PLYMOUTH Leander’s Laura Stephens ended the European Championships on a massive high by helping Great Britain’s women’s 4x100m medley relay team to record-breaking gold medal.
Stephens swam the butterfly leg as Great Britain smashed the national record by nearly three seconds and also broke the European Championship record with a 3:54.01 swim.
That time would have won silver at the last Olympics and was five seconds quicker than GB swam at the last World Championships where they secured a place at the Tokyo Games.
Stephens, after a busy meeting that saw her swim in the 50m, 100m and 200m individual butterly events, produced a great leg with a 57.55 second split to keep Great Britain in the lead after tremendous swimmers by Kathleen Dawson and Molly Renshaw. Anna Hopkin brought GB home to victory, finishing more than two seconds ahead of the highly-fancied Russian and Italian teams.
The British women’s win came just minutes after their male counterparts had also won gold.
Afterwards Renshaw said: “Coming into this and watching the boys in the call room win gold, we were just so pumped behind the scenes.
“We knew that if we were all swimming best times, we could be up there on top of the podium.”
The British team, despite being unrested, won 26 medals in total at the championships and Stephens’ performances in Budapest will have boosted her hopes of making the British team for this summer’s Olympics.
She was the top performing British athlete in both the individual 100m and 200m butterfly events.
The University of Plymouth student reached the 200m final, finishing sixth. She produced three consistent swims of 2:09.15, 2:09.32 and 2:09.42.
In the 100m event, she finished 10th overall with a 58.45 swim in the semi-final, while in the 50m butterfly heats she clocked 26.92, which was not far off her best.
The reigning champion was just edged out on the touch by Finland’s 6ft 10in star Ari-Pekka Liukkonen. Liukkonen clocked 21.61 seconds, with Proud touching in 21.69.
Proud, whose eyes are totally focussed on Tokyo, said afterwards: “It’s all about practising the round-to-round swims, working on the little details and getting faster each time.
“We’re not fresh, we’re not ready, that will come in two months. Right now, it’s about getting yourself into the race, trying to get your hand onto the wall.
“It’s great racing against these guys. I’ve been racing against Ari (Ari-Pekka Liukkonen) for a long time now, so it was great to be a part of that race and great to see him become European champion.”
Former Mount Kelly swimmer Federico Burdisso ended the championships with two medals for Italy.
He took individual silver in the men’s 200m butterfly with a 1:54.28 swim and then helped his country win bronze in the men’s 4x100m medley relay on the final day. He also finished fifth in the individual 100m butterfly.
Finishing off the week at the @LENaquatics champs with the 4×100 Medley Relay GOLD! 🤩 what a week, what a team 🇬🇧 @britishswimming
Thank you for the amazing support from home @PlymouthLeander @PlymColSport. Time to get back to work @RobinArmayan 🔥 pic.twitter.com/rkTP3kAh5I
— Laura Stephens (@laurakjs99) May 24, 2021