When a weary-looking Duncan Scott gingerly left the press interview area at Tollcross on Monday evening having just scraped into the men’s 200m freestyle final as slowest qualifier, it would have taken a brave gambler to wager anything more than a few quid each way on the Scottish star.
Never discount a 21-year-old’s powers of recovery, however, or the irresistible drive of pure talent as Scott added another chapter to his stellar year with a quite stunning swim from lane eight to win another European Championships gold.
On Monday the Alloa swimmer had struggled his way into the final, finishing fourth in his heat and then fifth in the semi-final, just squeaking into the medal race by a whisker. That had come, though, after an emotionally draining Sunday evening when he was pipped to silver in his favourite 100m freestyle event, in which he is Commonwealth champion, and then was a member of the Great Britain team who struck gold in the men’s 4x200m freestyle relay.
A welcome morning off, with only a warm-up swim, worked wonders as Scott looked a different animal and back to his imperious best from the off yesterday evening and quickly established himself in the top three from his wide position – the “outside smoker” as his relay team-mate James Guy, who went on to finish fourth, described him.
Scott turned for the third and final time in second but within seconds of his push for home was clearly ahead and went on to win decisively in a time of 1:45.34, more than one and a half seconds quicker than his semi-final swim. Danas Rapsys of Lithuania took silver, with Mikhail Dovgalyuk of Russia ahead of Guy in bronze.
“I am delighted, I was swimming my own race out there in lane eight, I didn’t really know what was going on with the rest of the field, although I had a sneaky look at the last turn,” said Scott after the race.
He pointed out that, although the eighth-fastest qualifier, only 0.5 seconds had separated the field and the adjustments he made worked like a treat.
“I had to change a few things and I really picked up in that sense so I am delighted, really happy with that.
“I went out a bit faster… unless everyone went out a lot slower? I knew I had a performance like that in me. I don’t know exactly how the race panned out, or where other people were. I was just hacking away in the last 25m and thankfully I got there.”
It was another moment to savour for the boisterous Tollcross crowd, who have been lapping up the drama here in Glasgow’s east end, with two more days to savour, including another potential medal for Scott in the mixed 4x100m freestyle relay.
“It was pretty relaxing being out there, the crowd has been amazing all week and I just decided to take my headphones off and listen to them,” revealed Scott. “I knew I just went in with no expectations and just had to execute my own race. I had a lot to do between the semi-final and the final. I had a lot to change, but I am delighted I managed to correct a few things and put in the performance.”
Scott is viewed as an individual medal prospect in the 100m for the Tokyo Olympics in two years but was wary of announcing himself as a double-threat candidate in the 200m as well.
“A lot changes in two years, there are a lot of Olympic medallists we haven’t even heard of who are going to pop out in Tokyo. That [time] would only have put me fourth or fifth in Rio. I’m just sort of happy that I managed to move on from the semi-finals.”
Ross Murdoch failed to progress from the semi-finals of the 50m breaststroke, finishing sixth behind Adam Peaty, who clocked a championship record of 26.23. Hannah Miley missed out on the semi-finals of the 200m individual medley on the two-per-nation rule as Siobhan Marie O’Connor and Aimee Willmott went on to reach the final.
Great Britain took their medal tally to 16 (six gold, five silver, five bronze) thanks to silvers in the men’s 50m butterfly for Ben Proud and 100m backstroke for Georgia Davies. Molly Renshaw won bronze in the women’s 200m breaststroke.
There was a fabulous finish to the evening as the Glasgow crowd continue to witness the emergence of what could well be a future British superstar in the towering shape of 6ft 3in 17-year-old Freya Anderson.
The world and European junior 100m freestyle champion followed up her last-leg heroics from Sunday’s mixed medley relay as she anchored home another gold, this time a first-ever women’s 4x200m freestyle relay title for Great Britain alongside Eleanor Faulkner, Kathryn Greenslade and Holly Hibbott.