Double Olympic silver medallist Duncan Scott went ninth in the 100m freestyle rankings with a time of 48.58 in the heats despite easing back on the third morning of the British Championships in Sheffield.
The 19-year-old had a clear lead in the final heat and glided into the wall with butterfly specialist Adam Barrett setting a new PB of 48.94 as second fastest through.
Jack Thorpe, Calum Jarvis and Kieran McGuckin all swam sub-50secs but attention will be on Scott tonight, who will have to break his British record of 48.01 to gain automatic selection to the World Championship team in Budapest.
British selectors have set a stringent qualification mark of 47.91 – which would equal Cameron McEvoy‘s world-leading time from the Australian Championships – although there is also a consideration time of 48.33 which, given this morning’s performance, he is more than likely to achieve.
Scott, though, maintains he is unaware of what time he needs to swim to be on the team for Hungary.
“To be honest I have not actually looked at the times,” he said. “I have absolutely no idea what the World Champs automatic qualification is. I have just come here to race and to swim as fast as possible and if I get it, I get it. If not, I don’t.”
He was happy with his performance as he returned to the pool following his third place in last night’s 200m butterfly.
“Yeah, it was good. I think it was a solid swim for this morning off the back of last night. One race at a time so I was happy with that, good swim.”
Scott was fifth in Rio, the first British man to reach the two-length free final since Bobby McGregor in 1968.
He finished 0.16 off the podium but came home a double medallist after silver in the 4x200m freestyle was replicated in the 4x100m medley relay as he anchored the squad home behind the United States in the final event of the programme.
Scott has come a long way fast since making his international debut aged 17 as part of the Scotland 4×200 free relay squad at the Commonwealth Games that won silver in Glasgow.
World, European and European Games titles were claimed before last year’s exploits in Rio, feats that mean he is now the one to be shot at in British waters – something that matters little to Scott who said:
“People can focus on me if they want. I didn’t used to focus on people before. I don’t focus on anyone right now, if they want to focus on me they can. If I was them they should just focus on their own race and maybe they’ll do something.”
On the season world ranks, he moved up to No9 this morning:
Men 100M Freestyle
GBR , 19
AUS , 23
USA , 28
AUS , 18
JPN , 23
RUS , 24
AUS , 18
RUS , 25
FRA , 24
HUN , 18
Men 400M Individual Medley
Olympic finalist Max Litchfield was fastest through as he spearheaded a City of Sheffield 1-2-3 which was rounded out by younger brother Joe.
Litchfield the elder, fourth in Rio last year, touched in 4:16.45 – good enough for 11th in the world – ahead of Richard Nagy (4:19.05) and brother Joe.
Joe won the European junior 200IM title on his 18th birthday last year with the shorter medley his preference but his time of 4:19.15 was a PB by 3.36secs.
Women’s 200M Butterfly
Charlotte Atkinson was fastest through in 2:09.92 – a time good enough for the top 20 – as she looks to add to the 50m fly title she won on Wednesday night.
She was followed by Alys Thomas (2:10.10), Emily Large (2:11.32) and Laura Stephens (2:11.95) in an event where there is a void to be filled after the retirement of double Olympic finalist Jemma Lowe.
The British record of 2:04.83 was set by Ellen Gandy at the trials for the 2009 World Championships during the shiny suit era at a time when the event was competitive in Britain, Jessica Dickons also on the scene then.
Stephens, of Plymouth Leander, is one who is looking to fill that gap. Formerly coached by Jon Rudd before he was appointed performance director of Swim Ireland, she is now guided by Robin Armayan.
Only 17 and a student at Plymouth College, Stephens follows in the footsteps of former Olympic 100m breaststroke champion Ruta Meilutyte, double Commonwealth champion Ben Proud and double Olympic bronze medallist Tom Daley.
There were three medals at last year’s European juniors as well as a gold medal with the senior 4×100 medley relay at the European Championships in London after she swam in the heats.
Women 50M Freestyle
There was a notable absentee from the event at Ponds Forge with Fran Halsall now retired. Winner of world, European and Commonwealth titles, Halsall has called on time on her career, months after her fourth place at the Olympics in Rio.
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor – 200IM silver medallist in Rio – heads the times into finals with 25.32 ahead of Anna Hopkin in 25.37 and Lucy Hope who clocked 25.78.