Swimmers fight for final Commonwealth berths
With their last chance to qualify for the Commonwealth Games some of England’s best swimmers took to the blocks with the hope of impressing the selectors at the Sunderland Aquatic Centre on the final day of the British Gas ASA National Championships (50m) 2010.
The experienced Jo Jackson (British Gas ITC Loughborough) lined up against her younger counterparts in Anne Bochmann (City of Leeds) and Louisa Farrer-Fisher (Loughborough University) in what was set to be a much anticipated Women’s 400m Freestyle final.
Jackson held her ground throughout the race with Bochmann staying close behind until the final 20m which saw Jackson, swimming for British Gas ITC Loughborough, distance herself for a comfortable 4:09.49 win.
Bochmann touched in second with a time of 4:11.57 and Farrer-Fisher claimed bronze in 4:15.80.
“That was so much better than last week but I’m still disappointed with the time,” said Jackson.
“It’s hard with the amount of training that I’ve missed but these things happen in your career and if I could pick this is the best year for it to happen.
“I’m second ranked but I get to race the 200m and the 400m so I’m pleased with that and I’m just going to focus everything on Delhi. There’s so much I can do in seven weeks.”
Stephanie Proud had already done everything she could to cement her position on Team England before the final selection is made and she added to her impressive credentials when she swam three seconds under the required time in the Women’s 400m Individual Medley.
The Chester Le Street swimmer touched in a new personal best of 4:41.21 to take gold with Anne Bochmann (City of Leeds) recording a personal best 4:44.67 for silver and Kate Hutchinson (Loughborough University) taking bronze in 4:47.10.
“I’m really happy with that swim,” said Proud. “I’ve known that I had a good 400m IM time in me for some time so it’s nice to finally prove myself.
“I’m going back to the States for a month, focus on my training then it’s hopefully off to the holding camp for Delhi.”
With Daniel Fogg having secured his place on the Commonwealth Team earlier in the year, the race was on in the Men’s 1,500m Freestyle for the rest of the field to catch the selectors’ eyes.
Richard Charlesworth (Hatfield) got the race underway and by the halfway mark held a good lead which continued to grow. Touching in 15:25.03 Charlesworth secured gold and a chance at Commonwealth selection.
Silver went to Swansea’s Thomas Allen in 15:30.05 with Sheffield’s Thomas Sunter taking bronze in 15:30.70.
“The race didn’t go quite according to plan,” said Charlesworth. “But I got the job done and that’s what counts.
“I’ve been doing a lot more speed work recently which I think showed in my 200m and 400m.
“The pace was easy in the beginning but I did suffer toward the end of the race. I can go away though and work on that for the next couple of months leading up to the Commonwealths.”
The Women’s 200m Butterfly saw local girl Jessica Dickons lead the field as she sought her ticket to Delhi. The Stockton swimmer set a season’s best time in the morning’s heats but her form was not enough to beat it or meet the automatic qualification time for the Games.
The 20-year-old touched in 2:10.59 to take gold with silver going to Swansea’s Alys Thomas in 2:12.47 and Tilly Gray (Loughborough University) in bronze with a time of 2:13.65.
“I’m pretty gutted,” said Dickons. “I was obviously hoping to go faster than that and in my two races here I’ve gone slower in the final than in the heats. I’ve never done that before.
“I’ve swam faster than I have for the past two years so that’s good and I know it won’t come overnight so I just have to keep working hard.
“The support here has been fantastic. I’ve got 15 members of my family here and it’s great to have them all cheering me on.”
Speaking of Commonwealth selection Dickons added: “My coach says there is still a chance I may get picked for Delhi, but I’ll have to wait and see if what happens.”
Craig Gibbons was just shy of the mark when he touched in 50.34 to take gold in the Men’s 100m Freestyle. The Maxwell swimmer held of the challenge from Robert Bale (British Gas ITC Loughborough) who stormed back from fifth position after the first 50m to touch in 50.55 for silver. Tom Parris (British Gas ITC Stirling) took bronze in 50.57.
Mark McKenna (City of Manchester) took the victory in the Men’s 200m Individual Medley with a time of 2:02.57 with Xavier Mohammed (Bexley) taking silver in a time of 2:04.39. Adam Harrington (Loughborough University) took bronze in 2:05.00.
Andrew Willis (Bracknell) took the gold in the Men’s 200m Breaststroke touching in 2:13.38 with Silver going to Jamie Ross (Stirling Swim) and Gloucester’s James Broady taking bronze in a time of 2:19.75.
The athletes will now have a nervous wait as the selectors decide upon the final Team England line-up which is due to be announced next week.
British Head Coach Dennis Pursley has watched on all week as, one by one, swimmers produced some great results: “This meet opened up the door for a lot of the younger and less experienced competitors,” he said.
“It gave them the opportunity to gain a late place on the Commonwealth Games Team and many of them stepped up and took advantage of the situation.
“The Championships serve a different purpose for different swimmers and there have been a lot of exceptional performances this week, it’s hard to just pick one out.”
The Disability events saw Alfie Goldsmith set a new British record in the Men’s MD 100m Backstroke in the morning and he was in fine form as he took a further four hundredths of a second off the marker in the final.
The Black Lion swimmer wasn’t quick enough to medal in the multi-disability point with his time of 1:07.49 (697 points) putting him in fourth. Gold went to David Hill (Bath University, S9) in 1:07.07 (842 points) with bronze and silver going to Craig Rodgie (Carnegie, S14) and Jack Thomas (Swansea, S14) respectively.
Heather Frederiksen continued her return to top form as she took gold in the Women’s MD 100m Backstroke with a time of 1:16.51 (1009 points). Silver went to Emma Cattle (Team Luton, S10) with Lauren Hobbins (Team Luton, S13) claiming bronze in 1:15.76.
“The times are a good indication of where I am and how my health is.,” said Frederiksen.
“I’ve got a hard block of training coming up and then I’ll be ready to focus my attention on next season and London 2012.”
The Men’s MD 50m Butterfly saw Sam Bradley (Mid Beds, S7) set a new personal best time of 36.83 (561 points). Alexander Goodman finished second (Portsmouth, S7) with Josef Craig (South Tyne, S7) taking third.
Susannah Rodgers (Otter, S7) swam to gold in the Women’s MD 50m Butterfly in a time of 40.38 (622) with silver going to Kelly College’s Jan Langton (S6) and Claire Warne (Team Luton, S6) finishing in third.