Joe Litchfield treasured another surreal experience at a major event after securing silver as part of England’s new-look men’s 4x200m freestyle relay team at Birmingham 2022.
The Sheffield swimmer joined forces with Tom Dean, James Guy and 17-year-old Jacob Whittle as the quartet were roared to a sensational second at the Sandwell Aquatic Centre.
England’s four touched the wall in 7:07.50 behind Australia, who took the gold medal in a new Games record, with Scotland completing the podium ahead of Wales in fourth.
And on the back of the bronze he won with the 4x200m freestyle relay at the World Championships in Budapest, 24-year-old Litchfield relished his latest opportunity to test himself on the big stage.
“It has been pretty surreal,” said Litchfield, who is one of over 1,100 elite athletes on UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded World Class Programme, allowing them to train full time, have access to the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering technology, science and medical support.
“I’m 24 now and I feel I’m still a reasonably inexperienced swimmer on the team. I feel I haven’t done too much at senior level in finals.
“So going into the World final, I was a bit like ‘wow, I’m in a final’. I’ve not really been in that position and all this here, with the home crowd, it’s just all building experience towards Paris.
“This year has been one of ups and downs for me, at one point in trials I didn’t think I was going to make the Commonwealth Games at all.
“One swim at the end of the week in the 200m freestyle, I stuck myself on the team, and I’ve gone from barely making the team to world bronze, Commonwealth silver.
“I was part of the 4x100m heats earlier in the week as well so it’s been great. I’m not doing the European Championships so hopefully I can have a big break now. I need it.”
The silver medal was Tom Dean’s second of the night, having finished runner-up in the men’s 100m freestyle final, and took his total tally to five silver medals at Birmingham 2022.
“That’s my fifth silver medal in four days,” he said. “If I said five medals in four days, I’d be buzzing with that, maybe I’d have like some shinier gold ones but I’m really happy with my performances. The relay is always a lot of fun and it’s another one in the bank.
“This crowd is brilliant and so uplifting. The crowd takes you out in the front end of every race, you almost have to back off as you have so much energy behind you.
“You can take yourself out too hard. It’s about using that advantage to get that ease of speed at the front end then have a really strong finish, that was my tactics going in.
“It is challenging [not to get caught up in the crowd], especially in the 200 free. You can pay for it physically if you’re out too quick. It’s a completely different thing you have to grapple with.”
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