Ben Proud swam the third fastest 50m freestyle in history last night and then challenged his great rival Caeleb Dressel to do even better - on the other side of the world.

Plymouth Leander’s Proud and American Dressel are the two premier sprinters in the pool and won’t go head to head again until next year’s World Championships.

But that has not stopped 23-year-old Proud from competing against him, after he bolted down the pool in 21.11s to qualify for the final at the European Swimming Championships in Glasgow.

This week Dressel, the world champion, will attempt to go even quicker when he takes part in the Pan-American Games in Tokyo - and Proud will be watching.

“It sounds pretty good doesn’t it? I came here purely to set a quick time,” Proud said.

“Because I know halfway across the world in Tokyo Caeleb is getting ready to swim a very, very quick swim.

“For me this is my chance to show what I have in me and to go 21.11s, the pressure is on Caeleb and I am sure he is going to see that and deliver.

“He is younger than me and swam faster than me last year. He is amazing at what he does so I won’t be surprised if he does go faster.”

Proud is the heavy favourite to win European gold tonight and become the latest Briton to dominate the pool.

With Adam Peaty hunting a fourth gold and Georgia Davies and Duncan Scott with two apiece, it has been a week to remember for British Swimming.

But how they fare on the world stage next year is the big question and Proud insists he will not be content with where he is at now. He wants to be the fastest man in history.

“That is the dream but we are still working in preparation. We are only halfway through an Olympic cycle and I am in no rush," he added.

“I just want to steadily progress and to drop 0.2s is a bonus for me. If that is the fastest I have right now then I will still feel like there are things to fix.

“Now I just want to come back and give it one more shot.

“Freestyle has been my major focus this year. Missing out in the Commonwealth Games has given me a lot more to think about and it has allowed me to focus on the freestyle.

“In truth I have started to enjoy that far more. With this group of swimmers, that won’t be a special time for much longer.”

In the same event, Thomas Fannon bowed out in the semi-finals after finishing seventh. The 20-year-old excelled in his heat but tailed off in the semi-finals – clocking a time of 22.14s.

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