World Championships: James Guy On ‘Unbelievable’ Gwangju Medley Gold & Absence Of Peaty

James Guy: Photo Courtesy: FINIS

Little did he know at the time but James Guy played a golden part in the last men’s race to be contested at a World Championships before Covid cut a swathe through the world.

Adam Peaty had propelled Britain from seventh to first at the halfway point of the 4×100 medley relay in Gwangju almost three years ago before handing over to Guy.

He dived in for the fly leg where he was overhauled by individual gold and silver medallists Caeleb Dressel and Andrei Minakov and passed on to the baton to Duncan Scott on the anchor leg with the quartet in third.

The USA held a 1.11sec lead over Britain with Russia 0.17secs ahead but Scott soon mowed the latter down before getting Nathan Adrian in his sights.

He made inroads with each stroke after the turn before moving on to the American’s shoulder and past him into the wall in 46.14, the second-fastest split in history behind only Jason Lezak‘s 46.06 from the 2008 Olympics during the supersuit era.


Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

It was the first time Britain had beaten the USA in the medley and represented their first global title in the event.

The quartet of Luke Greenbank, Peaty, Guy and Scott set a European record of 3:28.10 with the USA and Russia second and third respectively.

At that time Tokyo 2020 was a year away and the question was whether Britain could break the United States’ Olympic dominance which had seen them win nine straight titles since Moscow 1980.

However, by the end of the year and into 2021, the landscape changed as Covid-19 reared its ugly head and cut a deadly passage through the world.

The Olympics were pushed back a year to 2021 with the World Championships in Fukuoka also delayed a year to 2022 before they were postponed until 2023 as Covid and its repercussions continued to reverberate.

However, FINA announced an “extraordinary” World Championships in Budapest with the meet set to start at the Duna Arena on Saturday 18 June.

Casting his mind back to that race in Gwangju, Guy recalled:

“Looking back it was just a massive shock, that’s why it was so great. I thought ‘we’re going to get a bronze here’.

“The way we swam it and the way Duncan stuck to his race plan and took down one of the greats – Nathan Adrian – on the last 25 was unbelievable. And that’s one thing that will probably go down in the history of swimming.

“But to be part of that and to live off that and to not have a great meet but to finish on that as a bit of a high was really cool.

“Gwangju for me was an okay meet but that was the pinnacle for me – to beat the Americans.”

Injury And Illness Force Change In Budapest

Three years have passed since that race in the Republic of Korea with the USA once more claiming the Olympic crown in Tokyo ahead of a disappointed British quartet.

The four were to reunite once more in Budapest in a bid to defend their title only for Peaty to withdraw last month after breaking his foot in training.

James Wilbysilver medallist in the 100br behind Peaty in Gwangju – underlines the depth in British breaststroke although his teammate split 0.96secs quicker than the next swiftest man.

Still a fearsome quartet but the team was dealt a body blow on Tuesday when Scott pulled out as he struggles to recover from Covid.

Lewis Burras went within 0.01 of Scott’s British 100 free record in 47.88 at the British Championships in April with Olympic 200 free champion Tom Dean going 48.06 in Sheffield.

Again quality in abundance for the anchor leg on the medley but losing an athlete of Scott’s versatile excellence would affect the strongest of teams.

It was Guy who christened the Scot “a skinnier version of Michael Phelps” following his exploits at the British Championships with a Commonwealth 400IM and world-class efforts in the 200IM and 200 free.


Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

Speaking after Peaty’s withdrawal but before Scott announced he wouldn’t compete in Budapest, Guy said:

“I think Peaty not being on the team is a massive, it was a bit of a shock when I found out what happened to his foot.

“It would have been our fourth worlds together and I’ve always shared a room with him so it will be different with him not there.

“I think it might do him the world of good him not being there; I think mentally it will make him probably a lot hungrier and see ‘actually I really want to get back into this’ and probably drive him a lot more for Paris.

“Someone with his accolades it’s hard to keep that hunger there; you look at all the greats – your Michael Jordans, your Phelps – they’ve all had a break at some point.

“And I think this is his mental break a little bit and I think seeing (Arno) Kamminga and (Nicolo) Martinenghi rattling down the breaststroke and him not being there – he’s going to think right I want to be there, I really want to get back and fight with these boys and show them who I really am.

“He’ll be missed but we’ll get over it.”

Russian Ban Resonates For Guy

Guy has won eight world medals, four of them gold, after making his debut at Barcelona 2013 where he finished fifth in the 400 free.

The 26-year-old became the first British man to win the 200 free at a long-course global meet in Kazan two years later where he was also part of the winning 4 x 200 free relay squad, anchoring them to the victory after overhauling the USA.

Two 2016 Olympic relay silvers were followed by a medal of each colour at the 2017 worlds at the same Duna Arena where this year’s meet is being staged.

In addition to the famous medley relay gold in 2019, Guy won mixed medley bronze before the delayed Olympics rolled around.


James Guy; Photo Courtesy: SIPA USA

There he won double gold in the 4×200 and mixed medley relay plus silver in the men’s medley relay to bring his Olympic haul to five across two Games.

GB came within 0.03 of the 4×2 world record last year in Tokyo with a European standard of 6:58.58 just outside the time set by the USA at the super-suited 2009 worlds at the Foro Italico.

Behind them in second were the ROC but this year there’ll be no Russian participation after they were excluded – along with Belarus – following the invasion and ongoing war against Ukraine.

Guy knows only too well the pain of competing against those who were later banned – albeit for doping infractions.

He finished fourth in the 200 free at Rio 2016 behind two men in Sun Yang and Conor Dwyer who were later handed drug bans, a year after he was second behind Sun in the 400 free in Kazan.

While Sun was eventually banned, he left behind him a trail of hurt and injustice.

Now Russia are the ones to be excluded although not as a result of the state-sponsored doping regime that they propagated but rather the act of murderous aggression inflicted by Vladimir Putin.

Despite a potential challenger being banned, Guy mused:

“It’s out of my control; when I heard the Russians weren’t going to be there I was kind of like ‘ah, it is what it is’ and didn’t really dwell on it too much.

“I always think about the things I would have won if Sun wasn’t in my events – he was the guy who got done – it cost me Olympic bronze, it cost me world gold.

“But it is what it is, I can’t turn back the clocks, but the Russians not being there I’ve really thought about it too much because we know we’ve got a really, really strong team.

“But I’ve not really thought about them.”

Guy To Fly Once More

Guy – who is coached by Dave McNulty at Bath National Training Centre – pulled out of the 100 fly in Tokyo in order to swim the mixed medley heats.

It’s something that still affects Guy who said:

“That did hurt but then again it’d never been done before (so) sacrificing my individual swim for Team GB worked out really well – we won the mixed medley, we medalled in the medley relay and that’s one thing that had never been done.

I’m proud of myself doing that and sometimes it does hurt me saying I pulled out but I am proud of what I did for my country and that’s the way I looked at it a little bit.

“I am past Tokyo, it was a great experience and I was just loving life, it was just fantastic.”


Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

Guy will compete in both individual fly events, the 100 and 200, in Budapest where he will meet the likes of Dressel and Kristof Milak.

He embraced the fatigue after competing in the Mare Nostrum, looking ahead with excitement to a busy schedule in the Hungarian capital.

“One thing I said before is enjoying what you’re doing and not being nervous because you’re under so much pressure and overthinking massively.

“It’s about racing the best in the world and at the end of the day, it’s not forever, you can’t do this until you’re 50.

“So at some point these things will come to an end so while you’re doing it enjoy what you’re doing because you’ll look back and think actually I wish I had enjoyed it a lot more.

“And that is one thing I can’t wait to get over to Budapest for because the pool is brilliant – I swam really fast over there in 2017 – my parents are coming, first time with a crowd for three years at a major meet so it’s nice to be back in the reality again of being in a pool, using the crowd as energy and that is what it’s all about.”


Notify of

Welcome to our community. We invite you to join our discussion. Our community guidelines are simple: be respectful and constructive, keep on topic, and support your fellow commenters. Commenting signifies that you agree to our Terms of Use

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x