arena Swim of the Week: Freya Colbert Hits 4:35.50 400 IM To Lock In Worlds Spot

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Disclaimer: Swim of the Week is not meant to be a conclusive selection of the best overall swim of the week, but rather one Featured Swim to be explored in deeper detail. The Swim of the Week is an opportunity to take a closer look at the context of one of the many fast swims this week, perhaps a swim that slipped through the cracks as others grabbed the headlines, or a race we didn’t get to examine as closely in the flood of weekly meets.

British Swimming has a history of implementing particularly stringent qualifying standards for major international competitions, and although that’s the case once again this year, it didn’t stop Freya Colbert on Day 1 of the British Swimming Championships in Sheffield.

Colbert entered the competition with a best time of 4:39.80 in the women’s 400 IM, nearly four seconds slower than the standard put in place by British Swimming (4:36.00). However, Colbert went out and won an exciting battle with fellow teenager Katie Shanahan, smashing her personal best time in 4:35.50 while getting under the automatic standard for the World Championships.

Colbert, who turned 19 last month, set her previous PB at last summer’s Commonwealth Games where she finished fourth, and she also logged a time of 4:40.06 to win bronze at the 2022 European Championships.

Relative to those two swims, Colbert made a significant improvement over the middle 200, splitting 2:27.84 in Sheffield compared to 2:31.92 at Euros and 2:31.37 at the Commonwealth Games.

Split Comparison – Colbert

2023 European Championships 2023 Commonwealth Games
2023 British Championships
29.71 29.77 29.86
1:03.71 (34.00) 1:04.00 (34.23) 1:03.31 (33.45)
1:39.47 (35.76) 1:39.13 (35.13) 1:37.89 (34.58)
2:14.47 (35.00) 2:14.78 (35.65) 2:12.28 (34.39)
2:54.98 (40.51) 2:54.32 (39.54) 2:51.01 (38.73)
3:35.63 (40.65) 3:35.37 (41.05) 3:31.15 (40.14)
4:08.38 (32.75) 4:08.24 (32.87) 4:03.71 (32.56)
4:40.06 (31.68) 4:39.80 (31.56) 4:35.50 (31.79)

In the head-to-head battle with Shanahan, Colbert trailed by around a second at the halfway mark and then began to make her push on the breaststroke leg, moving into the lead at the 250 turn before pulling away.

Split Comparison – Colbert vs Shanahan

Colbert Shanahan
29.86 29.33
1:03.31 (33.45) 1:02.54 (33.21)
1:37.89 (34.58) 1:37.29 (34.75)
2:12.28 (34.39) 2:11.31 (34.02)
2:51.01 (38.73) 2:51.28 (39.97)
3:31.15 (40.14) 3:32.12 (40.84)
4:03.71 (32.56) 4:04.64 (32.52)
4:35.50 (31.79) 4:36.74 (32.10)

Colbert, whose decision to opt out of doing the 200 free on the same day turned out to be a good one, was the only swimmer to solidify a World Championship spot on the opening day of competition on Tuesday, and has been joined by Laura Stephens (women’s 200 fly) and Daniel Jervis (men’s 1500 free) over the last couple of days.

Shanahan, 18, went under the consideration time with her best of 4:36.74, and will likely earn a World Championship spot after British Swimming removed the specific number of discretionary selections it could make.

Colbert and Shanahan now rank third and fourth all-time in the women’s 400 IM in British history, trailing Hannah Miley (4:31.33) and Aimee Willmott (4:33.01).

Colbert followed up her 400 IM performance by winning the women’s 800 free on Day 2, recording a best time of 8:35.02, and is the top seed for the upcoming final in the 200 back after hitting another PB in the prelims (2:11.31). She also comes in as the top seed in the 400 free on Saturday.

The 2023 World Championships in Fukuoka will be the second of Colbert’s career, having placed 12th in the 400 IM, 18th in the 400 free and 19th in the 200 free last year in Budapest.

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About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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