SYDNEY, Australia, February 11. BEIJING relay gold medallist Emily Seebohm has clocked the fastest 100m backstroke time in the world this year, taking out tonight's NSW State Championships title in 59.36 at the Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre.
The 19-year-old Queenslander showed no ill effects of the swine flu and post viral fatigue that plagued her 2011 campaign, to storm clear of 200m champion Belinda Hocking (1:00.17) and Victorian Grace Loh (1:01.09) in the standout performance of the night.
In this form and providing she gains Olympic selection at next month's Australian Swimming Championships in Adelaide, the Matt Brown coached star is considered by many to be Australia's best ever chance to snap the nation's Olympic gold medal drought in the stroke, but she isn't getting ahead of herself.
"Hopefully I can go a lot faster at next month's trials and hopefully get on the team and plane for London," said Seebohm. "I feel good so hopefully it's going to be a big year for me to step up and make my mark in swimming."
Beijing relay gold medallist Bronte Barratt used tonight's final of the 400m freestyle as the perfect tune up ahead of next month's Australian Swimming Championships taking the NSW title in an encouraging 4:06.82. The 23-year-old's swim was also the third fastest time in the world this year.
Fellow Beijing Olympian Angie Bainbridge from the AIS was second in 4:10.54, while Kiwi Lauren Boyle grabbed third in 4:10.64.
Korea's 400m freestyle champion from last night Park Tae Hwan has added the 2012 NSW 200m freestyle title to his swimming résumé, clocking the second fastest time of the year to strike gold in 1:46.78.
It was a tight battle for second and third with 2010 national champion Nick Ffrost snaring silver in 1:48.73, from Hunter swimmer Jarod Killey (1:48.93). Olympian Kenrick Monk, in his first swim since injuring his elbow, finished 10th in 1:52.53.
In other events…
Women's 100m butterfly
Great Britain Olympian Ellen Gandy proved too strong for the field in the 100m butterfly, upsetting her rivals in 57.78 to take the NSW crown. Following the Brit into the touch pads was Queensland speed machine Yolane Kukla (58.54) and Gold Coast swimmer Alice Tait (59.08).
Men's 200m backstroke
2011 national champion in this event Ashley Delany went head-to-head with Victorian teenager Josh Beaver for most of the men's 200m backstroke before the talented teen pulled away over the final 50m to steal gold in a new personal best and Australian 18yrs Age record time of 1:59.17.
New Zealand record holder Gareth Kean edged out Delaney to secure the second tier on the dais in 1.59.68, while Delaney was a shade back in third in 1:59.97.
Men's 100m breaststroke
It was a cross-Tasman tussle in the men's 100m breaststroke as Australia's world record holder Brenton Rickard slugged it out with Kiwi stalwart Glenn Snyders in one of the races of the night.
It was the New Zealander who emerged victorious as a powerful late surge sealed the win in 1:01.19, from AIS-based Jeremy Myers (1:02.43) and Rickard (1:02.46)
Women's 200m breaststroke
In the women's 200m breaststroke it was a brace of Japanese swimmers that upstaged the field with Keiko Fukudome (2:25.88) and Mio Motegi (2:26.23) winning gold and silver respectively.
Rounding out the top three was the AIS-based West Australian Sally Foster who touched third in 2:27.08.
Women's 50m freestyle
In the splash and dash of the women's 50m freestyle it was Swedish world champion Therese Alshammar who emerged from the whitewash to take the NSW title in 25.17.
Only a shade back, finishing in second spot, was Commonwealth Games gold medallist Yolane Kukla (24.98) and Alex Purcell (25.12).
Men's 200m IM
In the absence of race favourite and world championship finalist Kenneth To, who recently underwent an appendix operation, the men's 200m IM was taken out by Sydney swimmer Daniel Tranter (1:59.23). Touching second was Japan's Daiya Seto (1:59.63), with Jayden Hadler third in 1:59.65.
1) Chris Wright 24.26
2) Paul Benson 24.30
3) Sam Ashby 24.32
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