Having endured a season of frustration in 2018 which forced him first into self-analysis and then reconstruction, the 25-year-old picked the ideal moment to create waves and pump up his volume again last night at the British Swimming Championships with a silver medal that felt like a strike at gold.
Buoyant once more, Murdoch resembled his old vibrant self in furiously chasing down James Wilby in the final of the 200 metres breaststroke. The Englishman wrested away the Scot’s Commonwealth title in Gold Coast 12 months ago. He was made to work for another crown here. The twin pursuit pushed both men under the qualifying mark laid down for July’s world championships in Gwangju. A boon for both, but especially the runner-up.
“I’m just delighted to show something for all the work I’ve put in,” said Murdoch, whose time of 2:07.96 was his fastest in two years and the fourth-best of his entire career in casting Stirling University cohort Craig Benson adrift in third.
“To not have a personal best for a while is tough for keeping the motivation up. I’ve been chasing my time from the 2014 Commonwealth Games for quite a while now. To see that little things are coming along, and then to see that a tactical error could have possibly changed the result, it’s looking really positive. And that should definitely be good enough to get to South Korea.”
Under the terms of reference, Wilby’s slot is guaranteed. Murdoch is all but assured with just the formalities of Monday’s selection meeting to await. The dividend for hard labour all winter, he admitted. ”The skills really have come on. I really wanted to work on the starts and turns. You can see that improvement.”
James Guy again proved the butterfly master by adding the 100m title to his collection in 51.97 secs, although he said afterwards: “I wanted to go much faster than that.”
Duncan Scott was more satisfied with his second place in 52.25 secs, besting Todd Cooper’s fierce Scottish record which had stood untouched since 2008. It was ideal as a tune-up for the European and Commonwealth gold medallist’s planned weekend double assault in the 200m freestyle and individual medley – and the worlds.
“It’s a big personal best,” said Scott. “I wouldn’t say qualification in that event is something I’m particularly going for. The fly events are just to challenge myself, I find them harder than freestyle.”
The crowds at Tollcross have been disappointing all week, perhaps a symptom of Easter holidays, maybe the consequence of a sport undervaluing its inherent appeal and that of icons like Adam Peaty. The Olympic champion supports the soon-to-start renegade International Swimming League, which promises to bring prizes and attention outside of the major championships.
But the smattering of onlookers appreciated the raw emotion of Jessica Fullalove who emerged in tears after breaking her personal best to win the 200m backstroke. The Lancastrian, 22, has had to bounce back from the torment of breaking each of her hands in freak collisions in the training pool over the past two years.
“That it happened twice was unbelievable and the second time I felt was the end,” she admitted. “I didn’t know if I’d be able to come back from it. But I had a really good support system around me and I knew I hadn’t reached my full potential yet.”
Meanwhile, Freya Anderson added 100 metres freestyle victory to the 200m previously secured with Lucy Hope the leading Scot in fourth.