SHEFFIELD, England, August 1. WORLD Championship breaststroke medalist Kirsty Balfour showed signs she is getting back to her best after injury when she took gold on the final day of the ASA National Championships in Sheffield.
And records fell yet again for Britain's disability swimmers who set new standards on the final day's action at the Ponds Forge pool.
Balfour showed signs her fitness is returning following injury problems over the past two months with a strong swim. The City of Edinburgh swimmer dominated the field to win the title in 2:28.05, Deborah Hall (City of Sheffield) took the silver in 2:30.26 and Stacey Tadd (University of Bath) won bronze in 2:35.63.
"I'm relieved by the win to be honest," said Balfour. "My aim was to finish at around the 2:27.00 mark but I'm not too disappointed as my training has been disrupted through the injuries I've had to my shoulder and hip. I didn't have any downtime during my injuries, I tried to work through it and I'm so happy to be out of the other side. The world is moving on all of the time and I can't afford time out of the water. It's exciting and it drives me on."
A British Age Group Record for Jess Dickons (Borough of Stockton) saw the youngster claim the Women's 200m Butterfly title from Terri Dunning (City of Birmingham) in 2:10.31 and Jemma Lowe (Borough of Stockton) took the bronze in 2:11.13.
"I can't believe I've done that time," said Dickons. "I haven't done that in a year. My aim was to get down to my best time and the 200m Butterfly is my event. I have to give a lot of respect to Jemma and Terri – we all swam well and it was a great race. It is great to have got that time without tapering. Working with Jemma in training is great, we probably don't realise just how much we push each other in races but I was made to race."
James Goddard (Stockport Metro) led from the front in the Men's 200m Backstroke event to take gold in 1:59.01. Marco Loughran (Guildford City) took the silver in 2:00.23 from Gregor Tait (City of Edinburgh) in 2:00.29.
"That was very encouraging," said Goddard. "The semi-finals hurt, I felt I was really up for a good race but it just didn't happen. This afternoon was different though. I went into it more relaxed and was two seconds quicker. I'm really looking forward to doing some serious work in the water now. I need to work on my power and that'll come from gym work which I'll be concentrating on.
Caitlin McClatchey (Loughborough University) set the pace in the Women's 400m Freestyle to bring home a strong field in 4:07.19 just outside her own British Record. Becky Adlington (Nova Centurion) took the silver in a personal best time of 4:09.75 and Jo Jackson (Derwentside) grabbed the bronze in 4:10.34.
"That felt quite good. It's better than World Championships and I was aiming to improve on my best so far this season and I've done that," said McClatchey. "It's really encouraging as I'm heading off to Japan later this month. I was close to the British Record and I think I should have pushed harder. I want my 400m time to come down now. I need to work on my sharpe edge but I think that'll come with a taper in time for Japan. The crowds here in Sheffield have been great and the Loughborough guys are so supportive, they create a great atmosphere."
Fran Halsall set a new British Age Group Record in the Women's 50m Freestyle to take gold when the City of Liverpool swimmer touched in 25.39, silver went to Amy Smith of Loughborough University in 26.07 and Georgina Heyn of Ealing grabbed bronze in 26.23.
"This week has been a bit up and down for me," said Halsall. "The first two days were really good but I then became ill so I'm happy to have swam so fast tonight. I didn't expect to get the record but it was pleasing to do that. This week is important to me to see how I'm doing before I taper. I've been putting in some fast times which is encouraging for Japan in a couple of weeks where I can see how I stand against the rest of the world."
In the Men's 100m Butterfly Michael Rock of Stockport Metro took the gold in a best time of 53.09, Matt Bowe (Swansea Performance) took the silver in 53.62 and bronze went to Ian Hulme (Swansea Performance) in 54.22.
"I'm really happy with the way I've performed this week," said Rock. "I've been putting in some hard training with my coach and it's been paying off. I've swum best times in all of my events so it's been a great meet for me."
Chris Alderton (Wear Valley) took the honours in the Men's 1500m Freestyle when he edged a close finish in 15:41.65 from Michael Unsworth (Loughborough University) in 15:42.23 and Daniel Fogg (Loughborough University) 15:48.39.
"That really hurt," said Alderton. "I've been ill this week but I tired to I've put that to the back of my mind. When I hit the final 500m mark I moved away from Unsworth and that's when I knew I could win it. I'm really pleased to have won. It's been so good for all of the Offshore Centre boys to have been here. They are a great support and it really lifts the atmosphere and pushes you to do to well."
In the Men's 400m IM Euan Dale (Loughborough University) set the standard to take gold in 4:18.44, Thomas Haffield (City of Cardiff) in 4:18.71 set a new Welsh Record to take silver and Lewis Smith of Warrender went 4:19.24 for the bronze.
Records fell once again in the Multi-Disability events. In the Men's 200m IM Sascha Kindred (SM6) of Leominster took gold when he touched just outside his own World Record in 2:46.43, silver went to Sam Hynd (SM8) in another European Record time of 2:32.80 for the Nova Centurion swimmer, and Robert Welbourn (SM10) of Lincoln Vulcans took the bronze in 2:22.83.
"That's my second European standard today," said Hynd. "I was hoping to claim the records but I'm always surprised when I do. It's a great feeling."
For Hynd it was his third European Record of the week and with an additional five British Records it has been quite a meet for the 16-year-old swimmer.
"I've had a great meet but I'll take a couple of weeks off now and then get back into it with everything focused on Beijing next year."
Claire Cashmore of Kelly College lead the way in the Women's MD 200m IM event with a new British Record of 2:45.67 (SM9), her fourth of the meet. Medals went to Nyree Lewis (SM6) of Leominster with the gold in 3:21.24, Natalie Jones (SM6) of Colchester Penguins took the silver in 3:25.30 and bronze went to Liz Johnson (SM6) of Swansea Performance in 3:35.80.
"I'm really happy with my performances this week," said Cashmore. "I was aiming to swim faster but it's been great and I'm pleased with my results. I've had a breakthrough in training and I can really see the benefits. I'm now setting sights on Beijing."
In the youth competition the Women's 14/15 years 400m Freestyle title went to Beckenham's Ellen Gandy who lead from the outset to touch home in 4:14.00. City of Edinburgh's Robyn Matthews took the silver in 4:21.75 and Emma Graham (City of Leeds) set a new personal best to take bronze in 4:22.30.
Gold in the 16/17 years event went to Megan Gilchrist of City of Edinburgh in a best time of 4:17.15 after a close finish with Jazmin Carlin of Tigersharks who finished second in 4:17.62 and bronze went to Jordan Tomlinson of City of Sheffield in 4:20.08.
"I've had a great week," said Gilchrist. "I've been really pleased with all of my swims. From my four events I've set new best times in three and have posted three new Scottish Age Group Records and that's more than I had hoped and trained for."
Roberto Pavoni of Brentwood continued his impressive week at Ponds Forge with a strong swim in the Men's 15/16 400m Individual Medley to take the youth title in a personal best time of 4:29.10 from Matthew Allison of Stockton in 4:36.75 and Byron Lockett of South Africa in 4:37.50.
The race for the Men's 17/18 400m IM title ended with Xavier Mohammed (Bexley) adding gold to his collection of four medals from this year's championships when he touched the wall in 4:25.35. William Purnell of Warrender Baths took the silver in 4:30.34 and a new personal best for Michael Jamieson saw the City of Edinburgh swimmer take bronze in 4:31.11.
In the Women's 50m Freestyle 14/15 event gold went to Rebecca Turner (City of Sheffield) in a time of 27.03, Kristina Paige of Reading took the silver in 27.17 and bronze went to Ellen Gandy of Beckenham in 27.
Winner of the 50m Freestyle 16/17 category was Emma Wilkins of Chase SC in 26.75, Hannah Askew of Maxwell was second in a time of 26.91 and Bethan Thomas from City of Cardiff took the bronze in 27.16.
Special thanks to British Swimming for contributing this report.