Britain’s swimmers on crest of a wave at worlds
KAZAN, Russia (AP) — Britain’s swimmers are riding the crest of a wave at the world championships in Kazan, recording their best ever performance and powered by new star Adam Peaty.
The 20-year-old breaststroke specialist has contributed three gold medals towards a total of four British wins, double the team’s previous best in the 42-year history of the world championships.
“I can’t really believe it,” Peaty said of Britain’s success after winning his third gold, a British team effort in the 4x100-meter mixed relay Tuesday.
Earlier, he had beaten Olympic champion Cameron van der Burgh of South Africa in the 50 and 100 breaststroke events.
“It’s my first world championships and I never thought I’d walk away with three gold medals like that,” he said. “I’ve fought. Every centimeter, every inch has been one of the hardest.”
At the end of the fourth day of eight in the pool Wednesday, Britain topped the swimming medals table, ahead of giants such as the U.S., China and host nation Russia.
The British success is all the more surprising because the national swim team was in the doldrums at the last world championships in Barcelona two years ago.
On that occasion, Britain only narrowly missed the embarrassment of failing to win a medal when Fran Halsall took bronze by 0.15 seconds in the women’s 50 freestyle on the last night of competition. Now a gold medalist and world record-holder after Tuesday’s mixed relay win, she is jubilant at the turnaround.
“We might as well just end (the world championships) here,” she joked. “It’s been fantastic and it’s a totally different position to what we were in last worlds.”
There’s no secret formula to Britain’s success, Halsall adds, just good old-fashioned camaraderie under head coach Bill Furniss, who has been in the post since February 2013.
“We’ve worked a lot as a team and had some great camps together,” she said. “Everybody’s really focused on what they need to do and the coaches that we’ve got around us. ... They’re all of the same mindset, want the same thing and bounce off each other with ideas.”
However, Britain’s success at the world championships may not necessarily translate into Olympic medals next year.
Of Britain’s gold medals in Kazan, only two - Peaty’s 100 breaststroke win and James Guy’s 200 freestyle victory - came in races that are on the Olympic program.
Away from the swimming pool, Britain has also been strong in other events at the world aquatics championships.
Another gold medal was added Tuesday when Gary Hunt won the men’s high diving from the 27-meter platform, while Tom Daley, one of Britain’s top sporting celebrities, took bronze in the men’s 10-meter diving, an Olympic event.
While the final days of competition are likely to see Britain slip behind the U.S. and Australia in the swimming medal rankings, the team is filled with optimism for next year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“We’re hungry for Rio, we definitely are now,” said Chris Walker-Hebborn, the European 100 backstroke champion. “We’re on a roll and I don’t think anything’s going to stop us now.”