WORCESTER SWIMMERS FLY THE FLAG AT BRITISH CHAMPIONSHIP
Five swimmers from Worcester competed at the British Swimming Summer Championships in Sheffield at Ponds Forge, with Will Gearey snatching a superb bronze medal and Paralympian Rebecca Redfern securing the qualification time for the forthcoming world championships in Mexico.
The Summer Championships brings together the top 24 British swimmers across the different age groups, with the Worcester squad facing top opposition from the specialist swimming schools and major city clubs from around the country.
Competing in his second British championship in the boys 13/14 year age group, Gearey had qualified for five events, hoping to qualify for the finals in at least three target events.
Gearey tackled the 100m freestyle first, knowing he’d need a good performance to even make the final. Drawn in an outside lane in the heats, Gearey put down a 0.50 pb to clock 56.11 which was sufficient to grab tenth spot for the final in the evening. In the final, Gearey went out fast for the first 50m and again produced another pb, touching the wall in 56.03 for a fantastic sixth position. His next event was the 50m free, commonly known as the splash and dash, with Gearey again targeting a place in the final. In the heats, he produced 25.48 and another pb to qualify for the final as fifth seed. In the evening, he managed to go quicker with 25.40 but it was not enough to get amongst the medals with Gearey finishing a credible seventh. In the 100m fly and 200m freestyle, Gearey was disappointed not to produce any pbs but was pretty much on his entry times, producing times of 1.02.56 and 2.05.75 respectively.
Gearey’s final chance of a medal rested on the 50m fly. Having reached the championship as 19th seed, he knew only a remarkable improvement on his entry time would get him into the final. With another outside lane draw in the heats, Gearey flew off his blocks to touch the wall in 27.24 – which amazingly saw him go into the final as third seed. With a good lane draw in the evening, Gearey again had a strong start in the final, just about leading at the 25m stage. His rivals in lanes 4 and 5 edged ahead in the last 25m, but Gearey managed to hold onto third place, finishing in 27.01 and a bronze medal.
Olivia Fletcher made her debut at this year’s championships, having enjoyed a strong qualification period. Fletcher had secured places in five events in the girls 15 year age group, taking on the 50m breaststroke, 100m and 200m free, 100m back and 200m IM. Up first for Fletcher was the sprint event, with Fletcher looking comfortable in the heats, producing a super time of 34.29 to qualify in sixth position for the final. In the evening final, Fletcher again attacked the race from the gun and at the halfway stage there was nothing to separate the ten competitors. Powering into the finish, Fletcher produced another pb time of 34.14 and an excellent sixth place.
In the 200m IM, Fletcher had shown tremendous improvement in the qualifying window, and was hunting her second final. In the heat, Fletcher took it out hard on the fly, back and breaststroke legs. In the last 50m on the freestyle, her competitors managed to claw back her slender lead, with Fletcher finishing well in 2.26.87 just outside her entry time and second reserve (12th place) for the final. Fletcher also secured a top 15 finish in the 200m free with 2.10.36, and top 20 places in the 100m back (1.07.37) and 100m free (59.92).
For Paralympian Rebecca Redfern, these championships were all about getting the qualification time in the S13 100m breaststroke category, rather than medals. Redfern was chasing a time of 1.16.99 in her strongest event to book her place on the plane with the British squad to Mexico and the World Championships. In the heats, Redfern was struggling to find her pace, clocking 1.19.02, which was enough to reach the final and gave her another shot at reaching the required qualifying time. Looking nervous before the final, Redfern went out much harder this time in the first 50m, turning in a good position and on course to hit the time. Redfern found another gear in the back 50m, turning on the power and smashing a season’s best time of 1.16.47 to win a bronze medal (multiclassification) but more importantly the qualification time. She will now travel to Mexico with Team GB to compete in the championships in September.
Worcester’s club captain, Lucy Clayton, had also qualified for the Summer Championships in her favoured 50m breaststroke event. Competing in the girls 17/18 year old age group, Clayton, a veteran of British championships, went out very fast in the first 25m of her heat, looking strong at the halfway point. However, with all the sprint events, the margins between the competitors is small, with Clayton producing a good time of 34.25 which ensured a superb top 15 finish.
Matt Redfern, also competing in the Multi Classification category, was challenging in three events. Having endured a tough six months after breaking his arm at the end of 2016, Redfern’s best performance came in the 100m back. In the heats, he produced 1.07.83 which was enough to secure a place in the final. In the evening, Redfern managed to go slightly quicker, touching in 1.07.76 and ninth place. In the 50m and 100m free, he was just outside his entry times, producing 28.08 and 1.02.82 respectively.
Mark Stowe, Worcester’s head coach, commented: “It is a tremendous achievement for all our swimmers to have qualified for these championships. With the best 24 swimmers in the age groups, the standard of competition really is second to none, and it was great to see them all being so competitive. The club is proud of all their achievements and it reflects the commitment to training hard throughout the year. To finish these championships with two bronze medals and Rebecca securing her place to Mexico is a fantastic way to end the season.”