BEN PROUD secured Great Britain’s first gold of the World Aquatics Championships in Budapest with a stunning victory in the men’s 50m freestyle on Friday evening.
Leading from the front after a phenomenal start, the 27-year-old former Plymouth College pupil got the fastest reaction time of the field, maintaining a half body-length lead down the length, before touching out Michael Andrew of the USA in a classic splash-and-dash finish.
The clocked a time of 21.32 seconds, which was the fastest he has ever gone in a final.
Half-a-decade on from his World Championship 50m butterfly triumph in this same pool, the title of world’s fastest man in water is one that takes a special place in Proud’s career record to date.
“Five years ago, I won the 50m butterfly here and that was a complete dream, because that was what I started swimming for,” said the former Plymouth Leander man. “But I’ve put so much work into this freestyle over the last eight or nine years, and to be able to say when I retire that I’ve been the world champion at the 50m freestyle is a very, very special thing,”
Proud finished a disappointing fifth in this event at the Tokyo Olympic Games last year, so was delighted to bounce back less than 12 months later to win the world title.
“A lot more people work for the 50m freestyle, because it’s an Olympic event – we don’t have the other 50s at the Olympics, so this is a real specialist event in swimming, possibly the blue riband event – although I do think the 100m free is more like that,” he added.
“For me, this is a very special moment.
“I do know we are missing a few people at the pool, but a World Championships, it’s all about getting through the rounds and getting your hand on the wall.
“I’m absolutely chuffed to be able to say I’ve done that today, I’ll go back to my team, show them the medal and everyone has supported me this last few months really deserved something.”
Proud’s former Plymouth College team-mate Ruta Meilutyte has also won a medal in Budapest.
The 2012 Olympic champion has come out of retirement and claimed bronze in the 100m breaststroke and has also reached Saturday’s 50m breaststroke final.