Seemingly destined for gold, but ultimately forced to settle for silver at the European short-course swimming championships in Glasgow last night, Duncan Scott insisted that strategic goals must trump the pursuit of instant gratification.
Having decimated the British record for the 200 metres freestyle by clocking 1:40.42 in the morning heats, the 22-year-old looked head and shoulders above his contemporaries as the final passed half-way.
This showpiece is an opportunity to hone crafts and tune competitive strings ahead of the intense duels which lie ahead in Olympic year. The Scot is a natural perfectionist but has become a serial winner. There were gasps and then pockets of silence when he was overhauled at the last as Lithuania’s Danas Rapsys stole through to retain his title by a margin of 0.30 seconds, procuring his second gold of this week with Russia’s Mikhail Vekovishchev snaring bronze.
Having withdrawn from the 400m individual medley final despite scything three seconds off the Scottish record with a swim of 4:01.20 hours earlier, and then pulling out of relay duty due to cramp, this appeared a deflation for Scott.
“But that’s not really the way I’m looking at this event,” he insisted after clocking 1:41.42 in the final. “I’m trying to focus on the heats. I’m trying to swim as fast as I can in the heats. I wouldn’t have gone 1:40 this morning if I was looking to focus on the final and I maybe wouldn’t have done the 400IM.
“I’m here to challenge myself. There is a little bit in you that goes ‘my personal best would have won’. But that’s the position I’m in. It’s good to know for later competitions that if I’m in or around my best time, I’m going to be in with a shot at a medal.”
In the absence of the local hero, Max Litchfield reigned supreme in the 400IM to earn the first British gold of these championships, acquiring a maiden international title for the 24-year-old Yorkshireman in 4:01.36. “It feels weird being here in December and racing internationally,” he said. “You don’t often do that. But it’s nice to be able to show your competitive nature and swim for GB.”
Georgia Davies picked up bronze in the women’s 100m backstroke behind Dutch rival Kira Touissant and then the Welshwoman adjoined Ross Murdoch, Scott McLay and Anna Hopkin to come seventh in a mixed 4x50m medley relay final which saw Russia win a world record of 1:36.22.
It brought no consolation for Murdoch who lay second with two lengths remaining of the 200m breaststroke final, only to fade to seventh as Arno Kamminga of the Netherlands seized the title. “It’s only my second race of the season so I can’t get too caught up in the podium places at the moment,” he maintained.
France’s Melanie Henique won the women’s 50m butterfly in a championship record of 24.56 seconds, Italy’s Simona Quadarella took the 800m freestyle title, Germany’s Marius Kusch prevailed in the men’s 100m butterfly while Freya Anderson qualified fastest for tonight’s 100m freestyle final.