Scotland’s Duncan Scott produced the shock of the evening when he swept past England’s Ben Proud and won the 100m freestyle at the British Championships at Tollcross International Swimming Centre in Glasgow last night.
The 18-year-old, who only left Strathallan School a year ago, set a Scottish record of 48.66 secs and, although he didn’t quite make the stiff, automatic Olympic qualifying time, it would be a major surprise if he isn’t on the plane to Brazil this summer.
Proud was firm favourite going into the final, and he looked set to claim the gold until the very last few metres. But he suddenly tied up and Scott glided past him to take one of the most coveted titles.
“I don’t know what to say,” was the teenager’s immediate reaction. “I’m absolutely delighted to win my first British title. Strangely, I was really relaxed before the race.
“I didn’t feel any real pressure because Ben has been swimming so amazingly well this year. It would be amazing to go to an Olympics. An absolute dream.”
Scott, who has appeared regularly in the Sport In Our Schools column in these pages, has had a dream few years. He won a medal for Scotland in the relay at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and was a member of the squad that won gold for Team GB in the relay at the World Championships in Kazan in Russia last year.
At the 2015 European Games in Baku last summer, he was Britain’s most successful athlete, winning three gold medals – 100m and 200m freestyle and the relay.
Now training with the University of Stirling, he continues to rise through the rankings and the future looks so exciting for the youngster. His swim last night means he will be on course for relay and individual swims in Rio.
Proud was generous in defeat, although he did reveal he had suffered a bout of food poisoning in his last few weeks of training. “Duncan is a really talented swimmer,” said the Plymouth man. “I tried to race in my own way but he got the better of me.”
Scot Robbie Renwick, who trains with Scott at Stirling, made the final but pulled out to concentrate on the 200m.
On his 23rd birthday, Dan Wallace suffered the desperate disappointment of only finishing third in the 400m individual medley. One of the Scottish heroes when he won the title at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, he was seven seconds slower on his first return to the Tollcross Pool. But it was a great night for winner Max Litchfield. The Sheffield 21-year-old’s 4:12.05 was inside the qualifying time and so he has his ticket to Rio.
“I’ve dreamt of this my whole life,” said Litchfield. “I dropped a couple of seconds from my best time and it’s just awesome. I’ve fulfilled my boyhood dream.”
Robert Pavoni, a five time British Champion, was second in 4:14.00 with Wallace another four seconds adrift. For the Scot, the 200m on Sunday now takes on added significance. There were different emotions for the top two in the 800m freestyle. Firm favourite Jazz Carlin from Wales won the event, but her 8:22.93 was outside the Rio qualifying time, while Scot Camilla Hattersley had a personal best of 8:30.99 in finishing runner-up.
“I was hoping to go a bit quicker,” said Carlin, who led from the start to win the title for the fourth year running. “There’s been a lot of pressure on me this week. I missed out on London 2012 and I’ve just been a bit tense. I really want to go to my first Olympics.”
Hattersley, coached by Ian Wright at City of Glasgow, kept close contact with her more experienced rival all of the way and she has more chances to be selected in the 400m freestyle and possibly in the 4x200m relay squad.