The second day in Kazan and it’s already shaping up to be a great championship for Britain with 3 medals secured and some further prospects in the bag for tomorrow, notably James Guy in the 200 freestyle, where he set a British record of 1:45.43 for second place overall. But away from the Millfield swimmer here were 4 key points on day 2.
1. Peaty’s late, late show saves the day
Through the rounds Adam Peaty has not quite been on song with his starts and turns, losing time to his rivals in both the heats and semi final. He did it again in the 100m breaststroke final, giving Cameron van Der Burgh a huge head start off the blocks and a further advantage off the turn. Fortunately his trademark finishing burst was still there, added to the knowledge he’s run down the South African in similar circumstances in Glasgow last year and the world title was his.
The knack of finding ways to win is a very handy one, and one that Peaty and his coach Mel Marshall have done well to hone. But the message is clear – come Rio next year the deficit off the blocks needs to be eliminated or a rival will take an advantage that even Peaty can’t run down. For now though it’s a job done and done well, and on to the next one, the 50m breaststroke. Van der Burgh will be a tough nut to crack.
2. Murdoch’s outside smoke can boost GB backstrokers
“You’ve got a lane you’ve got a chance” as the old adage goes. Ross Murdoch was a little off colour in the 100m breaststroke semi finals and snuck into lane 8. He made the most of that chance, and of being away from the big guns in the middle of the pool, surging with a Peaty-esque finishing burst to take a superb bronze in a PB of 59.09.
It’s an example that Liam Tancock and Chris Walker-Hebborn would do well to follow, being as they are in lanes 1 and 8 of the 100m backstroke final. Tancock was on song, recording his fastest time for 3 years in 53.19, but Walker-Hebborn was, like Murdoch, a little off the mark. His 53.39 was faster than the heats, but still off his best from trials. Both will need to be at their very best to have a chance at the podium, given the quality of the men ahead of them, but the relative solitude of the outside lanes, and the spirit of Murdoch, should give them a chance to swim their own races.
3. O’Connor’s tilt at gold probably cost her silver
“I just knew I had to stay with her as long as possible” Siobhan Marie O’Connor told the BBC after she picked up bronze in the 200Im final, referring of course to Katinka Hosszu, who set a new World record of 2:06.12 for gold. That tactic was brave, risking a chance at gold for a more certain silver, and ending up instead with bronze, as Japan’s Kanako Watanabe snuck through into second at the death.
The splits tell the story; out in 27.37 O’Connor was on a par with her semi final, but worked the backstroke extremely hard to try and nullify Hosszu’s strength, arriving at the halfway point in 59.89, 0.67s quicker than she had been the day before. That extra effort cost her on her breaststroke, normally the fastest leg of the race, where he split 37.01, 0.64s slower than the semi final and with energy reserves depleted. Her homecoming split of 31.87 was 0.4 down on the semi final, but she deserves immense credit for hanging tough at the end to keep her podium spot.
A more circumspect second 50 might have delivered a faster time overall, and possibly silver with it, but should O’Connor be criticised for having a go? For taking on the worlds best all round female swimmer at her own game? Definitely not. That racing attitude, the fearlessness she showed is something that British swimmer have lacked in recent years, and she will move onto Rio better for the experience.
4. Freeze frame that medal table now
Two days in and Britain is already 50% of the way to its best ever world championship performance with 4 medals. More surprising still, that total makes Britain the most successful nation of the first two days in terms of medal count and puts them behind only France, with two golds, in the table. Things will change over the remaining 6 days, but British fans will savour the position right now.