STEPH Proud is hoping to make history repeat itself tonight after storming into the 200m backstroke final at the British Gas Championships in London.
Proud, 23, from Chester-le-Street, qualified second fastest from the semi-finals in 2min 10.87sec – just 0.03sec short of the time needed to guarantee Olympic selection for tonight’s winner.
Proud has several world class rivals to beat if she is to claim one of the two qualification spots, including European champion Lizzie Simmonds, 100m world record holder Gemma Spofforth and 2010 European junior champion Karley Mann, who headed the semi-finals.
But she was in precisely that position 12 months ago and produced one of the minor shocks of the 2011 trials by winning in a world championship qualifying time.
Proud, who trains alongside Spofforth at the University of Florida, said: “It’s looking pretty good so far. We’ll see.
“It’s very competitive with Gemma and Lizzie and young girls like Karley and Georgia Hohmann.
“I’m so tired. I’m going to get some food in me and go to bed.
“I will be nervous tomorrow but I’ve just got to relax. This [Olympic qualification] is everything.”
She added: “There’s no secret. It’s just hard work. I don’t think I’m that talented, I don’t think I’m that skilful. I’ve just worked very very hard.”
City of Sunderland’s 19-year-old Jonathan Carlisle came seventh in the men’s 200m backstroke final in 2:01.54, a second slower than his semi-final time, which would have placed him fifth.
Former City of Newcastle Scottish international Andy Mayor, now training in Stirling, went through to tonight’s 100m butterfly final sixth fastest in 53.69.
Ex City of Sunderland swimmer Ian Hulme, now based in Michigan, USA, will be first reserve for the same final.
Former world silver medallist Fran Halsall was the centre of attention last night after she won the 100 metres freestyle leading from the front in a bright pink suit.
Halsall was inside Commonwealth record pace at the halfway stage and although she could not maintain that, her time of 53.57 seconds was well within that required with fellow Loughborough ITC swimmer Amy Smith joining her on the Great Britain team.
Halsall’s time sent her to the top of the world rankings although this has limited significance considering Britain are the first major nation to hold their trials.
Once Australia’s equivalent begin next week, it will become clearer where home swimmers stand.