Today was the third day of competition at the 2011 British Gas ASA National Championships, which serve to fill out the rest of Great Britain’s roster for this summer’s World Championships. To see the full breakdown of how this qualifying worked, see the day 1 recap.
Day 3 saw a slight downtick from the blistering times that we’ve seen the other two days of the meet, though a very notable exception to that kicked off the session.
After failing to secure the second spot for 200 backstroke qualifications at the Trials in March, Elizabeth Simmonds had something to prove. She knew she was the best 200 backstroker in the UK, but Stephanie Proud had been able to take the title, and the World Championships qualifying spot, in only a 2:09.41 at that meet; roughly two seconds better than Simmonds.
Simmonds would not be denied in her second opportunity to secure a roster spot to swim as one of Britain’s best medal hopes for Shanghai when she rocketed a 2:07.49: the 2nd-fastest swim in the world this year behind Belinda Hocking. This is the 8th time in her career that she’s been sub-2:08, which is more than any active swimmer (warning-independent research likely to be highly inaccurate) except for Kirsty Coventry and Elizabeth Beisel.
The world’s top-ranked 800 freestyler, Rebecca Adlington, had a solid six-weeks-out swim to take the 800 free ASA title in 8:24.77 (around four seconds off of where she was in March). That time is also much better (ten seconds) than where she was about 6 weeks out from the European Championships last year: a meet at which she finished a disappointing 7th. She’ll be hoping to time her taper a little better for this event, like she did in her 400, as she’s chasing double gold at World’s this summer in this race, along with the 400.
In the men’s 50 free, Simon Burnett looks to finally be returning back to his form of 2005, when he set the British National Record in this race. He won the 50 free sprint in 22.24. That ties him (with Cullen Jones) for 15th in the world rankings, and is a FINA A-standard that puts him through to Shanghai in his first qualification. Auburn sprinter Adam Brown will be the other 50 freestyler in attendance, as he won the race at March’s Trials in 22.29. Burnett will also have a chance to qualify in the 100 free in tomorrow’s final session, but he will need to place in the top two and go 49.23 or better.
On the back of a great swim in the 200 back on day 2 to lock down his spot in Shanghai, Chris Walker-Hebborn came back with a career-best in the 100 backstroke of 54.47. That will allow him to join Liam Tancock, who is at the meet but didn’t swim this final, in the event in Shanghai. Though his best chance at a final is clearly in the 200, the vastly improved speed he’s showing in the 100 is still a great sign. Florida Gator Marco Loughran placed 2nd in 54.84 to miss World’s. He had a great opening half to the race, but couldn’t hang on at the touch.
Walker-Hebborn infamously turned down NCAA swimming, claiming that the training was not rigorous enough to match his Olympic aspirations, and it appears as though thus far, that’s given him the upper-hand on Loughran, with whom he’s battled in the junior ranks for years.
Lewis Smith won the men’s 400 IM in 4:16.26, which puts him in the top 20 in the world this year and is easily a career-best time in textile for him. With both spots in this race already claimed from March (by Roberto Pavoni and Joe Roebuck), he won’t be swimming in Shanghai, but this time will serve as a great spring-board into the Olympic year for him.
Stacey Tadd went another career-best time in the women’s 100 breaststroke, but unlike in yesterday’s 200 breaststroke her 1:09.14 didn’t set any records, nor did it clear the FINA A time standard to earn her a ticket to Shanghai. The 2nd-and-3rd place finishers from yesterday’s race, 14-year old Molly Renshaw and superstar Hannah Miley, both took an early exit in prelims with times that were slower than their 100-meter splits from the 200.
Amy Smith took the win in the women’s 50 free in 25.46, but like Tadd was unable to clear the FINA A standard that would have gotten her to Shanghai. Despite two titles at this meet, both in races with open qualifying spots, Smith’s focus will be at best on relays for the World Championships this summer.
In day 3’s non-Olympic race, Daniel Sliwinski won the men’s 50 breast in 27.76: the 11th-best time in the world this year. That’s a career-best time for the former Indiana Hoosier, but as we’ve seen multiple times at this meet in the 50-meter races, he won’t earn an invite to compete at the World Championships. For the 21-year old, who set the British Record in the 100 breaststroke when he was only 19, the last few seasons haven’t seen him live up to his potential yet.