Stephanie Proud, a Florida Gator, and Bath's Siobhan-Marie O'Connor, 16, added their names to the Britain Olympic squad at ASA National Championships in Sheffield this evening. Chris Walker-Hebborn added a second event to his London 2012 schedule with victory in the 100m backstroke.
Proud, racing for her home club Chester Le Street, claimed the 200m backstroke crown in 2:09.40, O'Connor the 100m breaststroke in 1:08.04, only her third time inside 1:10, both efforts inside FINA A cut for a ticket to a home Games.
There was also a take that! moment from Olympic champion Rebecca Adlington, Olympic 400m and 8000m champion. Before this season no woman had ever cracked 8:20 twice in one season. Adlington made it three in a row today with an 8:19.03 (off a 4:09.44 split) victory over 16 laps.
Her three sub 8:20's:
Adlington is coached by Bill Furniss at Nova Centurion in Nottingham
“That was such a painful swim,” said Adlington. “I didn’t plan to go as fast as that tonight. I expected to finish in the mid twenties. I actually felt really sore and swimming on your own for so long is really difficult, so to get that time is really unexpected. As much as that hurt, I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life and I’ve had the best preparation. Now I’m looking forward to London.”
Proud - out in 1:03.30, with Karley Mann on 1:03.82 and Georgia Hohmann on 1:04.10 - reaped the rewards of hefty work back at base in Gainesville down the third length. By the last turn, she was 2sec up on her closet challengers and ploughed ahead for a triumph that confirmed her place on a home Games team well inside FINA A cut.
At Olympic trials in March, all but Elizabeth Simmonds missed the cut. In Sheffield this evening, Hohmann took silver in 2:12.47, Mann bronze in 2:12.62.
Proud was of late to be found cracking through 15x200m backstroke at a pace that nailed pain to gain. After five hours of workout she was to be found finishing her day helping to teach American toddlers to swim for two hours alongside Britain and Gators teammate Gemma Spofforth. Their regime at the programme run by Gregg Troy with assistants Martyn Wilby and 1988 Olympic 100m butterfly champion Antony Nesty is of the kind apt to make race day something of a breeze.
“I’m so relieved, I’ve been so nervous this week,” said Proud. “The race was tough and on those last few metres I was thinking oh no, where’s the wall. But I knew I was far enough ahead that no one was going to catch me so it was about getting to the wall in time. I was feeling good this week but it is easy to get caught up in that. I still had to make it happen.”
Double European junior medley champion O'Connor, coached by Dave McNulty and Graeme Antwhistle at the Bath ITC, was leaving nothing to chance as she turned in 32.04 ahead of a 32.48 from 200m Olympic teamster and Bath teammate Stacey Tadd. On the way home, O'Connor's determination and form swept her on to the London 2012 squad, Tadd second in 1:08.74, Rachael Wilson third in 1:09.24. At Olympic trials Kate Haywood, based in Melbourne, secured the first of two Brit berths for the Games.
“I’m so shocked,” said O’Connor. “I found it so hard to deal with missing out in March but I had to get back in and do the hard work. At one point I never saw myself going to London but I’ve given everything in training. I’ve focused so much since then and now I’m going to the Olympic Games. It is just unbelievable.”
After joining the Olympic team over 200m backstroke yesterday, Chris Walker-Hebborn, Ellesmere Co, added the 100m to his schedule with a 54.26 victory to join Liam Tancock, British champion at trials back in March. Second place went to Ryan Bennett, on 54.63, Marco Loughran, silver medallist and on the team over 200m yesterday, third in 54.99.
In other events in Sheffield, Loughborough's Amy Smith, already on the Olympic team, clocked 25.36 for victory in the 50m freestyle. The men's dash went to Adam Brown, of Hatfield, his 22.36 a class apart but outside the 22.11 required for London 2012 selection.
Today in Britain more than 400 National Lottery-funded athletes from across the UK have said "Thank You" to National Lottery players for their life-changing funding. British athletes, including Rebecca Adlington, double Olympic champion in Beijing, have been funded by the lottery for some 15 years now.
Today's thank you is surely expected too to swimmer paul palmer, whose speech to the media after winning silver in the 400m freestyle at Atlanta 1996, about making it against the odds of a 25-yard 4-lane pool, stirred politicians, including then Prime Minister John Major, to action - and the National Lottery, with ring-fenced funds for sport, was born.
The session came to a close with six men racing within 1.62sec of each other in the 400m medley, Matthew Johnson, 17 this year, on 4:18.28 at the helm ahead of Lewis Smith, 4:18.33, Maksym Shemberev (UKR), 4:18.45, Xavier Mohammed, 4:19.46, Ross Muir, 4:19.76, and Thomas Haffield, 4:19.90.
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