He has a kind of finish that only a few can do in the world. In the last 50 metres he has already caught up with the uncrowned (or even crowned) king of freestyle events, the Chinese Sun Yang as well as the second most decorated swimmer in the history of the World Championships, Ryan Lochte. As the anchor leg of the British 4x200 m freestyle relay team, jumping into the water as the third one, he won gold in Kazan for his nation to crown the best ever World Championships performance of the islanders.
’I knew if I was top three I had a chance of bringing it back’ said James Guy. He was exactly at third place, the Russian and the American team swam before him, he was more than one and a half second behind the leading swimmer. First, he overtook the Russian guy, then in the last 50 metres, chasing down the American Michael Weiss, he claimed a sensational gold medal for the British relay team.
Actually the world got acquainted with James Guy at the World Championships in 2015, although he had collected several medals at the Junior World and European Championships, or at the Short Course World Championships and the Commonwealth Games in 2014, moreover, he was a finalist in Barcelona 2013 as well. In Kazan after securing silver medal in 400 m freestyle, the 19-year old young man achieved something sensational in 200 m freestyle. The Chinese Sun Yang was the big favourite of the event and according to him he planned to sweep all freestyle events from 200 m to 1500 m. Probably you could guess that his plan failed as early as the third day because of a special British guy.
James Guy turned at third place after 150 metres and then came the famous finish. Overtaking Yang and Lochte he claimed his first World Championships title with a new British record, a time of 1:45.14.
’I never thought I would win the final of the 200 at all. I never thought I would race Ryan Lochte head-to-head like that, he is one of my heroes. I just tried to focus on myself. I knew the boys would go out hard, so just tried to stay with them and not let them get too far away. Sun is a hero of mine: now I am with him. I’ve got a gold medal now’ told the happy winner after his victory.
As of the beginning Guy realised his talent in this sport at the age of 11-12, when at his first national competition he won six gold medals. He moved 250 miles with his family to be able to attend Millfield School which was famous for producing world-class British swimmers. He was taken under the wings of the Australian Jol Finck, who had trained Grant Hackett as well. ‘We realised his talent at the age of 12, but it is not enough alone, something more is required for the success such as commitment, willingness and hard work’ said Finck about his trainee. ‘He grew and developed continuously and by now he has reached the point that he could be up to anyone.’
As a world champion Guy arrived in Rio for his first Olympics with high expectations and although he won two silvers in relays he considered his overall performance as a failure. In 400 m freestyle he finished sixth, then in 200 m freestyle he lost the final podium place in the last metres, while in his last individual event of 100 m butterfly he finished 13th in the semi-final. ‘In the Olympic Games everyone steps up a bit, even more focused and I was not prepared for this’ he said after Rio. However, he left Brazil with a positive attitude where his family accompanied him throughout the whole event and his father posted proudly in social media: 'What a day!! Olympic silver medal for the 4 x 200 relay team and for my little boy who is now an Olympic medallist yippee!' The two silver medals remained a nice memory for James Guy and as he emphasized overall Rio was a great experience. Moreover, the Olympics rewarded him with a very special moment. ‘I went head-to-head with Michael Phelps at his last race. The picture when I was hugged by him remains with me forever’ Guy said emotionally.
The ‘fast man’ chose a slow sport as recreation, fishing, he sometimes sits for six hours at a competition where he goes for victory, of course. Also, he listens to chill music by Craig David in his free time as well as before swimming competitions.
Most definitely nowadays he does not have much time for fishing, since he is preparing for the 17th FINA World Championships. His determination has been proved at the British National Swimming Championships, where he won four gold medals and after the training camp of the British team in Thailand he also claimed three medals at the Japan Open, in 100 m butterfly he swam his personal best, while in 200 m freestyle he owns the second best time of 2017 in the world ranking.
It is not yet known how many events he will enter in Budapest, but it is obvious that in 200 and 400 m freestyle huge battles are expected, according to the hopes of Brits, with James Guy as the main protagonist. If you are interested, visit Duna Arena on 23rd July (400 m freestyle) and 25th July (200 m freestyle).
Born: 26th November 1995, Bury, England
Olympics: 2 silver (4x200 m freestyle relay, 4x100 m medley relay – Rio)
World Championships: 2 gold (200 m freestyle, 4x200 m freestyle relay – Kazan), 1 silver (400 m freestyle – Kazan)