed bronze after clinching his Olympic place in the 100m. 

"Honestly, coming into this meet, I wasn't stressed, I just thought it was ticking the box. Seeing the quality of the guys making the team this year and realising this was my only shot to make it, I did get a little overwhelmed by the fact that it's no mistakes, just get it done. So I'm super happy to have swum as I should have, and to be honest, the time was something really fantastic," said Proud.

"There have been ups and downs.I am just trying to love the sport. In 2022, I was swimming quick and it was quite surreal, because it just came so quickly, but I think that was off the back of the work I was doing before the last Games. I was getting a little worried that I couldn't get under 21.5 for a little while.

Ben Proud London 2024
Ben Proud

"Now, this is one of the fastest swims I've done, that's a massive credit to the team around me, my swimming family that have kept me going. I was considering retirement a few years ago, but now I want to keep swimming!"

In the Women's MC 50m Backstroke, Ellie Challis notched the S3 Paralympic nomination time in the morning's heats - but it was Tully Kearney who would ultimately win the British title, a high stroke rate all the way down the pool helping her inside the S5 British record and well within the Paralympic mark. 

"I wasn't expecting that at all, I made a few mistakes and missed the wall so very happy with that. I think the hope was that I had a fun event in the backstroke at Paris but now with that kind of time it would be cool to go for a medal in it," said Kearney.

Brock Whiston won her second gold in as many days - and with another Paralympic S8 nomination standard as well - as she edged out Maisie Summers-Newton in the Women's MC 200m Individual Medley by four agonising para-swimming points. Summers-Newton, Paralympic and world champion in the S6 classification, achieved the Paris mark in the morning and evening, taking silver - Poppy Maskill won bronze. 

Toby Robinson opened the night by securing his first British title in the Men's 800m Freestyle, moving clear early on and proving his form in a new personal best time as he builds towards an Olympic debut in the marathon swimming in the summer. 

Meanwhile, Stephen Clegg's latest British gold of the meet came in the Men's MC 50m Freestyle, while Matthew Redfern took silver in a British S13 record of 25.25, breaking the previous mark twice in one day. 

Keanna MacInnes added to her Women's 200m Butterfly title and Paris mark by fighting back down the second 50m to win the 100m Butterfly, ahead of University of Stirling teammate Lucy Grieve in second and Laura Stephens in third, before James Wilby won a sixth successive Men's 200m Breaststroke crown. 

Tully Kearney London 2024
Tully Kearney

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.