Dutch double Olympic sprint champion Ranomi Kromowidjojo stamped her authority on the 100m freestyle at the British Gas International in Leeds this evening, while Siobhan-Marie O'Connor cracked out a 2:10.53 victory over Hannah Miley, 2:11.59 in the 200m medley.
Jazmin Carlin, who had the year from hell as the main high-profile Smart Track member from her development years to miss the cut for London 2012, burst into tears after churning out an 8:24.42 win in the 800m free. The time is a lifetime best and the best in the world so far this year.
The day also delivered the latest progress in the young career of James Guy, a teenager to watch out for.
Women's 100m freestyle
Winner over 50m and 100m at London 2012, Kromowidjojo started 2013 where she left off: on her first 100m race day since the Games and beyond a Dutch camp in Thailand, she cruised to a 54.14sec victory, the time the second best in the world so far this year after a mid 53 from Cate Campbell Down Under in the heat of an Aussie summer.
Kromowidjojo's teammate Femke Heemskerk took second in 54.78, Britain's Fran Halsall third on 54.87, with former Olympic backstroke champion Natalie Coughlin, of the US, on 54.90 ahead of a 55.28 effort for Plymouth-based Ruta Meilutyte, the Lithuanian who claimed the Olympic 100m breaststroke crown last year at 15.
Now coached by Marcel Wouda - a podium placer on medley in world-class waters in his day - Kromowidjojo put on a smooth display: confidant and in control on 26.39 at half-way, she had the race sewn up off the turn.
Halsall, also with a new coach, James Gibson, said: “I raced last weekend and swam ten swims in three days so I felt tired today. I’ve been trying different strategies for the 100m so my expectations were lower, it is a work in progress at the moment. We’re trying new things and there is still a lot of work to do. It’s been a big and hard block of training and I’ve got two more events this meet.”
Women's 200m medley
If it has been rare to see so many world-class overseas visitors in British pools, it is rare to see Hannah Miley, world short-course and European and Commonwealth 400m medley champion, get pipped in domestic waters over 200m on all four strokes.
Siobhan-Marie O'Connor, who on 2:11.86 last summer fell shy of the London 2012 cut but scraped onto the Olympic team in the 100m breaststroke, set a lifetime best of 2:10.53 to keep Miley, on 2:11.59, at bay. O'Connor held on after storming ahead of Miley in the first half of the race. Miley fought back hard at the end but O'Connor, still 2 secs ahead with 50m to go, could not be caught.
In third place, Sophie Allen clocked 2:13.33, after having been ahead of Miley on 1:02.96 at half-way.
O’Connor said: “I’ve been training quite well and I’ve been to an altitude training camp. It was hard at first but I have really felt the benefits since I came back down. It is good to produce such a good time so early in the season, it gives me a lot of confidence for the rest of the year. The good thing about the Medley is that I get to train in all four strokes. Obviously I made the Olympics in the Breaststroke but I want to keep my options open in terms of events for the future.”
Women's 800m freestyle
Jazmin Carlin, who had the year from hell as the main high-profile Smart Track member from her development years to miss the cut for London 2012, burst into tears after churning out an 8:24.42, the time a lifetime best and the best in the world so far this year ahead of an 8:27 from American Becca Mann. Early days yet, but for Swansea-based Carlin spring has arrived with a spring in its step. Next home were Ellie Faulkner, on 8:31.61 ahead of Miley, in her second final of the evening, on 8:34.
"I just feel so emotional," Carlin told poolside commentator Cassie Patten, Olympic marathon bronze medal winner from 2008. "It's been such a roller-coaster. I'm just so happy to come out of it."
She added: “I’ve been training really hard and it has paid off with a best swim. I’m a determined person and although last year was disappointing for me, I knew there was more to come and I have been working hard. I’ve had my tonsils out which has been a big help as I’ve struggled with related illnesses in the past. I’ve been working really well with my coach Bud (McAllister) and I think we have got the best out of my training."
Men's 400m freestyle
The senior final was won by Olympic finalist Robbie Renwick, of the City of Glasgow and recently home from a stretch of training with the Florida Gators and the likes of Olympic champion Ryan Lochte and Conor Dwyer in the United States.
If Renwick’s 3:49.91 was solid, watch out for 17-year-old James Guy, of Millfield, a teenager with a fine technique, pace and finishing speed. In 3:50.43, a British Age Group Record, Guy took second almost two seconds ahead of London 2012 team member Ieuan Lloyd, of Cardiff.
Guy's time is inside the 3:51.84 in which he took bronze at European Junior Championships last summer. He will return to the same continental showcase this year with a chance of the title. Tipped to become the poster boy for the Britain men's team on the way to Rio 2016, Guy returned to the fray within an hour of his first swim to set a second best time, of 54.22 to win the boys 100m butterfly final, the time securing a second swim in Poznan, Poland, in July.
Meanwhile, Renwick said: "It was a good swim. I’m chuffed with that mid season. I felt good this morning and I knew I could go faster. I’m delighted to go under 3.50 at this stage. I’ve been on a training camp in Florida and I think that has really set me up for this."
Men's 100m butterfly
Joe Roebuck clocked a personal best time of 53.07 for the win. He beat off challenger Joeri Verlinden (NED), on 53.38, and Anthony James, of Plymouth Leander, on 53.65. Roebuck was in seventh place at the halfway turn but had a strong final leg to overhaul the field to touch the wall first.
“It was a PB so I am very happy with that despite splitting my suit,” said Roebuck, who suffered serious health issues going into London 2012 last year. “My priorities have changed and I’ve dropped the 400m IM. I will carry on looking towards to 200m IM and the Fly is obviously a big part of that. I’m really happy with how well things have moved on since I moved to Bath. I was at Loughborough for nine years and I felt like I needed a change and the move has freshened me up."
Men's 200m backstroke
Chris Walker-Hebborn, Ellesmere Co, and his cool chest tattoo took the 200m backstroke in 1:59.06 (27.80; 58.02; 1:28.72) having controlled the race from start to finish. the minor spoils went to trio men who have just left their teenage years behind, Craig McNally, 2:00.58, and Calum Jarvis, 2:00.94.
“It was a tough first swim but I’m happy to take the win,” said Walker-Hebborn. “It is the second time I have been to altitude and it was the hardest three weeks of my life but if it gives me the kind of result I got today I won’t complain. My goal for the season is to make the world championship team, it will be a big ask as the time is tough but I believe it is in my capabilities.”
Carlin's training partner Georgia Davies won the 50m backstroke in 28.04, while Ross Murdoch won the 50m breaststroke in 28.12.
The meet serves as a selection event for the European Junior Championships: catch up with the youth performances and results in full here.
In the MC Events, courtesy of British Swimming:
Paralympic Champion Jessica-Jane Applegate broke the her own S14 British Record to take victory in the MC 100m Freestyle on the opening day of the British Gas International Meet in Leeds. Having broken her short course 100m British Record last week in Sheffield, the 16-year-old repeated the feat in the long course pool clocking 1.00.99 for gold.
S14 swimmers Chloe Davies and Natalie Massey finished second and third respectively in 1.04.41 and 1.04.45. Paralympic Champion Jonathan Fox claimed gold in his main event as he set 1.11.14 for victory in the MC 100m Backstroke.
The S7 swimmer said: “I’m really pleased with that race. It was a second faster than I went in Swansea recently so things are looking good for the World Championship qualifications.
“I’m trying to focus on the 400m Freestyle and the 100m Backstroke at the moment. Unfortunately I lost my 400m Free record in London so I want to push to get that back but Backstroke has always been my best really.” James Crisp (S9) claimed silver in 1.05.00 while S14 Jack Thomas took bronze in 1.06.57.
Hannah Russell won her first gold of the meet in the MC 100m Backstroke. The Paralympic medallist set 1.10.00 for gold ahead of Applegate and Davies who touched in 1.09.35 and 1.10.18 respectively. She said: “I’m really happy with my race. It was definitely a big improvement on this morning. I was just off my personal best pace but I’m still really pleased. Having two back to back swims is hard and a lot of us were in the same boat but I just tried to pretend it was like training where we do max swims with a short rest."
Dan Pepper was victorious in the men’s MC 100m Freestyle. The S14 swimmer finished in 56.42 to hold off his training partner and fellow S14 Ben Procter in 56.53. Third place went to S7 swimmer Josef Craig in 1.02.86.