After Steve Parry had gotten the monkey off British Swimming’s back with bronze in the 200m butterfly, the team had then gone through the rest of the meet to the final night with no further podium success. Not for want of trying as the will-he-won’t-he saga of James Goddard in the 200m backstroke would attest.
But that was the situation as the final night of finals loomed and the unassuming David Davies was realistically Britain’s last hope. He’d burst onto the international scene in 2002 at the Manchester commonwealth games and then backed that up with a 4th placed finish at the World Championships in 2003. That was the same position Parry had finished in the 200m butterfly and we knew what he’d gone on to do so we were hopeful.
Hopes had been raised even further by an excellent heat performance, Davies being the only finalist to break 15 minutes in a PB of 14:57.03 only his second foray under 15 minutes and with the legendary Grant Hackett looking a little out of sorts (later we discovered he’d been swimming with a punctured lung) expectations went through the roof on the prospect of something truly special.
And what a final it turned out to be. In his usual style the Australian was off like a shot, opening up a body length lead by the 100m turn and extending that to 3 seconds at 400m. The rest of the field were in a line at that point, but Davies and American Larsen Jensen gradually chipped away at the advantage, dropping swimmers as they went until they finally shook off the attentions of Yuri Prilukov at around 1000m with Hackett’s lead down to tenths of a second.
It was head to head stuff; Jensen thought he could bridge the gap and stuck for home leaving Davies trailing, but the Welshman never gave up and while ultimately Hackett’s finishing burst was too much, he pulled Jensen and Davies home in sub 14:50 times – only the third and fourth men to achieve that feat. Davies’ 14:45.95 is the oldest British record in circulation and with Prilukov in 4th in 14:52, it was the fastest ever 1500m race at that point.
Davies celebrated his bronze medal as you would do, by smacking Hackett on the head, but it was a remarkable achievement and an incredible race.
Here’s the Australian TV coverage of that race, called by Bruce McAvennie and 1500m legend Kieren Perkins.