20 at 20: 2017 World Championships Men’s 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay

We already knew the quality of Britain’s 4×200 freestyle men by the time the 2017 World Championships rolled around. After all they had won the world title in 2015 and Olympic Silver in 2016. With the US squad now shorn of both the once-again retired Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte, who was serving a suspension after his late night Rio exploits, hopes were high that they could retain that gold medal in Budapest.

A straightforward qualification put the quartet in lane 5 for the final, James Guy having been rested in the morning with one eye on his 100m butterfly semi-final. But it didn’t look like it was going to plan early on. Solid as his leg was, Stephen Milne was a little off colour on the lead off, posting a split half a second slower than his heat swim, and despite Nick Grainger improving his split with 1:46.05 on the second leg, Britain were trailing leaders USA by 3 seconds at the halfway stage, handing over in 4th place.

Enter Duncan Scott, who posted the third fastest leg of the final with 1:44.60 to move his team clear of the field and firmly into the medal positions, but the USA still led by 1.6s, having hidden their two fastest swimmers in the engine room of their relay, while Russia clung grimly on to second place.

And here came James Guy, that arch relay swimmer, on a high having qualified second fastest for the fly final. Neither he nor Scott had done what they had promised in the individual 200m, having finished 4th and 5th, but cometh the hour cometh the man. Scott had done his bit now it was Guy’s turn.

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Guy went off like a scalded cat, catching the US from the first stroke and overhauling Russia on the first 50m. By 75m he had the head of the race, but had he gone too soon? Scott appeared to think so, unable to watch from behind the blocks as Guy built his lead still further. When would the wheels fall off?

But they didn’t. Guy held on and even increased the lead on the last 25, touching home with a fabulous 1:43.80 split to secure the gold.

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