European Championships: Ben Proud Writes Unique Line In History After Winning 50 Free Gold

Ben Proud Rome
Ben Proud: Photo Courtesy: British Swimming

European Championships: Ben Proud Writes Unique Line In History After Winning 50 Free Gold

Ben Proud made history as he added European 50 free gold to his world and Commonwealth titles in Rome.

The Briton became the first swimmer to win the world, Commonwealth and European golds in one season, Proud doing it in less than eight busy weeks.

He rose ahead after his customary superb start and a huge finish saw him take the win in 21.58, 0.02 ahead of Leonardo Deplano (21.60) and Kristian Gkolomeev (21.75).

The 27-year-old has won everything available to him since finishing outside the medals at the Tokyo Olympics, leaving him in despair and in a state of shock.

World short-course gold was followed by the global long-course title in Budapest in June, where he became the first British swimmer to claim that particular crown.

Weeks later, Proud headed to Birmingham where he won the Commonwealth title after which he told Swimming World: “I thought this was going to be the end of my career this Commonwealth Games; after this year I just think it’s the start of my sprinting career.”

It was a second European gold for Proud, who is coached by James Gibson at Energy Standard, following victory at Glasgow 2018 and fourth 50 free medal overall.

Proud stood atop the podium for the third time this European summer in the 50 free alone having been awarded his medal by two-time Olympic champion Anthony Ervin.

Ben Proud LEN

Ben Proud: Photo Courtesy: LEN

Proud said:

“Every experience has been brilliant.

“Budapest I’ve got very fond memories of; Birmingham home crowd; Italy, Foro Italico, beautiful pool, amazing fans.

“And it’s just been a brilliant summer – you can’t ask for any more.

“I’ve just had such an experience.

“We need to go back to the drawing board next year but we’ve got this summer to look back and go ‘that was great fun’.”

“I think I’ve found a sweet spot for my career and I will carry on enjoying it and carry on swimming.”

From Hitting Rock-Bottom To ‘Brilliant Summer’

However, it took for Proud to hit rock-bottom and consider quitting swimming before he could come back up for air, refocus and go again.

He was desolate following Tokyo, emerging from his second Olympic tilt once more without a medal despite having qualified for the final in second.

Instead he was joint fifth alongside Gkolomeev in 21.72, 0.15 off the podium but also 0.61 outside the British record of 21.11 he set at the 2018 Europeans in Glasgow.

A time that only Cesar Cielo, Fred Bousquet and Caeleb Dressel have bettered and only the American in textile.

Proud recalled:

“Twelve months ago pretty much to the day, I was trying to disappear and get my head to myself and really try to bump off what was really the worst point in my swimming career.

“I have only got myself to blame for what happened last year at the Olympics.

“I was putting pressures on myself that shouldn’t have been there and I didn’t realise but that was forcing me to hit rock-bottom.

“I went through a very tough winter and ended up hitting rock-bottom and losing relationships and losing my mental health and getting to the point where I was about to walk away from the sport.

“It took hitting rock-bottom to be like right the only way is up and I’m only going to do this if I can find a love for it and if I can do something I can make sustainable but also enjoy as a career. I’m 27.

“So I started making changes and I think the biggest thing I did was I was true to myself.

“I did things I wanted to do and went to places I wanted to go, took the time off when I needed it and had brilliant support from some great people this year who have all played different roles to get me where I am.”

PROUD Benjamin GBR Gold Medal Men's 50m Freestyle Abu Dhabi - United Arab Emirates 19/12/21 Etihad Arena FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) Photo Andrea Masini / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

Ben Proud: Photo Courtesy: Andrea Masini / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

Of whether there was a turning point, Proud added:

“There was one specific moment which for me is quite private. It ultimately changed a lot of my direction in my life.

“The toughest point was also a breath of fresh air because for once in the past couple of years I had clarity as to where I’m going and what I need to do.

“It was around that stage that I was thinking about walking away from the sport but luckily I had the right people like Mark Skimming (at Bath University) who just kept me going, kept me in the water and let me have the time to realise what I want to do and allow me to move on.”

He resolved to return to Turkey with strength coach Marco Cosso and James Gibson, the former having had a major impact on his life in recent months.

“He believed in me more than I believed in myself at that point and I was going through the motions but I was also trying to recover from the year.”

Without him realising, the seed of what would become a beautiful summer had been sown.

“Coming to Budapest and winning the gold medal was like a gift, that was the best thing that could have happened to me at the time for the team around me and for myself.

“Off the back of that we’ve said we’ve got the opportunity to try and do this great summer.

“I tell you what, massive respect to the people who do this year round – the Caeleb Dressels, the Adam Peatys – physically and mentally, it’s just exhausting, it’s really tough.

“I think it showed in that race tonight, a little bit slower but I can’t hold that performance to anything.

“I have to be grateful to get a medal and to have done what I’ve done.”

The trifecta completed, Proud knows there is plenty of training to be done, he has the speed but not the endurance.

Despite his best efforts of just coming into the meet at the Foro Italico to have fun, the former Plymouth College athlete put pressure and expectation on himself.

He said:

“I wasn’t coming here to come second and I am just very grateful to have swum quick enough because having the Italian a couple of lanes over, he had a brilliant swim tonight. I consider myself quite lucky.”

On Dressel And The Demands Of Olympic Delay


Ben Proud: Photo Courtesy: Andrea Staccioli / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

Nothing has been heard of Caeleb Dressel since he withdrew from the World Championships in Budapest.

Following his victory in the Hungarian capital, Proud sent his best wishes to the American who he described as ” the one that will be better day in and day out”.

Proud said after completing his season in the Eternal City:

“This year I’ve got – not a concern for Dressel – but he has had a phenomenal five, six years, I’m happy that he has managed to have some time away.

“I don’t actually know what’s going on but I think after the Olympics it’s been tough on everyone; the Olympic delays have been tough on everyone.”

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