In the first big international-draw meet of 2013, the British Gas International Meeting (Long Course) got underway today in Leeds, UK at the John Charles Centre for Sport: a facility with a capacity of about 1,100 that was sold out well in advance of the actual meet. Fans turned out en masse for what was a deep international field at this meet. This event replaces the old British Gas National Championships that were always the first leg of big international qualifying, and the national governing body has been successful in year one in making this a major event.
(recaps in no particular order).
The biggest race of night 1 was the women’s 100 free, where double Olympic sprint champion Ranomi Kromowidjojo is racing for the first time since London. Her time away from the pool doesn’t seem to have cost her too much, as she took the victory in the race in 54.14, which is just what she was going in March last year (without the same extended break). That swim ranks her 2nd in the world in 2013.
Her Dutch teammate Femke Heemskerk was 2nd in 54.78, followed by Britain’s Fran Halsall in 54.87. American Natalie Coughlin, fresh off a flight from Marseille, was 4th in 54.90. That’s a great March swim for Coughlin; though we don’t know if she’s training as much as she has in past seasons, she hasn’t been that fast in the first quarter of a year since 2010.
Breaststroke Olympic champion Ruta Meilutyte continues to improve in her freestyle sprinting, placing 5th in a lifetime best of 55.28. The Lithuanian-born teenager now trains in Plymouth in the UK.
The women’s 200 IM is always a big event in British domestic meets, and this one didn’t fail to disappoint either. Siobhan-Marie O’Connor, just barely 17-years old, broke the English (though not British) record in the race with a 2:10.53. That’s her second time clearing this record in 2013, as she was 2:11.2 a month ago (the old English Record).
O’Connor is the future of British Swimming. She barely snuck onto the Olympic team, but don’t mistake that for a swimmer who is on the cusp of greatness. Greatness has arrived for her. Several people around college swimming have discussed that O’Connor has at least considered coming to the United States next season to swim in college, but she has declined to comment on that until the signing period opens in April.
O’Connor crushed every leg of that swim. She was the fastest butterflier, the fastest backstroker, hung ahead of the great breaststroker Hannah Miley on that leg, and finished in a solid 31.9. Miley ended up taking 2nd in 2:11.59, with Sophie Allen 3rd in 2:13.33.
The women really dominated the headlines in this meet. From the two races above carried through to the 800 free. There, Jazz Carlin won the 800 in 8:24.42, which is a lifetime best for her. It’s hard to remember after all she’s been through in her career that she’s still only 22-years old. Most of her career has been focused on the 400, but with such a time mid-season, she’ll have to give thought at least to going longer.
Eleanor Faulkner took 2nd in 8:31, and Hannah Miley on a challenging double did well for 3rd in 8:34.
Robbie Renwick became the second swimmer under 3:50 this year with a 3:49.91 to win the men’s 400 free. Renwick, an Olympic finalist in this race, almost seemed like he was caught off-guard by the challenge he got from 17-year old Millfield swimmer James Guy early in this race. Guy was actually in the lead at the halfway mark, but then Renwick put on the gas. He beat Guy by a full second on that 5th length. Guy would make another surge at the end, but was too far behind by then. Guy did finish in a new personal best of 3:50.43. That did break the British 17-Years old Age Record.
Ieuan Lloyd took 3rd in 3:52.35.
In the men’s 100 fly, Joe Roebuck (53.07) topped Dutch swimmer Joeri Verlinden (53.38) and Anthony James (53.85) in a good field that had 5 swimmers crack the 54-second barrier.
In the men’s 200 back, Chris Walker-Hebborn won going-away in 1:59.06, making him the first Brit under two minutes this year. He was fast early, and though he fell off a bit on his back-half speed, so did the rest of the field. 19-year old Warrender Baths swimmer Craig McNally was 2nd in 2:00.58, and Callum Jarvis placed 3rd in 2:00.94. West Dunbart’s Ross Murdoch won the men’s 50 breaststroke in 28.12 in a race that was focused upon by the younger ranks of British Swimming (we haven’t seen Britain’s top men’s breaststrokers. In the women’s sprint-stroke race, Georgia Davies won the women’s 50 backstroke in 28.04, ahead of a very good field that included Lizzie Simmonds in 4th (29.10) and Ranomi Kromowidjojo in 7th (29.39).