With Britain’s swimmers contesting two major championships in 2018, there was plenty for the swimming fan to savour this year as both meets produced some outstanding performances from the British competitors. Some of those swims were simply breath taking while there was plenty of new blood on the international scene as well. All of which made handing out the end of year gongs quite tricky but here’s our pick for 2018.
It could have been one of about 5 swimmers in this category, with many of the usual suspects, and a few new ones, putting their hands up to be considered. But in the final analysis the consistent excellence of Duncan Scott all year took our eye and gave him the nod. It started well for him on the Gold Coast, taking a record six medals, including gold over 100m freestyle where he overcame the Olympic Champion Kyle Chalmers along with 2 silvers and three bronze medals. His medal winning streak continued in Glasgow at the European Championships where he again showed his racing instincts with a fine gold over 200m freestyle from lane 8 to add to silver in the 100m event and a telling contribution to gold in the 4 x 200m freestyle relay, where Scott has become as vital as James Guy to Britain’s continued success.
If at the start of 2018 you had told Alys Thomas she would end the year as the world number 1 over 200m butterfly and have Commonwealth gold and European bronze medals in her possession, she may well have not believed you. But that’s how the year ended for the 28 year old Swansea swimmer who has started to enjoy something of an Indian summer to her career following her senior GB international debut last year.
That win on the Gold Coast was a shining example of everything going right with a swim – Thomas set off at her own pace and just kept going. And going. And going; to the extent that she left the field trailing by some considerable margin and touched the wall in splendid isolation. That touch and the realisation that followed it also gave one of the moments of the year as the magnitude of the time and the medal sank in – clearly Thomas could scarcely believe what she had done. 2:05.45 moved her to 14th on the all time rankings for that event and sets her up nicely for 2019 where she can now consider herself a genuine medal contender at the world championships.
There were numerous contenders in this category; another world record for Adam Peaty over 100m breaststroke tantalising close to a 56 point, a European record over 50m backstroke for Georgia Davies, and some astonishing relay work from Freya Anderson amongst them. Peaty’s mark was overshadowed by the controversy over the timing system (the second time LEN have caused issues for him with world records) and the others just couldn’t match the swim we picked for the sheer visceral thrill it produced.
Bleep. 21.11 seconds of white water mayhem. A touch, and Ben Proud had set the fastest time ever for 50m freestyle in textile. He had moved the mark closer to a 20-point and is now only headed on the all time list by two super suit performances, only 0.2s off the world record of Cesar Cielo. It was a stunning swim. There’s also something thrilling about the battle for supremacy Proud finds himself in against Caleb Dressel in that event; it came to nought at the world short course championships as Proud found himself again on the wrong end of a start DQ, as he had on the Gold Coast. He’ll need to sort that before it becomes a recurring issue but if he can, a mouth watering showdown awaits in Gwangju in 2019.
Britain’s juniors once again had a solid year on the international circuit, delivering 13 medals at the European junior championships and with many of them also representing the home nations at the Commonwealth Games and the senior national team at the European Championships. There were three golds for Freya Anderson at the EJC combined with her relay heroics in Glasgow, while there were multiple EJC medals for Tatian Belogonoff and Emily Large too. But it was the performance of another European junior champion stepping up to the senior ranks that caught the eye in particular, as Tom Dean added senior 4x200m freestyle gold to his 200IM European junior title. Given the head of the race by Duncan Scott, Dean swam a phenomenally mature leg to hand over to James Guy and set the team up for the win.
Five individual international medals, including a complete set of Commonwealth gongs, and a host of huge personal best performances made 2018 the year that James Wilby finally announced himself onto the international stage. After a couple of seasons of being on the fringes, this year was the one that the Loughborough man pushed himself into the limelight. It started with gold over 200m breaststroke on the Gold Coast with the fastest of fast finishes and went from there, with an enormous 100m PB of 58.54 over 100m for silver in Glasgow the highlight – a swim that moved him to 3rd all time in the event behind only Adam Peaty and Cameron van Der Burgh. It continues the British tradition of producing world class breaststrokers and sets Wilby up perfectly for the season to come.
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