Freya Anderson On Fire: 6th To Gold Ahead Of Queen Pellegrini & European Sprint Double

Freya Anderson is on fire - Photo Courtesy: Patrick B. Kraemer

European Short-Course Championships

Glasgow, Day 4 Finals

Additional reporting from Liz Byrnes, Swimming World European Correspondent

Federica Pellegrini – also known as the Lioness of Verona – has iconic status in the 200m freestyle. Yes, there were the five titles in the 200m freestyle in the little continental pool since she first topped podium in 2004 in Trieste at the end of a year that delivered Olympic silver.

The bigger prizes included 2008 Olympic gold, an unprecedented seven podium places in World long-course Championship waters, including four crowns and a World record – still standing – from a glorious double at home in Rome back in 2009.

Tonight in Glasgow, La Fede sought a sixth European s/c title, Femke Heemskerk of the Netherlands and Barbora Seemanova of the Czech Republic among those blocking her way.

Pellegrini, 31, kept them at bay. But not Freya Anderson: the British 18-year-old who claimed her first senior solo medal of any colour when she took the 100m title two days ago, roared into podium contention and down the lap and then, momentum rolling, got her claw to the wall first.

The queen of 200m free racing had been blocked. Pellegrini purred of being satisfied after battle: she had a fever and under those circumstances, silver after six golds and 16 golds over 200m free overall, including title Olympic, World, European, Mediterranean and Universiade, over a 15-year period was not at at all bad.


Freya Anderson into the all-time top 10 at No 10 for victory in the 100m freestyle at the European Short-Course Championships in Glasgow – Photo Courtesy: Patrick B. Kraemer


Federica Pellegrini – Photo Courtesy: Patrick B. Kraemer

In 1:52.77, Anderson, coached by Alan Bircher at Ellesmere College Titans, cracked the British record she set on International Swimming League duty for the Aqua Centurions pro team captained by Pellegrini. There was the record, there was the gold ahead of Pellegrini and there was the 100-200 double to celebrate.

On 1:53.33 at the European derby of the ISL in London, Anderson had warned of improving form ahead of a 1:53.62  from Britain teammate and London Roar charge Holly Hibbott, both inside the 1:53.79 national record that had stood to Fran Halsall since 2009.

Tonight, Pellegrini looked set to pan gold once more but Anderson’s dash through the ranks from sixth with 50m to go and then down a rippling last lap sprint proved too much for the Italian, who was took silver in 1:52.88, the bronze to another experienced senior, Femke Heemskerk, of The Netherlands, in 1:53.35.

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Freya Anderson celebrates her win – Photo Courtesy: LEN


Federica Pellegrini congratulates Freya Anderson with Femke Heemskerk

The ebb, flow and high-tide backend that saw Anderson take more than a second off the other podiums placers over the last 50m – and, as the

mid-section of the race confirms, she was never over a second away from the helm of battle, racing with one eye on her lane and plan, the other peering across the pool to see how a pantheon in motion was progressing:

  • 27.02; 56.26 (6) 1:25.46 (6) 1:52.77 (27.31) Anderson – 56sec out, 56sec home
  • 26.44; 55.46 (2) 1:24.47 (2) 1:52.88 (28.41) Pellegrini
  • 26.68; 55.66 (4) 1:24.67 (3); 1:53.35 (28.68) Heemskerk

Freya Anderson; Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

Anderson had a relay to get to but managed to say: “I’m overwhelmed and really happy as I did absolutely not expect this medal.”

She later returned to speak to Swimming World’s Liz Byrnes and added:

“I definitely didn’t expect that. It was a very tactical race I thought: I thought to try and be with the girls at 100 and 150 and see what I had left on the last 50 and luckily it was good enough.”

Had she been nervous in such grand company? “I quite like having nerves, it shows that you are excited for the race and if I don’t have them it is kind of worrying but then you have to use the nerves as a good thing to get you pumped so I would rather have nerves than not.

“Experience plays a part in it as well: I was very lucky to be selected on junior teams when I was quite young so I got to experience the world stage quite young and be exposed it. It’s practise makes perfect really and exposure makes you less nervous. I didn’t put any expectation on myself coming on. I was saying even before we started – oh my god, we are racing tomorrow. It didn’t feel like it so I think that’s good, coming into it quite relaxed and not expecting anything so there is no pressure on yourself to do that well.”

Anderson’s skills and back-end speed have come far in the past three years.  Had she noticed how far?

“Really far. I’ve never had a September to December block of training because I have always had an injury or something stopping me so to get that under my belt was really reassuring and I have been working on my skills for god knows how many years and finally it’s paying off.”

She looked back at the moments that counted most on the learning curve of stepping up to win no matter who may be in the lanes next to her, saying: “I did world juniors in 2017 and won the 100. Rikako Ikee [JPN] was in it – I don’t know how I beat her but I did. There were a few Canadian girls. To win that I was shocked so I guess that was a stepping stone.


Freya Anderson at World Championships in July 2019 – Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

Anderson moved to Ellesmere in 2015 for academic reasons. She had GCSEs coming up so her parents thought it would be good to get her schooling and swimming merged. Exams behind her, Anderson remains in Ellesmere and is taking a year out to focus only on swimming, her shot at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on the horizon.

Bircher, an open water and distance freestyler for Britain in his own racing days,  has earned plaudits from peers for his work with Anderson. What was her relationship with the coach like, Anderson is asked.

“Really good. He is really chilled but you don’t ever want to let him down so in training he is mates with everybody and jokes around like he is one of the kids. But also you want to impress him, he has created a really good environment in Ellesmere where you don’t ever want to let him down and you always want to do your best.”

Anderson did not let anyone down today. Quite the opposite, a double sprint triumph in the treasury. Expected? “It definitely was really unexpected: even when I touched the wall in the 200 I saw the Italian flags go up and I thought ‘aw, I’ve just missed it’ but then I saw the one by my name and I was like hang on a minute, I was really happy.”

She paid plaudits to Pellegrini and Heemskerk, saying:

“I know their history and how amazing they are. I was on the ISL team with Federica so she is really nice and so is Femke: a really nice, friendly environment but we are also competitors at the same time. I treat them as competitors I guess which is weird saying that now. I used to look up to Federica and to say that I am beating her is really weird.”

They were not her childhood idols however. Anderson was considered a breaststroke swimmer in her youth. She recalled:

“My idol was Ruta Meilutyte because I used to be a breaststroker back in the day and I remember watching her winning gold at the Olympics – that is my first memory. The turning point of my career was when I was 13: I made nationals when I was 12 in breaststroke and then I had a bad year and then my coach at the time Paul Remmonds said to me that you are either going to give up or you going to get your head down and keep going. Then the next year when I was 14 was my breakout year I guess at nationals.”

Remmonds handed over a fit swimmer to Bircher, Anderson, whose first clubs were Hoylake and then Wirral Metro, noting: “I always had a good freestyle base training with Paul and then at that nationals (when she was 14) it came out that I was good at freestyle as well as breaststroke.

Those She Pipped…

Pellegrini, the 2008 Olympic champion and multiple World champion, pointed to being poorly and was happy under the circumstances:

“I’m content with this silver. I haven’t been feeling well today, I have a fever. In this situation it is good to have this race going this way.”


Federica Pellegrini with a crown of water as the queen of 200m free racing – Photo Courtesy: Patrick B. Kraemer

Heemskerk announced that we had just witnessed her last 200m in these championship waters:

“This was my last 200m at the short-course Europeans, so I wanted to perform well. I admit that I’m totally exhausted but it was satisfying to reach the podium.”

Anderson arrived in Glasgow with junior honours aplenty but  no solo senior medals to her name. Now she has two golds, after victory in the 100m two days ago.

Anderson – Where Did That Come From? From A Place Long In The Making

Podium ANDERSON Freya GBR Gold Medal KLEVANOVICH Elizaveta RUS Silver Medal OZBILEN Selen TUR Bronze Medal 100 Freestyle Women Finals LEN 45th European Junior Swimming Championships Helsinki, Finland M‰kel‰nrinne Swimming Centre Day02 05-07-2018 Photo Andrea Masini/Deepbluemedia/Insidefoto

Freya Anderson, flanked by Elizaveta Klevanovich, RUS, left, and Selen Ozbilen, TUR, after claiming gold in the 100m freestyle finals at the 2018 European Junior Swimming Championships Helsinki – Photo Andrea Masini/Deepbluemedia/

The Pool commentator gushed ‘where did that come from’? From the place it’s long been building.

Back in 2016 when Britain was celebrating Adam Peaty, Olympic Champion, Anderson was celebrated as the Emerging Swimmer of the Year by British Swimming after a fine season that saw her claim gold in the 100m freestyle at the European Junior Championships in Hodmezovasarhely, Hungary.

Anderson won her debut British title in 2017, that triumph granting her a first senior call-up to for Great Britain. At the World Championships in Budapest, Anderson raced in the 50m and 100m free and the 4x100m medley.

That same year, she claimed the World Junior 100 metre freestyle title in Indianapolis.

Down Under on the Gold Coast for the 2018 Commonwealth Games for England, Anderson claimed two bronze medals, in the 4x100m and 4x200m free relays.

Back home she collected European Junior 50 and 100m freestyle titles for her growing treasury and then raced in seven events at the Glasgow 2018 senior European Championships, medalling in four of them.

There were golds in both the women’s 4x200m Free and mixed 4x100m Medley topped bronzes in the women’s 4x100m Medley and mixed 4x100m Free. In the 100m freestyle, she flew under the radar, in fourth.

This past summer in Gwangju at the World Championships, Anderson made her first global podium, for bronze with Britain teammates in the 4×100m mixed medley: she followed Georgia Davies (59.25), Adam Peaty (57.73) and James Guy (50.72) with a 52.98 freestyle split for a combined 3:40.68, the race won by Australia in 3:39.08, the United States on 3:39.10 for silver.


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4 years ago

She is incredible,

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