By guest writer Julia Wilkinson-Minks (2008 & 2012 Canadian Olympian)
SHEFFIELD, Great Britain, June 26. ALTHOUGH the swimming world cannot possibly get enough of the excitement that is the American World Trials in Indianapolis, across the pond, another team is currently choosing the swimmers that will wear red, white and blue this summer in Barcelona: Great Britain.
Unlike the American trials, the British have opted to swim semi-finals in all events 200-meters and under. This meet also features the Para-swimmers, who started the meet off with the 100-meter freestyle. On the men's side, S7 swimmer Josef Craig scored the most points and won with his 1:02.30. Craig was a gold medalist last summer at the London Paralympics in the 400-meter freestyle. Sascha Kindred was third and set a new British record of 1:10.97 in the S6 category.
16-year old Hannah Russell, who is visually impaired, won the women's 100-meter freestyle, continuing her dominance from last year. Russell was one of the youngest members of Team GB at the Paralympics and qualified for five different events, earning two medals: a silver and a bronze.
Great Britain will have two men swimming the 400-meter freestyle this summer in Barcelona. Robert Renwick, the British record holder in the 200-meter freestyle, won in 3:47.02. Renwick swam in the Olympic final of the 200-meter freestyle in both Beijing and London, placing 8th and 6th respectively. Qualifying for the 400-meter will no doubt add to his confidence as he sets his sights on the podium this summer. Daniel Fogg, who is best known for Open Water and the 1500-meter freestyle, earned his ticket to Barcelona by placing 2nd in 3:47.57.
In the women's 200-meter butterfly semi-finals, Jemma Lowe earned the top seed in 2:08.79, comfortably under the FINA A standard. On the men's side, Roberto Pavoni and Joseph Roebuck will battle it out tomorrow evening: the men are seeded first and second in 1:57.16 and 1:57.64, respectively, and are just shy of the FINA A standard of 1:57.03. Two-time Olympian and top seed from the preliminary round, Michael Rock, did not swim in the semi-final even after a very fast morning swim.
The semi-finals continued with the women's 100-meter breaststroke. Olympian in the 200-meter IM, Sophie Allen, posted the fastest time of 1:08.57, followed closely behind by up-and-coming junior swimmer Georgina Evans in 1:08.61. 2012 Olympian in this event, Siobhan-Marie O'Connor, finished fifth to qualify for tomorrow evening's final.
In the men's 100-meter backstroke, Chris Walker-Hebborn far and away leads the top eight heading to finals in 53.41. Over a second behind is Marco Loughran in 54.62. British record holder and Olympic finalist in this event, Liam Tancock, finished fourth in 55.23, two and a half seconds off the British record he set in Rome in 2009.
British records began to fall when the sprinters hit the pool, starting with Daniel Sliwinski in the 50-meter breaststroke. Sliwinski won in 27.40, which bests the old record of 27.44 set by Darren Mew in 2009. Adam Brown set a new record of 21.92 en route to winning the men's 50-meter freestyle. The old record from 2008 was 21.96 set by Mark Foster. Benjamin Proud was second in 22.01 and although he was not under 22 seconds, he was under the FINA A standard and has earned his ticket to Barcelona.
In the women's 50-meter freestyle, two more swimmers added their names to the World Championship Team roster. Heavy favorite and British sprint queen Francesca Halsall won in 24.54; Amy Smith was second in 24.98.
In the men's multiclass 50-meter backstroke, Andrew Mullen was the only swimmer, and finished in 40.78. In the men's multiclass 100-meter backstroke, Paralympics gold medalist Jonathon Fox was victorious in 1:09.82. This breaks the World Record of 1:09.86 that he posted in the semi-final at last summer's Paralympic Games. Jack Thomas was second and set a new British record of 1:04.33 for the S10 category.
Stephanie Millward won the women's multiclass 100-meter backstroke in 1:10.29. In the same race, Tully Kearney broke a British Record in the S10 category, finishing in 1:11.47.
Julia Wilkinson-Minks is a two-time Olympian for Canada and was a finalist in the 200-meter IM at the 2008 Beijing Games. In 2010, she became Texas A&M's first ever NCAA champion in swimming when she won the 100-yard freestyle. She graduated from Texas A&M with a degree in Speech Communication. Julia retired from competitive swimming following the London Olympic Games and now lives in Texas with her husband Shane.
Follow her on twitter @juliah2o