Proud’s delight at claiming a hat-trick of Commonwealth Games 50m freestyle titles

BEN PROUD made history on Wednesday night by winning a third consecutive Commonwealth Games 50m freestyle title.

The former Plymouth College pupil, who this year became world champion in the event, had first won the crown as a teenager back in 2014 when the Commonwealth Games were held in Glasgow.

He then followed that up by triumphing in the Gold Coast in 2018 before destroying his rivals in Birmingham on Wednesday evening with a 21.36 second swim.

Lewis Burras, who had a brief spell at Plymouth College as a youngster, took silver in a personal best time of 21.68 seconds. They were the only two swimmers to go under 22 seconds.

Proud, who also won the 50m butterfly event earlier, said: “Third time – I don’t know if any other Commonwealth swimmers have done it, so this is another legacy swim for me.

“To have done it with another English boy on the podium next to me, it’s something very nice. I managed to hold off the young guns for one more year so for me, I’m super happy.”

“I think it’s a year ago since I was giving my interviews and burst into tears because of a bad swim at the Olympics. So much has changed.

“This is really my redemption year. Something has clicked and I’ve finally understood how to swim quick in the finals.”

Burras said: “The race felt good, it’s a PB, so to end a meet of ups and downs like this, I couldn’t be happier.

“He (Proud) is one of one. I was at Plymouth for a year when I was 13 and remember when we were competing in a meet in Sheffield. He finished the race, came up to me and gave me the time of day. Nine years later, I get to stand next to him on the podium listening to Jerusalem. It’s incredible.”

There was also another medal for Proud’s long-time Plymouth Leander team-mate Laura Stephens, who helped Team England to a bronze medal in the women’s 4x100m medley relay just a day after winning an individual silver in the 200m butterfly.

But Stephens’ joy meant more relay disappointment for Plymouth College’s South African star Aimee Canny who had to settle for a fourth consecutive relay fourth place in Birmingham.

There was also some disappointment for Leander’s multi-Paralympic champion Reece Dunn, whose tough post-Tokyo year continued with a fifth-placed finish in the S14 200m freestyle event in Birmingham.

Dunn, who was Team GB’s most successful Paralympian in Japan last year, is the world record holder at the event, but he was nearly four seconds off his best at the Sandwell Aquatics Centre.

Wednesday was the last night of swimming at the Commonwealth Games and now attentions will turn to diving, where Plymouth are represented by Matthew Dixon for Team England and Aidan Heslop for Wales. Plymouth Diving’s coach Sally Freeman is also coaching Wales in Birmingham.

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