Return of the Max: Litchfield blasts 400IM British Record on London Return

The men’s 100m freestyle may have taken all the headlines on the third night of competition at the Aquatics GB Swimming Championship, but the swim of the day most probably came in the men’s 400 IM where Max Litchfield set a new British Record in the process of securing his place in Paris.

His time of 4:09.14 took 0.04s off the mark that had been held by Duncan Scott since 2022 and the Loughborough swimmer was understandably delighted. “I’m thrilled with that” he said afterwards, reflecting on his Olympic qualification, “and to get the British record is just the cherry on the top of the cake. I’m excited for what the rest of the week holds and the rest of the year now.”

After a difficult two years which had seen him locked out of both international selection and domestic competition, he was never going to let this chance at redemption slip. “I knew if I had the opportunity, I had a chance” he said. “And you know, thankfully, someone’s looking down on me and helped me through. And I can name a million people that have helped me get here. “

That opportunity to put himself in this position was far from assured. Reflecting on what it took to get though that period of isolation and out the other side there were three traits that Litchfield referenced: “dedication, perseverance, and persistence.”

He added: “From the moment two years ago, when everything kicked off and I couldn’t be where I wanted to be and do what I wanted to do, I just said to myself, I’m going to make the most of every situation that I get given, even though that wasn’t what I wanted it to be.

Paris will be a third Olympics for Max Litchfield having made his debut at Rio 2016

“I went out to Italy and South Africa and everywhere and trained as hard as I possibly could with some of the best people in the world. And I think that’s really paid off. In the past I’ve had setbacks and come back from them, but this is the worst one I’ve had, so to do it the way I’ve done it is awesome.”

With a ticket to Paris assured his sights now switch firmly from the past to the Olympic future and a showdown with a home favourite over the 400 IM in a certain M’sieur Marchand. “Leon’s an amazing swimmer and amazing athlete and he’s done some phenomenal things in the sport” said Litchfield, “but I can’t look at him as if I’m never going to beat him.

“I have to look at him as someone who I can beat. And, you know, the final in Tokyo wasn’t quick. And in the Olympics that happens sometimes, in most major events that happens sometimes. So you just have to go in there with confidence and swim it as fast as you can and do your best.

“It’s a race, I’ll race it as I ever do and I’ll do my own thing and we’ll see.”

As for his record breaking exploits in the London pool, the race was a matter of applying what he had been working on with Dave Hemmings since returning to the Loughborough performance centre, which had included chasing world Champion Freya Colbert in stand up 400IMs while at altitude camp. “The first 50 I was kind of thinking about my technique and my stroke and then that’s kind of where it settled in.” he explained.

“And I just kind of swept with the flow. And it’s when your training kicks in and everything you’ve done day in, day out, all that hard work when you’re doing it under fatigue and pressure in a training environment. That’s when it shows.”

But inevitably everything returns to his journey back from the wilderness that has now been completed. “I used swimming as my anchor to stay focused on on the bigger picture and what I could be doing in the future. And it’s paid off.” he reflected.

“It’s probably a lesson there for everyone to look at; just don’t give up, no matter how low you get, no matter how you’re feeling, whatever it is you’re going through, there’s always a way back.”