British swimmer Ben Proud made a successful comeback to the international scene by winning a gold and a bronze medal at the final leg of the World Aquatics Swimming World Cup in Budapest. The double world champion topped the podium in the men’s 50m freestyle and finished third in the men’s 50m butterfly, while his compatriot Adam Peaty added another silver in the men’s 50m breaststroke.
Proud shines in Budapest
Proud, who had skipped the previous two legs of the World Cup in Berlin and Athens, showed his class in the “splash and dash” event on the opening day of the competition. He faced a strong field that included Michael Andrew of the USA and Isaac Cooper of Australia, who had won the gold medals in the first and second legs respectively.
The 29-year-old, who trains at Bath University, had a solid start and built into his signature “windmill” stroke from lane two. He maintained a slight lead over his rivals as he approached the wall and touched first in 21.77 seconds, just 0.19 seconds shy of his time at the World Championships in Japan last summer.
Proud was delighted with his performance and praised the venue and the crowd. He said: “I love racing here. It’s an amazing place and I was watching the action these past two weeks so I just wanted to come and join in. That was a swim I’m really happy with, it was a good start to the season and was very fun – the crowd’s amazing and the pool’s great.”
He also revealed that his priority was to train for the end of the season, where he hopes to win his maiden Olympic medal at Paris 2024. He said: “I wasn’t able to race in Berlin and Athens as I had to get some training in, my focus is on the events at the end of the season. But I am here because I knew that I wanted to start the season with some long-course racing.”
Proud misses out on second gold by a whisker
Proud returned to action on the final day of the meet to contest the men’s 50m butterfly, where he faced another tough challenge from Andrew, who had won the event in Berlin and Athens. The Briton swam from lane eight and came within a whisker of snatching the gold, but was edged out by Andrew by 0.04 seconds.
The American clocked 23.11 seconds, followed by Abdelrahman Samed of Egypt in 23.13 seconds and Proud in 23.15 seconds. The top eight finishers were separated by only 0.38 seconds, making it one of the closest races of the weekend.
Proud was satisfied with his bronze medal and said: “To race head to head with these guys, and it’s a pretty good group is special. I was racing against some great competitors, every one of the seven is a strong swimmer.”
Peaty continues his medal streak
Adam Peaty, who had won a bronze in Berlin and a silver in Athens, continued his medal streak by taking another silver in the men’s 50m breaststroke. The triple Olympic champion put pressure on China’s Haiyang Qin, who had won three gold medals at the World Championships last year, but had to settle for second place.
Peaty finished in 26.79 seconds, just 0.46 seconds behind Qin, who clocked 26.33 seconds. The Briton improved his time from Athens by 0.10 seconds and looked confident ahead of his bid to defend his Olympic title in Paris.
He also improved his result in the men’s 100m breaststroke, where he finished fourth in 58.95 seconds, after placing sixth in Berlin and Athens.
Other British results
Oliver Morgan was the next-highest British finisher across the weekend, as he took fourth, fifth and seventh in the men’s 100m, 50m and 200m backstroke respectively. The triple British champion looked in good form throughout the competition and will aim to make his Olympic debut next year.
Other British swimmers who competed in Budapest were James Wilby (sixth in men’s 200m breaststroke), Anna Hopkin (seventh in women’s 100m freestyle), Abbie Wood (eighth in women’s 200m individual medley) and Freya Anderson (ninth in women’s 200m freestyle).