The whispers that have hyped Freya Anderson’s immense potential in the pool were replaced by loud applause last night in Glasgow as the teenager earned what many anticipate will be the first of many major individual titles at the European short course swimming championships.
And it was done in some style as the 18-year-old unleashed her towering frame and accelerated forcefully in the women’s 100 metres freestyle final to strike gold in 51.49 seconds. Previously plagued by a painful inflammation in her spine, the Englishwoman is at ease now in standing tall. It is not unreasonable to envisage her perched on an Olympic podium next August.
She was almost half a second clear of France’s Beryl Gastaldello, who took silver, with British team-mate Anna Hopkin denied a podium spot in fourth. “It definitely feels like a real breakthrough,” said Anderson, who later helped GB set a UK record of 1.36.18 to come fifth in the 4x50 freestyle relay. “Short course has never been a strong point for me. I was expecting personal bests and maybe to make some finals. So I’m really happy with that. I could see a few of them on the last length and I just said ‘go on, get your hand to the wall.’”
A title here remains elusive for Duncan Scott. Setting a British record of 1:52.33 in the heats of the 200m individual medley, he was almost a second slower in drifting to fourth in the final with Andreas Vazaios triumphant in a European record of 1:50.85. Scott blamed an over-abundance of caffeine designed to becalm himself as the Olympic medallist bolted out of the water.
“Nothing abnormal,” he insisted, despite reports that he had been so charged that he could barely feel his own face. His has been a brutal schedule which continues into this weekend. And it’s certainly been educational, as he plots his diary for April’s trials and, beyond that, Tokyo 2020. “It’s about getting on that team first and foremost,” he cautioned.
After scraping out of the morning heats when cramp turned him into a “plank of wood”, Ross Murdoch rebounded with a Scottish record of 56.83 seconds to win his 100m breaststroke semi and claim a place in tonight’s final.
Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu rounded off a brilliant double by winning the women’s 200 butterfly and 100 medley to take her haul of European short-course titles to 19.