The British men’s team bounced back after yesterday’s success from the ladies, claiming two bronze medals as the European Championships passed the halfway point. There was also a British record for the girls 800m freestyle relay team, but they finished just outside the medal placings.
The first medal of the night came courtesy of Kris Gilchrist who had originally finished fourth in the 200m breaststroke, only to be elevated on to the podium when Italian winner Loris Facci was disqualified for a one handed touch at the second turn. “I decided to go for it a bit more this evening,” said the Scot, “At 150m I just felt I had nothing left but I dug in to try to finish strongly. I gave it everything and I was very happy to see I’d been promoted.”
Teammate James Kirton finished back in 6th spot, just outside the personal best he set in the semi finals.
Matt Clay was the other swimmer to claim a podium placing as he took the bronze medal in the 50m backstroke after a blanket finish that saw him just 0.01s behind the silver medal. Clay had been leading coming under the flags but was still happy with the result. “I thought he’d come back at me so I needed a big finish but he touched me out,” explained the Swansea based swimmer, “Saying that, a European medal to go with Commonwealth gold has exceeded my expectations for the year.”
For the women’s 800m freestyle relay it was a bittersweet evening. Despite dropping the five year old British record by almost a second they were kept out of the medals by some incredible swimming. The German quartet smashed the world record in a time of 7:50.82, with anchor leg swimmer Annike Liebs splitting a phenomenal 1:55.64, the fastest split ever by 1.56s. Silver went to Poland who were led off by the 5th fastest 200m swim ever of 1:57.15 by Otylia Jedrzejczak and bronze to France, whose anchor Laure Manaudou produced a split of 1:56.23, which on any other night would have attracted all the headlines. Britain were a further 1.42s back in fourth with 7:57.86.
It was a mixed night of semi finals for Britain; Kirsty Balfour was the fastest qualifier for the 200m breaststroke final tomorrow after cruising through her semi, and will be joined by fellow Scot Kerry Buchan who also progressed. The news was not so good for Terri Dunning and Ros Brett who missed out in the 100m butterfly and a bemused Simon Burnett who could only manage 10th in the 100m freestyle semi finals in a time slower than his morning heat swim.
“I messed up the start and that’s something I wanted to get right tonight,” said Burnett. “In the Commonwealth Games semi finals I went 49.1 and it was so easy. I gave everything I had tonight and it just didn’t happen. Something isn’t right and we need to find out what that is.”