Worcester swimmers have enjoyed an amazing couple of weeks competing at major Championships – both Nationally and Internationally
We kicked things off at the British Championships in Sheffield from 22nd to 28th July with four individuals plus one relay team flying the Blue & Green flag
First up – with a tough schedule! – was Zara Beaumont. After a couple of months of disrupted training due to GCSE exams, she had been applying herself diligently in training, doing extra workouts, and it showed. Whilst a tad off her Personal Best Times in all 3 events – 400 Free, 800 Free and 400 IM – she performed with great credit, notably in the 800 race where she showed real guts to knock out an excellent 9:32.68
Team mate Theo Rogers had a busy week too, the uber talented sprinter racing most days. Also a bit off PB (1%), he narrowly missed Finals but showcased his talent/potential across the 100m Backstroke, 100m Butterfly, 50m and 100m Freestyle, laying down a marker for future years
After an injury scare and 10 days of Kick only in training, Ben Gooch joined Theo for the two Freestyle sprint races. Despite the less than ideal prep, he swam really well, even recording a 0.2s PB in the 50m event – a tantalising glimpse into what would come the following week in English when he would be back to full fitness and firing on all cylinders…
Together, Theo and Ben were joined by Henry Hoare and William Thomas for the boys 14-16 4×100 Free relay against the really big squads like Sheffield, Mount Kelly and Guildford, and they did a brilliant job, knocking 2s off their impressive qualifying swim at West Midland Championships to finish 23rd overall, with Henry (56.17) and Will (58.10) absolutely delivering their very best performances!
Star of the show though at the British Champs – for the second consecutive year – was Breaststroke specialist Grace Earp. She had been flying in training and confidence was high, though she made us wait until the final day of the Championships to set the pool alight. After a disappointing 50 but hugely encouraging 200, she smashed the 100m Breaststroke Heats with an excellent PB of 1.13.87 (down from 1.14.57 set in April) to qualify for the Final. There she dropped another 1s to record a brilliant 1.12.74, a simply stunning time. She narrowly missed the Podium, finishing 5th, only 0.37s off Silver in an incredibly tight race of the very highest quality – well done Grace, truly outstanding
After a few days breather, attention turned to the World Paralympic Championships – this year back in the UK (Manchester) running from 31st July to 6th August – with Visually Impaired siblings Rebecca and Matthew Redfern proudly representing GB, and Worcester!
As in 2022 when Matt made his GB debut, they swam together in the VI Medley and Freestyle relays – very exciting! – though in both races, they were to be denied medals, the GB quartet having to settle for excellent 4th places
Becky though was on an individual mission too, gunning to reclaim her 2019 world title on the 100m Breaststroke, and she did not disappoint!!! Again, she went head to head with American Colleen Young and this time it was Becky who came out on top by 0.5s, the pair well clear of the rest of the field. It was a great race between two elite international athletes and on this occasion Becky’s strength, determination and finishing speed won the day. Bring on Paris!
The first week in August was very busy for the Blue and Green army because whilst Becky and Matt were racing in Manchester at the World Para Championships, 6 other Worcester swimmers were over in Sheffield from 2nd to 6th August competing at the English summer championships – for the next fastest 20 swimmers who just missed out on the top 20 spots in their age groups at British
Youngest member of the team – and making his Nationals debut – was Dylan Lewis. After an amazing Spring qualification window, he raced in the 14/u 50m Freestyle plus all 3 Backstroke races – 50, 100 & 200m – narrowly missing Finals in all but the 50 Back where he produced an impressive PB (28.97) to grab 6th in the Final
Ben was back – and oh what a meet he had! Swimming Butterfly, he smashed his PB’s, reducing his 100 Fly from 60.55 to 58.84 in the Heats and then further to 58.22 in the Final for Silver, before going even better in the 50m race dropping from 26.83 in qualification to 26.44 Heats and 25.98 Final for a thoroughly deserved Gold medal, reward for his dedication, hard work and commitment – fantastic!
The Club had four 15-year old Girls competing at English Champs – impressive – and each and every one produced at least one PB and made a Final – cool!
The Club’s leading female sprinter Frankie Barry raced in the blue riband 50m Freestyle, acutely aware that only hundredths of a second would separate all the competitors, and so it proved. She did a tidy PB of 28.13 (28.30) for a very creditable 9th in the Final, her second top 10 finish at this highest level
In the women’s Breaststroke events, Worcester continued its fine history with two competitors…
Having narrowly missed out on qualification last year, Grace Ryder was up for the challenge. A tad disappointed with her Heat Swim (PB+2s) she snuck into the 200m Final and then swam an absolute blinder from an outside lane to take 7th in a new PB of 2.50.37, a terrific result that augurs really well for future years
In the 200m, Grace got the better of team mate Brecon Westwood but she was also in the 100m and 50m Breaststroke, and in the latter, after a tough week, Brecon showed immense character and really pulled it out of the bag to earn a place in the sprint Final. She had to do it the hard way though – through something never seen before, a 4-way swim off for 2 places, the four girls having all tied on 35.99 in the Heats! Her swim-off time was a lovely PB of 35.66 – well done Brecon
And last but definitely not least, Asha Mahanta delivered – as she always does on the big occasion – two first class performances in the 50m and 100m Backstroke. Having opted to race in Sheffield – rather than try to retain the 100m Butterfly and Backstroke titles she won at the Irish Championships in Dublin last year – it was wonderful to see her come away with two medals, Bronze in the 50 and Silver in the 100 – the latter another super close, thrilling race that exemplified Asha’s drive, determination and will to succeed