She swims, she wins. In the 800 metres freestyle, it is as simple as that for Rebecca Adlington and the Olympic champion and world record holder duly claimed the national title here at the British Gas Swimming Championships last night. The 20-year-old from Mansfield cruised home in 8min 18.86sec. That was 4.76sec outside the world mark she set in Beijing last summer but a decent time none the less. More importantly, victory guaranteed her ticket to the world championships in Rome this summer. That event is her big target this year.
Jazmin Carlin, 18, from Swindon, was second last night, highlighting the strength in depth of emerging youngsters, and Keri-Anne Payne was third. "I just wanted to get a solid swim in, and I did," said Adlington, who came second in the 400m earlier this week, and reached the 200m final. "It's been a good week. A learning curve. I've had to start from scratch against since Beijing... I can't pretend I've done all the work I'd have wished [due to distractions] but I really want to push on now."
Given that Adlington's participation had been well flagged, the paying public were notable by their absence. That is a function not of unpopularity but bad marketing, an issue British Swimming need to address. The governing body has bright, successful athletes to sell and is doing them no favours by failing.
In the first final last night, 17-year-old Ellen Gandy produced a stunning display to win the 200m butterfly title in a British and European record time of 2min 4.83sec. Gandy comes from Beckenham but is based in Melbourne because her father was transferred there for his job two years ago.
Shocked by her own speed and delighted to have booked her place in Rome, she said: "I can't believe it, oh my God. I just want to call my coach [Rohan Taylor] but he's Australian and he'll be asleep right now. I can't believe it. I'm in shock right now."
In second place was Hannah Miley, 19, from Swindon, who competes tonight in the final of her best event, the 400m individual medley. A record of some sort is likely and a new world mark is not out of the question.
If there was never much doubt that Adlington would leave Sheffield as the 800m winner, so it is not really in question that Cardiff's David Davies will go home with the gold medal after this evening's 1,500m freestyle final.
Davies, 24, won the bronze Olympic medal at the 2004 Games in Athens over the distance, and though disappointed with a sixth-placed finish in Beijing (where he won silver in the 10km open water), is the dominant Briton in his event.
The Welshman, a student at Loughborough, reached tonight's final by clocking 15min 31.60sec but never needed to get out of his comfort zone to dominate and win his heat.
There was an upset last night in the men's 200m backstroke final when James Goddard was beaten into second place by 18-year-old Chris Walker-Hebborn.
Seconds outside her winning time in last year's final that Adlington finished in the 800m heats.Reuse content