Ellen Gandy will fly home to Australia on Sunday having secured her Olympic place in both the women's fly events and put some welcome distance between her and London 2012. Gandy won the 200m last night to add to her triumph in the shorter distance earlier in the week, but it was not the victory that struck a chord, rather her confession afterwards that nerves had come close to wrecking her swim.
The draining pressure to make the top two spots, and within the required time, to claim the rare honour of competing in a home Games has been a constant throughout the trials week. Each swimmer has spoken of the utter relief of making the cut. Last night Michael Jamieson said that "fear" drove him down his last length to earn his Olympic place behind Andrew Willis in the 200m breaststroke.
Gandy shot off the blocks and down the first two lengths in a time quicker than her British record, set in 2009 when the now banned artificial suits were producing a spate of extraordinary times. But it was no statement of intent, instead a result of sheer nervous energy.
The 200m fly is among the toughest events in the pool. "It was suicide," said Gandy. "I was so unbelievably nervous. I thought I would be more relaxed because I was already on the team for the 100. I thought I was going to faint in the pool room. My nerves made me go out too fast and I paid for that on the last 50. I felt like I was swimming uphill."
Gandy moved to Australia four years ago after her father got a job running Melbourne airport and competes on the Australian circuit. Among those she trains with Down Under is Leisel Jones, who swam in the 2000 Sydney Olympics aged 15 and knows all about the pressures of a home Games. "Being here the last couple of weeks has been really exciting to see all of the publicity," said Gandy. "But it is nice to separate myself from that pressure."
Willis won the battle of the three Bath breaststrokers in the 200m, overtaking Jamieson on the last length. Both set personal bests, leaving the more experienced Kris Gilchrist trailing in third. "I wasn't expecting it to be that quick," said Willis, who touched in 2min 9:33sec, the best in the world this year. "This week has been really nerve-racking."
The night's other final, the men's 100m free, was the first of the week that failed to produce a qualifier for the Games. Simon Burnett won it but was more than half a second outside the Fina A time required.
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