2017 had a bit of the feeling of “after the Lord Mayor’s show” given the stellar performances British swimming fans were treated to in Rio, but that does not mean it wasn’t successful. When compared to previous post Olympic years (in particular 2005 and 2013) the performances were high quality, with a host of world class swims, and the medals duly followed in Budapest. Here’s our picks of the year.
Probably the most hotly contested of the gongs that we’re handing out. It’s been the Peaty show for the last three years, but 2017 was the year that the rest of the men’s team really started showing that there’s more to Britain in the pool than the breaststroke maestro. Peaty of course was a contender, so too James Guy, but based on a stunning 50m butterfly world title, added to bronze over 50m freestyle in Budapest and a hatful of British records along the way, Ben Proud just gets the nod.
Following major upheaval in his coaching regime with a change of home to Turkey and to the guidance of James Gibson, the new arrangement started well for him at trials in Sheffield, with a rapid 21.32 blast to the 50m freestyle British Record and a ticket on to the plane to Budapest. He added records over 50m butterfly as well, hinting at what may come later in the year. And what came was almost the perfect race and the world title he’d been dreaming of. Read more about his thoughts on the world championships in our exclusive interview.
Whereas the British men’s team had a whale of a year, the same can’t be said to be true on the ladies’ side. Overall 2017 was a year that may be best filed under work in progress, but there were high points. Freya Anderson hinted at her potential and Sarah Vasey swam strongly in Budapest, while Holly Hibbott made the 800m freestyle final, and learnt a lot about what’s needed at that level (and probably about how the media works too). But the pick of the new names, and the only swimmer to set a long course British Record in an Olympic event in 2017 was Jocelyn Ulyett.
It was a remarkable performance in the 200m breaststroke at trials, one that saw her shave over 5 seconds from her personal best to set a new national mark of 2:22.08. And not in an event where Britain is weak; the ladies who had finished 4th and 5th at the Olympics were racing in the lanes alongside her. As her coach Ian Hulme told us on the pullbuoy podcast, she’s suffered with knee trouble and a recurrence of that meant we may not have seen her at her best in Budapest, but it was a great year for Jocelyn who is also our Breakthrough Swimmer for 2017.
He had to get in somewhere didn’t he? It was a masterful performance in the semi final of the 50m breaststroke at the world championships, which brought Adam another world record for his collection. His own reaction summed up the quality of his 50m breaststroke world record in Budapest – the first swim ever under 26 seconds. He turned saw the scoreboard and simply said “What?! No way!” Which was pretty much what the rest of us watching were also thinking. It was a stunning swim and one that just reinforces his dominance in the sprint events.
But there were plenty of other performances to get excited about. Jocelyn Ulyett’s 200m breaststroke and Ben Proud’s 50m free stood out at trials, but possibly the best swim of that meet was Duncan Scott becoming the first British man inside 48s over 100m freestyle. Add to those James Guy’s 50.67 for 100m butterfly bronze in Budapest and his insane 1:43.80 anchor split that propelled him, Nick Grainger, Stephen Milne and Scott to a world gold in the 4 x 200 freestyle relay and there were plenty that could have taken top spot here. Peaty though remains untouchable, just as he is in the pool.
A year ago Freya Anderson had her focus on the World Junior Championships with the possibility of a trip to Budapest something she had not even discussed with her coach at Ellesmere College, Alan Bircher. Well she did make it to the senior world championships, reaching the semi finals of the 100m freestyle and breaking through the 54 second barrier for the first time in 53.91. There were reports that even then she hadn’t been focussing on Budapest, but true or not, she then went on to Indianapolis and took the world junior 100 free title in another lifetime best of 53.88.
An honourable mention must go to last year’s winner in this category Emily Large, who backed up a strong 2016 with the world junior title over 200m butterfly in Indianapolis. She also ensured she’ll make her senior international debut at the Commonwealth Games next year with that result
Bill Furniss once remarked, when asked about British success in the lake at the Beijing Olympics, that Britain had been better than other countries at moving their best pool swimmers into the open water, resulting in 3 Olympic medals. It’s not as easy as that now of course, but the trend still continues. Having not made it to Budapest in the pool, Tim Shuttleworth instead took to the lake and picked up Britain’s only open water medal at the world championships, taking bronze in the 5km event. Whether this is a permanent move remains to be seen, but it was the highlight of the year as far as exploits beyond the lane ropes are concerned.