In terms of age group sprinting stars on the rise, Australia has its young gun Kyle Chalmers, the United States has multi-event talent Michael Andrew and now Great Britain may have just found its ‘one to watch’ in young Thomas Fannon.
Swimming for Plymouth Leander, Fannon is not a novice to international-level racing, having already competed at the European Games in Baku and the World Junior Championships in Singapore last year. However, at just 17-years old, Fannon is starting to heat things up in what’s becoming his signature race, the 50m freestyle.
Fannon’s break-out swim came at last year’s British Championships in London where the Torquay native threw down a 50m freestyle time of 22.48, thereby becoming the first British 16-year-old to ever clock a sub-23-second splash n’ dash. The closest Brit teenager up to that point was now-18-year-old stand-out Duncan Scott, who owned a time of 23.23 when he was 16.
For perspective, American teenage phenom Michael Andrew earned his National Age Group Record in the 50m freestyle event in the 15-16 age group by clocking a time of 22.33, a mark which still stands today. Fannon was just .15 off Andrew with his 2015 swim.
Riding the wave of success from London, Fannon competed at both last year’s European Games and World Junior Championships, although his time from British Championships remained his best. In Baku he scored a time of 23.03 to wind up 10th after semi’s, while in Singapore he registered a time of 22.92 to finish 11th overall.
Flash foward to just this past week in Glasgow, however, and a now-17-year-old Fannon would not deny himself a medal this time around. In prelims of the 50m at this year’s British Championships, the meet which doubled as the nation’s Olympic Trials, Fannon cranked out a time of 22.54 to wrangle in the 3rd seed after heats. With his outing, Fannon overtook Plymouth Leander teammate Ben Proud’s record from when he was 17, a time which he set at 22.65.
Taking his talent one step further in the 50m free final race, Fannon would fire off a new lifetime best and 17-year-old British Age Group Record with a new mark of 22.24, earning the silver medal behind teammate and now British National Champion, Ben Proud (21.73). Fannon’s 22.24 performance sits just outside the world’s top 25 in the event and represented the 7th time Fannon had ventured into sub-23-second territory in his young career.
With the British Olympic-qualifying standard set at 21.84 and the federation’s consideration time sitting at 21.94, Fannon will be cheering on Great Britain from on-deck as opposed to competing in Rio. With Proud as a training partner, however, he’s trending toward being a factor for Great Britain in Tokyo as they rebuild their sprint group around Proud.