Duncan Scott scorches to victory as he anchors GB relay team to gold
A signature performance that tore up the script and provided the perfect seal to a week which the Scot began by hitting the headlines for his stance against controversial Chinese rival Sun Yang but ended with a performance worthy of the spotlight.
The 22-year-old, with the burden of anchoring the team on the freestyle leg, was almost a half-second quicker than anyone else as he scythed past the previously omnipotent USA, and Russia, as the GB team established a European record of 3:28.10.
“The world’s fastest loser,” declared his coach at Stirling University, Steve Tigg, in a barbed riposte to Sun’s attempt to belittle his charge with the L-Word. Yet Scott’s actions in adding to his 200m freestyle bronze spoke loudly as he accompanied Adam Peaty, Luke Greenbank and James Guy on to the podium, taking Britain’s total in the pool to seven medals, enough for seventh place in the overall standings.
“That was such a big swim for myself,” said Scott, who has now accumulated a trio of world relay golds from successive championships. “I dropped a lot from my fastest-ever relay split.
“To dethrone the Americans for the first time, for us to beat them, I’ve got to put that down as my best swim. To do it in a relay as well. I always love representing Great Britain. The boys come together really well, with the 4x200 in past years and now this as well. It’s always pretty special to be part of these teams.”
A chunk of the credit went to Peaty, below, who overturned an early deficit to swim his breaststroke leg in 57.2 seconds before Guy clung on to American juggernaut Caeleb Dressel on the butterfly.
“As soon as Duncan dived in I thought ‘we’re going to get bronze’,” admitted Peaty. Instead, Dressel’s personal bounty – a male record of eight medals in a single championships – stalled at six golds as the Englishman celebrated his third triumph in South Korea with Scott’s dynamic sprint timed at a hasty 46.14 secs.
“I was fortunate that we were next to the Americans,” he said. “We got moved over and got a nice wave down the first 50 and used the adrenaline to come home. But it’s down to the effort from the boys in front of me to put me in that position.
“We’re quite a young team. I think Adam’s the oldest at 24. So we’ve got plenty more years together. I think this is a great stepping-stone for us and we’re already looking forward to next year.”
Securing Olympic qualification was the additional perk with the GB women’s line-up of Georgia Davies, Molly Renshaw, Alys Thomas and Freya Anderson also earning an invite to the Tokyo 2020 Games despite coming eighth in their medley final. That was the last title on offer in Gwangju, claimed by the USA in a world record of 3:50.40 with 17-year-old prodigy Regan Smith setting a world best of 57.57 secs on the backstroke leg.
Stirling University’s Aimee Willmott exited the women’s 400m individual medley in the semi-finals with Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu later capturing her fifth world title in the event.
Japan’s Daiyo Seto doubled his golden haul in the men’s 400 medley with Max Litchfield only seventh and seeking answers.
“That’s not good enough for me, nowhere near,” the Englishman, 24, said. “We’ll have to look back at the race and see what we need to change and what we need to work on.”
Anna Hopkin came seventh in the 50m freestyle final as the USA’s Simone Manuel complemented her prior title over 100m. It helped the USA to head the swimming table on 27 medals but Britain’s tally was enough to hit the top end of their target set by UK Sport. It bodes well for Tokyo in 12 months’ time.