James Guy came to Budapest looking to put the individual frustrations of Rio 2016 behind him but the Bury swimmer’s hopes of an individual medal in Budapest now largely rest on Monday’s 200m freestyle after disappointment in the 400m.
Back at the World Swimming Championships where he had established himself two years earlier in Kazan by claiming two golds and a silver, Guy was looking to make up for an Olympic year when he missed out on an individual medal.
The first opportunity came in the 400m free but after qualifying with the sixth fastest time for the final, he could not improve come the evening session, touching home in 3:45.58, nearly a second slower than in Brazil.
Guy was understandably frustrated, and while his focus for the week remains the shorter 200m – an event in which he is the defending world champion – he admitted he’d been expecting to go faster on day one.
He said: “Based off this morning, I’d felt so relaxed and controlled.
“For what it was I came in and saw 3:45 and thought ‘Is that it?’ This morning I felt really strong so hopefully I can deliver in the 200m.
“The 200 is better than the 400 so hopefully doing the work for the 400 does help the 200 back end. It will be an interesting race.”
As he had in the heats, Guy flew out of the blocks, turning first inside world record pace after 50 metres.
He was unable to maintain that speed however, admitting that he had been drawn into a personal battle with 2008 Olympic champion Park Tae-Hwan.
While the pair kept pace with each other, the trio of Rio medallists, led by an untouchable Sun Yang, pulled clear, while Guy faded in the closing stages.
The 21-year-old will have the chance to make up for that disappointment immediately on Monday, in the 200m, with the pressure on to get it right in his favourite event.
Guy added: “It felt ok, I wasn’t dying that much at all so I thought I’d go faster than that. I thought I would go 3:43-mid to high. It’s an ok swim.
“I think I might have caught up a little bit with Park beside me. I was kind of swimming off him a little bit.
“I think I’ll go back and have a rest and chill out. I was chatting to (Adam) Peaty about going to neutral and getting relaxed again. I felt good all day and hopefully I can do the same again and have a good 200.”
Meanwhile Holly Hibbott, who like Guy previously benefitted from support from charity SportsAid while progressing through the ranks, is confident she will improve on her first swim in Budapest after missing out on the final of the 400m freestyle.
The Stockport Metro swimmer came 15th on her Worlds debut, finishing six seconds off her personal best in a heat won by five-time Olympic champion Katie Ledecky.
And with the 800m free to come later in the week, 17-year-old Hibbott expects to learn from the experience.
She said: “To be in a heat one lane away from the Olympic champion and the world record holder is pretty special.
“I wanted to get some experience from the first race and I think I’ve done that.
“I’ve got the 800m on Friday so hopefully I can learn from that.”
You can help the next generation of young British swimmers by getting involved in SportsAid Week this September with five-time Paralympic champion Ellie Simmonds OBE. Find out more about how you can support the week of fun and fundraising by visiting www.sportsaid.org.uk/sportsaidweek.
Image courtesy of Gillette World Sport via YouTube, with thanks.