Aquatics / Olympics

Plymouth Leander’s Stephens thrilled at securing Olympic consideration time

PLYMOUTH Leander swimmer Laura Stephens should be confirmed in Great Britain’s Olympic team this week after two sensational swims at the Glasgow Open Meet.

The meeting was the last chance Britain’s Olympic-hopefuls had of trying to book their slots on the plane to Tokyo.

British Swimming had already selected 28 athletes for the team but had kept a few places open to after the European Championships and the Glasgow Meet.

Stephens had been frustrated to not get the Olympic consideration times at the British trials in April – she missed out on the 100m butterfly time by 0.06 of a second and surprisingly only came third in her favourite 200m butterfly event.

But she put that disappointment behind her and impressed at the European Championships – finishing as top Brit in the 100m and 200m events and producing a stunning medley relay leg to help Great Britain win gold in a national and championship record time.

However, she took her performance to another level totally in Glasgow to leave the British selectors in no doubt whatsoever about why she deserves to be in Japan this summer.

In Friday’s 200m butterfly heats, Stephens, who had celebrated her 22nd birthday just two days earlier, smashed her personal best with a 2:07.04 swim. That was a massive one-and-a-half seconds inside the British Olympic consideration time and was the fifth fastest time in the world this year. It also moved her up to fourth on the British all-time list.

She then backed that up by once again going under the consideration time in Saturday’s final, clocking 2:08.15 to win by more than a second. In the same final, team-mate Sophie Freeman came sixth.

“I couldn’t really ask for much more at this meet,” said a delighted Stephens afterwards.

“It’s been really tough turning it round after the selection trials, having a bit of a disappointing swim there, and Europeans also – more strong swims but outside the consideration time. So to come here and get it (the consideration time) twice, with a pretty substantial PB yesterday, was really the icing on the cake.”

She added: “In all honesty, I didn’t come in with any expectations, I just came in with an open mind.

“We’ve been in a bit of a difficult situation with training – do we taper, do we not taper – so I’m not exactly fully rested for this meet. I just came in and thought, ‘it’s my last shot, so I’m going to give it everything I have’ – and it’s paid off.”

Ben Proud has already been named in GB’s Olympic squad and he had no problems winning the 50m freestyle final in Glasgow in a comfortable 21.93 seconds.

Leander’s Beatrice Varley reached the final of both the 200m IM and 400IM. She came fourth in the shorter race in 2:19.91 and came seventh in the longer race with a 4:53.87.

Club colleague Tom Beeley came eighth in the men’s 100m butterfly final, while Mount Kelly’s Leah Whittaker and Erin Little both reached A finals. Whittaker came fifth in the 50m backstroke in 29.50 seconds, while Little came seventh in a strong women’s 50m freestyle in 26.21 seconds.

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