James Guy, freestyle ace. And British 100 and 200m butterfly champion. He added the two-lap crown to his treasury with a 51.52 victory today, after his 1:55.9 four-lap win earlier in the meet, for a return to the medley relay for Britain a year after Olympic silver in Rio.
His career best of 51.78 downed, his new high of 51.52 placed him slap, bang between instant ticket and consideration time for Budapest world titles in July.
Count him in, the medley relay, in which Britain claimed Olympic silver last year in Rio, among his targets. The solo 100 ‘fly? Guy may not even race it at world titles, even though his new best pace is a swing of an arm away from that in which Michael Phelps, Chad Le Clos and Laszlo Cseh shared an historic Olympic silver last year.
More than likely, he’ll be there for the 200m freestyle (still to come at trials) as defending world champion, the 400m freestyle and relays as well as butterfly events when selectors get number crunching after the end of racing on Sunday.
Tonight, Guy claimed his third gold of the week to defend the crown that granted him access to the Rio medley relay last year and granted him a unique line in swimming history: he is the last man ever to race down a lap of an Olympic pool with Michael Phelps as the American competed for the last time, USA’s victory taking his career Games tally to a stunning 23 gold medals atop 28 in all (photo of the moment, right, by Patrick B. Kraemer).
Guy made the Rio team on butterfly ahead of the same rival that has a better personal best going into Olympic trials last year, Loughborough University’s Adam Barrett, but was unable to match his 51.80 of 2014.
Guy, coached by Jol Finck at Bath University after they moved from Millfield late last year, was out first in 24.28, Barrett on 24.50 and the newcomer to the event, Duncan Scott back on 24.96. The leader stayed in charge all the way home, Barrett didn’t get back that 2014 best today, either, though he was not far off, the silver his in 52.13. The bronze went to the in-form Scott, of the University of Stirling, his 52.91 wiping a second off his previous career best of 53.99 from earlier this year in the first season in which he has taken a serious glance at two-lap ‘fly racing.
Scott became the first British man ever to race inside 48sec over 100m freestyle yesterday with a 47.90 victory. All eyes, now, turn to the 200m freestyle, in which Scott and Guy, the world champion, will make the curtain-closing session on Sunday a thriller as they face the rest of those who made the 4x200m freestyle squads that collected the world title in 2015 and Olympic silver last year in Rio.
Asked if Britain could lift the world 4x100m medley crown in Budapest, Guy told SwimVortex’s Liz Byrnes that the runes read well:
“You’ve got me, Adam and Duncan on the ‘fly, breast and free and I know the way Chris trains like an absolute animal so definitely more there but we are definitely good for a medal in the worlds.”
Possible victory, over the USA in this post-Phelps era? Says Guy:
“You saw Michael Phelps get eight golds in Beijing so why can’t we get the win? But as I say to everyone, one meet at a time – we are still miles away from the worlds, the Americans have their trials in the next couple of months so let’s see what sort of stage they are in then and take it from there.”
It has been a good week for Guy, three fine wins confirming what he hoped this meet would: “I think after moving to Bath and putting Rio behind me, I’m in a different place now and I think I am showing that here at these trials.”
Fly is Fine But Freestyle it is
Now he’s a double butterfly champion and stands at No3 on the fledgling world rankings in the 100m butterfly and given that he is likely to be heading to Budapest to defend the 200m free crown and hoping to muscle in on the 400m medals two years on from silver at Kazan 2015, what were his priorities?
“In my eyes it’s the 200 and 400 free, probably 200 fly and the 100 fly. I won’t do the 100 fly at worlds … I don’t know. I’m doing it for the relay for the boys and that is what it’s about for me. If I was a bit older and a bit stronger and faster and had real medal potential for the 100 fly then I’d do it but right now probably not. The 200 free is a bit more important than the 100 fly – 200 and 400free is most important for me.”
Guy will take a break from the pool tomorrow for a while to take in the world of the world’s best snooker players down the road from the pool in Sheffield. It would be his first time watching live snooker and a welcome distraction before her seeks to retain the 200m title on Sunday. He said: “I love Ronnie O’Sullivan, he is a proper animal at snooker, he is like the Phelps of snooker so it will be good fun to watch.”
The global pace-setters so far over 100m butterfly this year:
Men 100M Butterfly
RSA , 25
CHN , 18
GBR , 21
AUS , 23
ITA , 28
Rudin Awakening For Backstroke Shoal
Rosie Rudin has been steadily making her way through the ranks and cutting her teeth in the Britain junior ranks these past few seasons as an all-rounder and medley ace. Today she stepped up for her first senior British title, on backstroke, with a big lifetime best of 2:09.55 in the 200m.
Last year City of Sheffield coach Russ Barber‘s latest charge to emerge a winner in their home pool at Ponds Forge, the day after Max Litchfield cracked the British 400IM medley record, raised her game to 2:11.66. She took an axe and sliced 2sec off that today as the sole sub-2:10 in the race.
The race was a four-way battle until Rudin pressed the matter. The silver went to Jessica Fullalove, of Bath University, in 2:10.05, bronze to Charlotte Evans, of Loughborough University in 2:10.35, Kathleen Dawson, University of Stirling, locked out in 2:10.89.
Two 16-year Age Marks – And Gold For Freya Anderson
In the 100m freestyle, there was none of the 53sec pace required to be on the fringe of competitiveness in international waters, but Freya Anderson, coached by Alan Bircher at Ellesmere Co, took her second 16 years age record of the day for a 54.35 victory 0.02sec ahead of Siobhan-Marie O’Connor, the Olympic 200IM silver medallist from Bath University. Anderson thus claimed her first British senior title. A new chapter begins.
The bronze went to the 200m champion this week, Sheffield’s Eleanor Faulkner, in 54.89, with the next in line for a possible 4x100m free relay in Budapest if selectors jump that way, the 50m champion Anna Hopkin, of Ealing, on 54.94, and Lucy Hope, of Edinburgh UNiversity, on 55.20.
Day 4 finals: