PLYMOUTH Leander swimmers Laura Stephens, Honey Osrin and Sophie Freeman successfully returned to action at the weekend in the Manchester International Meet.
Olympic-hopeful Stephens and highly-rated teenager Osrin were both winners at event – the first British elite competition for 11 months due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Last March, Stephens was in the form of her life with personal bests and two gold medals at the Edinburgh International Meet as she prepared to try and book her place on the British plane to Tokyo. She was ranked third in the world in the 200m butterfly, but then lockdown came and the Olympic Games were postponed, leaving Stephens, like many other in-form athletes, frustrated.
To make matters worse, her main training base, the Plymouth Life Centre, has been closed for nearly a year due to repair work.
But she showed at the weekend that she has not lost her focus with encouraging displays in Manchester.
The 21-year-old World Championship finalist won her favourite 200m butterfly event by more than two seconds, clocking 2:08.88, which was the fourth quickest swim of her career.
Second-placed went to Newcastle’s Emily Large in 2:11.27, with Bath-based Ciara Schlosshan third in 2:11.92 and Leander’s junior international Freeman, who only turns 17 this month, taking fourth in 2:14.43.
Stephens also came third in a strong 100m butterfly final on Sunday evening with a 59.28 second swim. She was only beaten by Sweden’s Louise Hansson and Wales’ Harriet Jones. Plymouth College pupil Freeman also reached the two-length butterfly final, finishing eighth in 1:01.33.
Stephens also reached the final of the 50m butterfly, finishing sixth in a strong field with a 27.06 swim.
Great Britain junior star Osrin clocked 2:13.13 to take victory, with Commonwealth Games international Golding, who had competed in the International Swimming League in October and November, second in 2:13.90.
Osrin also came second in the women’s 100m backstroke. She was only edged out by 30-year-old world, European and Commonwealth Games medallist Georgia Davies.
Davies won in 1:01.96, with European junior medallist Osrin clocking 1:02.18 in second and Golding taking third in 1:02.48.
In addition, Osrin came fourth in the 50m backstroke with a time of 29.36 seconds.
The event in Manchester was only open to swimmers who are classed as ‘elite’ on government-approved lists.
Leander head coach Robin Armayan said after the event: “Good meet, lucky to be back to racing and ready to train again.”