Leander’s Stephens will be out to show her Olympic credentials at British trials

PLYMOUTH Leander’s Laura Stephens will be hoping to take a giant step towards achieving her ambition of becoming an Olympian this week.

The 21-year-old is one of a number of swimmers from Leander and Mount Kelly who are competing at the British Swimming Selection Trials in London. The competition starts on Wednesday and runs through to Sunday.

Butterfly specialist Stephens is a World Championship finalist and has also competed at the European Championships and Commonwealth Games. However, she is yet to compete at an Olympic Games, but this week she could all-but secure her spot on the plane to Tokyo.

To be nominated for the team, which will be officially named in June, she needs to finish in the top two and swim under the British consideration time.

Stephens’ 200m butterfly personal best is 2:07.62, which is well under the consideration time of 2:08.32, but she needs to try and repeat that on Friday. Her main challengers will be Swansea’s Alys Thomas and Bath’s Emily Large.

Before her favourite event, Stephens will get to show her form on Wednesday when she competes alongside team-mate Sophie Freeman and Mount Kelly’s Emily Haines in the 100m butterfly event.

Ben Proud has won world, European and Commonwealth titles but has yet to pick up an Olympic medal. He was agonisingly close in Rio in 2016, finishing fourth in the 50m freestyle final.

It would be a major surprise if sprint specialist Proud, who trains in Turkey but represents Leander in domestic events, did not guarantee his place in Tokyo on Saturday when he competes in the men’s 50m freestyle.  Also competing in the ‘splash-and-dash’ will be Mount Kelly youngster Calvin Fry.

This year’s Olympic Games might just come too soon for Leander’s highly-rated 18-year-old Honey Osrin, but she will certainly be one to watch in the women’s 200m backstroke event on Saturday.

Osrin is ranked third in the field and will be at least looking to challenge for a place in the British team for May’s European Championship in Budapest.

Osrin, a European Junior Championship medallist, will also swim in the 100m backstroke event on Thursday and the 200m freestyle on Wednesday.

Tom Beeley is another Leander swimmer who goes into the trials ranked third in an event. He will have his eyes on making the podium in the men’s 200m butterfly – an event where his team-mate Freddy Clampett will also compete on Thursday. Both Beeley and Clampett will also swim in the 100m butterfly on Saturday.

Plymouth’s Great Britain junior international Freeman will have a busy week. She will compete in each of the first four days of the meet. She swims in the 100m butterfly on Wednesday, the 100m backstroke on Thursday, the 200m butterfly on Friday and the 200m backstroke on Saturday.

Club colleague Adam Chillingworth could be pushing for a medal in the men’s 200m breaststroke. He goes into the event on Friday ranked fourth, although James Wilby and Ross Murdoch are the class athletes in that event and are expected to be battling it out for the top two spots.

Completing Leander’s team in London will be Charles Kershaw, who will swim in the men’s 200m IM on Wednesday.

Mount Kelly have a team of 14 competing in London. Their main event will be the women’s 50m freestyle where they will be represented by four swimmers – Leah Whittaker, Elena Dewhurst, Emily Haines and Erin Little. They will also have three in the women’s 400m freestyle on Friday – Sophie Main, Scarlett Orchard and Megan Barnes.

Ahead of the trials, British Swimming performance director Chris Spice said: “It feels strange going into this meet in slightly unique circumstances and without us being able to have a full complement of athletes, coaches and spectators in attendance.

“We feel for those not able to compete this time around due to Covid restrictions but we remain excited to see what those competing can serve up in London over the coming week.

“These selection trials are a key step in our ongoing journey to Tokyo, and we hope to see some fast swimming that will make the selectors’ task as difficult as possible when we sit down to add names to the Olympic team next Monday.

“Of course, some swimmers have not been able to prepare for this meet as they would like, which is why we have a three-stage selection process this year. Phase one has already occurred with our four pre-selected athletes, this will be phase two of our Olympic selections, and phase three coming after we see performances at the Europeans, the two designated Mare Nostrums, and the Glasgow International meet in June.”

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