AUCKLAND, New Zealand, March 30. NORTH Shore sprinter Hayley Palmer, hospitalised with glandular fever last year, bounced back to grab a ticket to the Olympics on the last night of finals at the State New Zealand Swimming Championships in Auckland tonight.
The 22 year old produced her best time in two years to equal the qualifying standard of 25.27 to win the final of the 50m freestyle at the event that doubled as the Olympic Trials at the West Wave Aquatic Centre in Waitakere.
The number of individuals under the qualifying time for London is eight in 14 events along with the women's 4x200m freestyle relay, bringing the total to 12.
The men's 4×200 freestyle, women's 4x100m freestyle and men's 4x100m medley relay teams have met the New Zealand Olympic Committee criteria and will wait final FINA invitation in June as one of the four remaining fastest nations.
Experienced North Shore swimmer Melissa Ingram will be heading to her second Olympics after going under the qualifying time in the 200m backstroke. The26 year old clocked 2:10.56 to be 0.3 seconds under the qualifying mark for London.
The evening was sealed with a remarkable 3:35.09 effort by the men's quartet of Gareth Kean, Glenn Snyders, Daniel Bell and Carl O'Donnell in the 4x100m medley relay.
The time would have placed them sixth at last year's world championships, and earned them selection for London, pending final invitation from FINA.
“It was a fantastic feeling. When you put four guys together they do everything for eachother and can achieve great things,” said Snyders. “I I was in the team that got fifth at Beijing and I think we can do amazing things again in London, given the chance.”
There was further celebration when Olympic open water hope Kane Radford eclipsed the last of the great Danyon Loader's national records when he won the men's 1500m freestyle in 15:27.13s, just 23/100ths of a second under the old mark that has stood since 1994.
Loader's other two records, set in winning his gold medals at the Atlanta Olympics, were bettered by Matthew Stanley earlier in the meet.
Radford, still untapered for this meet as he prepares for the final Olympic open water qualifying race in Portugal in June, had to fight to dispose of training mate Nathan Capp.
Palmer was one of the country's most promising young sprinters before suffering from glandular fever and hospitalised during the world championships in shanghai last year.
She has worked hard under coach Thomas Ansorg to return to competitive swimming but was not expecting too much this week.
“This is pretty cool. All I wanted to do at this meet was to come out and really swim fast. To qualify for the Olympics is an absolute bonus,” said Palmer.
“That was possibly the best feeling that I have ever had. Aside from the bronze at the Comm Games it was right up there.
“Last time in Beijing was in a relay but there's something different about having to do it on your own. I am really relishing that opportunity to be able to do that.”
Ingram had already bettered the qualifying mark last year at the world championships and had to wait for the final night which was a test of her focus and resolve. She clocked 2:10.56 to be under the qualifying mark by 0.3 secs.
“It is really hard waiting to the final night. I have had to watch my friends qualify and in some cases go close but miss out and it rips you apart a bit,” Ingram said.
“I have tried to keep away for the last couple of days and get my mind off it. That was not the prettiest of swims but I dug in there and fought well.
“I am happy though that I swam fast this morning and backed that up tonight.”
North Shore's Daniel Bell had to dig deep over the final 15m to come from behind to edge Australian-based Roskill Magic sprinter Paul Benson in the final of the 100m butterfly. Benson led at the turn with Bell getting up to win in 53.57, with Benson just 6/100ths of a second behind with Corney Swanepoel (Roskill) third.
Earlier Roskill Magic's Nielsen Varoy defended his men's 50m freestyle title in a powerful burst in 22.92, edging out Australian-based top qualifier Cameron Simpson (Templeton, Chch) by 4/100ths of a second with the 100m freestyle champion Carl O'Donnell (North Shore) third.
Tomorrow's final night of finals features the men's and women's 50m freestyle, both Olympic qualifying events.
Results of day six finals at the State New Zealand Swimming championships at West Wave Aquatic Centre, Waitakere:
Men 50m freestyle: Nielsen Varoy (Roskill) 22.92, 1; Cameron Simpson (Templeton) 22.96, 2; Carl O'Donnell (North Shore) 23.13, 3.
Women 50m freestyle: Hayley Palmer (North Shore) 25.27, 1; Samantha Richter (North Shore) 25.55, Rhi Jeffrey (West Auckland Aquatics) 25.59, 3.
Men 100m butterfly: Daniel Bell (North Shore) 53.57, 1; Paul Benson (Roskill) 53.63, 2; Corney Swanepoel (Roskill) 53.90, 3.
Women 200m backstroke: Melissa Ingram (HPC-North Shore) 2:10.56, 1; Sophia Batchelor (AquaGym) 2:12.31, 2; Penelope Marshall (HPC-North Shore) 2:13.78, 3.
Men 1500m freestyle: Kane Radford (HPC-Rotorua) 15:27.13, 1 (NZ Record); Nathan Capp (HPC-Greerton) 15:31.47, 2; Michael Mincham 15:33.59, 3.
Men 4x100m medley relay: New Zealand (Gareth Kean, Glenn Snyders, Daniel Bell, Carl O'Donnell) 3:35.09. Howick Pakuranga 3:45.34, 1; North Shore Swimming 3:48.96, 2; Capital Swim Club 3:52.81, 3.
Women 4x100m medley relay: Capital 4:16.45, 1; North Shore 4:16.68, 2; AquaGym 4:21.23, 3.
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