Aquatics

Stephens and Fannon shine as Plymouth Leander end National Winter Meet in style

PLYMOUTH Leander enjoyed a stunning ending to the National Winter Meet in Sheffield on Sunday evening.

The Life Centre-based club brought the five-day competition to a close by winning three senior gold medals.

Laura Stephens and Tom Fannon both claimed individual titles and also swam Team England qualifying consideration times for April’s Commonwealth Games.

Stephens, 18, clocked a stunning 2:09.32 to take the 200m butterfly title ahead of Aimee Willmott, Ciara Schlosshan and Hannah Miley. She was the only swimmer in the final to go under the magic 2:10 mark.

“By the time I got to the last 50m it was all about beating that time – getting under the 2:10 mark, which I have been trying to do for a year-and-a-half,” said Stephens afterwards. “I got to the wall and looked up and I was just overwhelmed.”

The first-year Plymouth University student is now hoping to be selected to represent Team England on the Gold Coast in April.

“It would just be everything to represent Team England,” she said.

“It has always been my dream to get to an Olympics – that’s my main goal – but going to the Commonwealth’s would be a great stepping stone. It would also be an amazing experience being in Australia.  It would be really exciting.”

Fannon, 19, could also be set to join club colleague Ben Proud in the men’s 50m freestyle event at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games after clocking a new PB of 22.10 seconds to take victory in the ‘splash-and-dash’ at Ponds Forge.

Afterwards Fannon said: “I’m very pleased. I’ve got a lot of improvements to make. On the 50 it’s all technical, so it’s nothing really to do with training, it’s how technically well you perform on the day.

“I know I can go a little faster and dip into that 21 but it takes time. My coach has done a great job getting me mentally prepared for the race so that really helps.”

Fannon then capped that success by anchoring Plymouth Leander to victory in the men’s 4x100m medley relay. He was joined in the team by Perry Gardner, Adam Chillingworth and Reece Dunn, who produced a great butterfly leg. The quartet touched in a time of 3:47.58.

Mount Kelly also claimed a title on the final day of the championships. They won the last event of the meet – the women’s 4×100 medley relay. Their quartet, who clocked 4:16.09, were Athena Clayson, Niamh Robinson, Kaylee Dekker and Georgina Dennis.

Both Mount Kelly and Leander had also won senior medals on Saturday evening.

Mount Kelly took bronze in the 4x200m freestyle relay courtesy of Sam Dailley, Ben Harrison, Harry Noble and Federico Burdisso.

Italian Burdisso, who had an impressive meet, also finished third in the men’s 100m butterfly with a 53.00 second swim.

Leander’s Jessica Jackson took national bronze in the women’s 100m freestyle event. She was fifth overall in the race in 55.38 seconds but two of athletes ahead of her were guests from Canada.

There was also a South African age group record for Leander’s 14-year-old swimmer Honey Osrin in the women’s 50m backstroke. She clocked 29.75 seconds to win the B final on Sunday.

Meanwhile, at the European Short Course Championships in Copenhagen, former Plymouth College pupils Ruta Meilutyte and Ben Proud both finished with two medals each.

Meilutyte followed up her 50m breaststroke title success by winning the 100m event in 1:03.79.

Proud won bronze medal in the men’s 50m butterfly to add to his silver in the 50m freestyle.

He broke British records in both events. In the 50m butterfly he clocked a stunning 22.18 in the semi-finals, but could only manage 22.44 in the final. Russian Aleksandr Popkov won the final in 22.42.

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