STEPH PROUD predicted a “dogfight” tonight as Britain’s stable of backstrokers battle for a trip to the world championships in Shanghai.
The Commonwealth finalist from Chester-le-Street will be in pole position after qualifying fastest from the 200m backstroke semi-finals at the British Gas Championships in Manchester with a time of 2:11.26.
But she knows she will have to beat two of the best in the world just to claim one of the two places in Shanghai.
European 200m champion Lizzie Simmonds and world and European 100m backstroke champion Gemma Spofforth qualified fourth and fifth respectively in 2:14.05 and 2:14.23.
But they will certainly raise their game in the final.
Former European junior champion Proud, 22, who trains at the University of Florida, said: “There are four or five of us who could make the qualifying time but only two places available.
“We all know that we can do it – it’s just a case of who comes first and second. It’s going to be a bit of a dogfight on the last 50 metres.”
If she fails to make the team for Shanghai, however, there could be ample compensation for Proud who would instead hope to defend her World University Games title in nearby Shenzhen in August.
City of Newcastle’s Phoebe Lenderyou, 15, missed out on a place in the same final after coming 13th in 2:17.94.
The time was outside the qualifying time for the European Junior Championships but she hopes to be selected for that event in Belgrade in July after reaching the 100m final.
“I made the time for that in the heats and semi-finals but not in the final – but hopefully they will take me,” said Lenderyou, who returned to Ponteland High School to take her GCSE maths exam on Wednesday before heading back to Manchester.
Newcastle team-mate Andy Mayor charged into tonight’s 100m butterfly final fourth quickest in his first serious competition since the Commonwealth Games.
The Scot has traditionally contested all three butterfly distances but looked much better in the 100m than he did in the 200m event earlier in the week.
Mayor, 25, whose semi-final time was 54.29sec, said: “We took a bit of time out after Delhi and it was always going to be a tough step to try and get back into training for the 200m.
“And looking towards the Olympics I think the qualifying time for that is going to be out of reach for me.
“I stand a better chance on the 100 so I am trying to specialise in that a bit more.”
Fran Halsall demonstrated the technique and determination that has brought her world, European and Commonwealth medals when she touched out Amy Smith by three hundredths of a second to win the 100metres freestyle at the British Gas Swimming Championships in Manchester.
While Halsall claimed the narrowest of victories, James Goddard was in a class of his own as he completely dominated the 200metres backstroke.
Michael Jamieson won the men’s 200m breaststroke while Stacey Tadd took the women’s equivalent.