Chris Walker-Hebborn and Marco Loughran, two of the men who grew up together in the sport as school boys under the guidance of coach Chris Nesbit on the Australia Gold Coast, booked tickets to a home Olympic Games in Sheffield this evening.
Walker-Hebborn, of Ellesmere Co, dipped inside his textile best with a 1:57.17 victory in the 200m backstroke, while Loughran, of Guildford, until this year based at the Gators in Florida, matched his year-old best of 1:58.34 to get 1.5sec inside his effort at Olympic trials back in March.
Loughran just held off Craig McNally, who cracked his best time apart with a 1:58.45 that marked his second sub-2-minute effort after a 1:59.91 at Olympic trials. All three medal winners today raced inside FINA A cut, with Ryan Bennett fourth in 1:58.81.
Walker-Hebborn's time places him 9th in the world so far this year, while McNally had a storming third length. The splits:
No others broke 2 minutes. Britain's offhshore centre scheme on the Gold Coast at the Southport School was closed after its architect Bill Sweetenham left Britain in late 2007 as the Intensive Training Centres that were also part of the Australian's blueprint for Britain came on stream back home. Nesbit, however, stayed on Down Under to run the successful scheme as an international programme combining a high standard of academic work with sport.
“I’m relieved. I wanted that so much,” said Walker-Hebborn. “It is an absolutely brilliant feeling, I’m so happy. That race was for my mum, she’s an absolute star. She has been there through everything and she’s my biggest believer. So that was for her.”
In other action in Sheffield:
The 200m freestyle witnessed a battle between Ieuan Lloyd, City of Cardiff, and 400m winner yesterday, David Carry, Stockport ITC. Just 0.05sec apart at the half-way turn. Lloyd kept his hand ahead for a 1:47.55 to 1:47.86 victory, Robert Bale third in 1:48.97. Winner at trials Robbie Renwick and Ross Davenport had already booked relay berths, with Jak Scott the last man in Britain inside 1:49 this year. Lloyd's time, a personal best, got inside the FINA A cut and may give him a solo swim at a home Games.
Michael Rock may be the sole Brit in the 100m butterfly at London 2012 after Antony James and a 52.46 win joined Jack Marriot in the class of those just outside the FINA A time.
At Britain's Olympic trials in March, Rock claimed the first berth in 52.02, inside the 52.36 cut, a 52.49 second-place for Marriott leaving him in limbo, James on 52.59. In Sheffield today the England champion from Plymouth Leander turned in 24.37 as Marriott set the pace in 23.98.
James had the stronger return, Marriott second in 53.12, Ian Hulme on 53.79. Rock, no need to prove himself again, finished back in 7th on 54.14, while 9th in the 10-lane final was Harry Needs, on 54.50 but heading to London 2012 anyway, as a spectator cheering on his girlfriend Rebecca Adlington as she defends her 400m and 800m freestyle crowns.
Amy Smith, of Loughborough and already a London 2012 team member, took the 100m freestyle in 55.03 ahead of Olympic teammates Jessica Lloyd, on 55.34, and Rebecca Turner, on 55.99.
In the 200m breaststroke, Molly Renshaw, 16 this year, clocked 2:27.72 for victory. Her 2:26.81 effort at trials behind Stacey Tadd was 0.08sec inside FINA A cut but out side the world top 16 required at first trials. The selection policy allows team additions if head coach Dennis Pursley and performance director Michael Scott deem it helpful to the team's overall performance.