Swimmers ready for National Winter Championships in Sheffield

SWIMMERS from the region will be heading to the National Winter Championships in Sheffield this weekend.

The three-day event, which starts on Friday, will see many of the country’s top swimmers go ahead-to-head in the short course competition.

The likes of Great Britain stars Siobhan-Marie O’Connor, James Guy, James Wilby and Sarah Vasey are among the elite competitors in action at Ponds Forge International Pool.

O’Connor, who won an Olympic silver medal at the 2016 Rio Games and a Commonwealth gold medal on the Gold Coast earlier this year in the 200m medley, could come up against Plymouth Leander’s Laura Stephens and fellow England team-mate Emily Large in the women’s butterfly.

Commonwealth Games swimmer Stephens will head an exciting 25-strong Leander team heading to the event in South Yorkshire, which will bring the curtain down on the short course season.

“I am very optimistic,” said Leander’s head coach Robin Armayan, ahead of this weekend’s event.  “We’ve done some great work and we look sharp and ready. We are really looking forward to it.

“It will be a nice competition to see how the first training cycle has gone. We are definitely looking forward to it.”

He added:  “The swimmers will not be fully tapered for this. They will be slightly rested, some more than others, but the main meet this season will be the British Championships (in April) as that is qualifying for virtually every junior and senior international team, so that is something that is very important and something we are working towards.”

Leander head to Sheffield having impressed in last week’s round three of the Western League Premier Division last weekend at Newport.

Reigning National Arena Swimming League champions Leander claimed victory with a total of 301 points, with Cardiff taking second with 286, Mount Kelly finishing third with 283 and Millfield having to settle for fourth with 277 points.

Great Britain and England international Stephens impressed for Plymouth. She won the 200m IM in 2:14.81, the 100m butterfly in 59.60 and the 100m freestyle in 56.41.

Other Leander winners in Wales included Honey Osrin, Sophie Freeman, Kinsman Blythe, Isobel Bryant and Sam Ellis.

Meanwhile, former Plymouth Leander star Ruta Meilutyte won a silver medal in the women’s 50m breaststroke at the FINA World Short Course Championships in Hangzhouu in China.

The 2012 Olympic 100m champion, clocked 29.38 seconds to finish behind Jamaica’s world short course record holder Alia Atkinson, who took victory in 29.05.

Mount Kelly’s long course European medallist Federico Burdisso, 17, set a new PB of 1:54.10 to finish 16th in the 200m butterfly at the championships.

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