The weekend saw the Great Britain team pick up a clutch of medals – including five on the final night of the competition – to add to their tally at the European Championships. British Swimming, powered by British Gas, landed a total of 18 medals in Budapest, with podium places for Fran Halsall, Kate Haywood, Rebecca Adlington, Ellen Gandy, and the Women’s 4x100m Medley Relay team; whilst at the equivalent Diving European Championships, pair Megan Sylvester and Monique Gadding also contributed to British success in the pool.
The 18-medal total is Great Britain’s best-ever return from a European event, smashing the previous record of 13, particularly impressive given that the European Championships are not the main focus of the season, as the Great Britain team look towards the Commonwealth Games in October.
Halsall (pictured right) won silver in the Women’s 100m Butterfly, bronze in the 50m Freestyle and was part of the gold medal-winning 4x100m Medley Relay team, taking her personal medal tally to five and making her Britain’s most successful woman at the Championships. Her performance in the 100m Butterfly delivered a new British record of 57.40, gold going to Sweden’s Sarah Sjoestroem in 57.32
Whilst an impressive time for Halsall, she was disappointed with silver, desperately wanting gold to prove how far she has come in an event she used to refer to as a “fun, warm up” race.
“I wanted the gold very much but I’ve got to be happy,” she said later. “It was a personal best, a British Record and a really good swim but I still feel I could have taken the gold – maybe next time.
“Losing by eight hundredths of a second – I’ll feel that for the next year’s training, that’ll be a lot of motivation. Just missing the gold is annoying.”
On the final night, Halsall added two more to her medal tally. Firstly, joined by Gemma Spofforth, Kate Haywood and Amy Smith, the foursome took gold in the Women’s 4x100m Medley after the Russian team was disqualified for an early take over.
Britain came home in 3:59.72, just outside their own Championship Record of 3:59.33. Sweden touched for the silver in 4:01.18 and Germany took the bronze in 4:03.22.
“We wanted to win it in our own way and I’m a little bit disappointed that we didn’t,” said Spofforth. “We’ve got a great medley relay team and a large part of our success tonight is down to the girls who swam this morning Stacey Tadd, Jemma Lowe and Lizzie Simmonds who put us in a good lane.”
Halsall then rounded off her European Championships campaign with a bronze in the Women’s 50m Freestyle, missing out on silver by just 1/100th of a second to Hinkelien Schreuder of the Netherlands.
“Last time I came to the Europeans I got one medal, so to come away with five is incredible,” said Halsall. “It was a big challenge for me getting up and coming down again after the medals throughout the week.”
Haywood also went onto individual acclaim, taking the silver medal in the Women’s 50m Breaststroke as a fitting end to a year battling back from injury, surgery and recovery, in a personal best of 31.12.
She said afterwards, “I thought I was going to come here and get no medals so to get two in one session, I’m so happy. I’ve had ups and downs this week but I’m showing signs that my recovery is nearly complete. I’m so glad I ended on a high with two medals on the final night.”
Double Olympic Champion Becky Adlington returned to form with a win in a thrilling Women’s 400m Freestyle.
In the 400m Freestyle, Adlington pulled out her characteristic strong finish, overhauling Denmark’s Lotte Friis and France’s Ophelie Cyriell Etienne to take gold in a time of 4:04.56. Fellow Brit Jo Jackson and Olympic bronze medallist was fifth in 4:09’14.
Adlington commented, “That meant so much to me. It’s better to come back here smiling than crying like I did after the disappointment of 800m.”
“Everybody’s expecting so much of me, I don’t want to let people down,” she continued, “but I let myself down when I think about everybody else being let down.”
Ellen Gandy also earned a fitting celebration for her 19th birthday, swimming an impressive race to take bronze in the Women’s 200m Butterfly.
“I opened my cards a couple of days ago – they were in my case and I couldn’t resist,” she admitted, “but a bronze medal is an awesome present.”
Elsewhere, Stacey Tadd finished seventh in the Women’s 200m breaststroke in 2:28.84, having set a new English record in the heats.
“I’m slightly disappointed to have gone slower tonight,” she said. “My aim here was to go faster from heats to semis to final and I just missed that goal but this whole experience has been good for me and I can now look to the Commonwealth Games with more confidence.”
Jo Jackson (British Gas ITC Loughborough) and Jazmin Carlin (British Gas ITC Bath) both narrowly missed out on a place in the final of the Women’s 200m Freestyle finishing ninth and 12th overall.
Meanwhile, diving pair Megan Sylvester and Monique Gladding stormed to their first European medal in the Women’s 10m Synchro. Lying fifth after the first round, the girls kept their heads to move up to third with their second required dive, the Back ½ Somersault piked.
The British pair dived consistently throughout the rest of the rounds, securing bronze with their final dive, scoring 74.88 to finish in third place with a total score of 300.66.
Gladding enthused, “I’m so happy to get that medal after what has been a really tough year for both of us. It’s great to turn the corner and show what we can do when we’re fit.”
She continued, “I had hip surgery this time last year and the recovery from that is a long process but I feel like I’m well on the way and results like this really help.”
Sylvester added: “We’ve not done a lot training this year because of Monique’s hip and the fact I’ve grown four inches which means we’ve had to start over with how I approach the dives…We had a solid list of dives and held it together before saving the best until last for the medal.”
In the Women’s 3m Synchro, Alicia Blagg and Rebecca Gallantree gave a strong performance to finish fifth with a score of 280.08., scoring nearly 30 points more with the final list of dives than the morning preliminaries where they qualified 8th for the final.
Anna Young, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine