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ASA National Championships

Wilson Adds His Name To European Championship Team


Anita Lonsbrough

The ASA National Championships, held at Crystal Palace in early July, were the last chance for Deryk Snelling, the Director of Performance, to add to his team for the European Championships in Sevilla, Spain in mid August.

Already-selected team members did not have to compete. However all but two made some kind of an appearance. The most eagerly awaited race was the men's 1500 freestyle, which fizzled out like a dead squib just before the half-way mark.

With Olympic bronze medallist Graeme Smith already booked for Spain, he swam his own no-pressure race. The big question was who could join Smith on the team?

Smith started out at a comfortable pace and moved into the lead after the half-way point to take the title. Everyone figured the race would be between Paul Palmer, the 400 free Olympic silver medallist and Ian Wilson, the 1991 European silver medallist in the 1500 free.

Wilson, as usual, set out in determined fashion, with Palmer on his shoulder. The question now being asked was Palmer once again going to play cat-and-mouse with Wilson and pounce during the closing stages?

The pace set by Wilson was too much for Palmer and at 600 metres, he looked to be giving up, but not Wilson, who battled on to win his place for Sevilla with a time of 15:18.73.

Palmer at the end had slipped to fourth, allowing Portsmouth's Glen Hudson to take the bronze medal, leaving many questions unanswered about Palmer: had he been training properly, was his heart still in it, had other things taken over?

The latter question was asked because as soon as the race was over, Palmer left to travel north to Scotland, having been invited to watch the British Open Golf Tournament.

Graeme Smith was pleased with his 15:17.70, as the year's training was disrupted with university exams. Ian Wilson believes there is still more to come now that the pressure of qualifying is out of the way.

Karen Pickering, the Commonwealth 100 freestyle champion and record holder was not so lucky. She won the 100 and 200 freestyles in 56.66 and 2:02.26, and was runner-up in the 50 and 400 free, but no qualifying times came her way, so she has to wait and see if Snelling over-rules the selection policy and adds swimmers in events for which they have not qualified.

Qualifying was not a problem for James Hickman. Back in April at the Trials, Stephen Parry gained a surprise double victory over Hickman in both fly events. This time, both were at the same stage in their preparations. Once again, Parry prevailed with winning times of 54.62 and 2:00.33.

Hickman beat Parry in the 50 fly, but was in turn beaten by Mark Jones in 25.51. Hickman and Parry know that the races in Sevilla matter the most, and there they will have others to worry about.

Richard Maden, the top British breaststroker, swept all the available events and was voted "Swimmer of the Championships" by members of the British Swimming Writers Club.

While men's breaststroke has been at the top of the world for some 25 years, individual medley has been in the doldrums. British competitors were given a demonstration of how it should be swum by Japan's Olympic B finalist Tatsuya Kinugasa.

Kinugasa is spending a year in Leeds at college and training with Terry Dennison at the City of Leeds squad.

Katherine Osher, a veteran of British swimming, collected her 43rd national title with a win in the 50 backstroke. Her time of 30.59 was just ahead of youngsters Sarah Price and Katy Sexton.

With members of the European Championship team still in hard training, it was an opportunity for many up and comers to seize their chance and win some titles. However, only two swimmers were successful.

Helen Billington celebrated her 21st birthday with a victory in the 800 freestyle. Her time of 8:48.08 was too slow for a trip to Spain. Billington had been in the U.S. for a two-week distance training camp as part of a 10-member group of up and coming distance swimmers.

At the end of the championships, Ian Wilson was the only swimmer to have achieved a qualifying time, but three others - Janine Belton, Mark Stevens, and Glenn Hudson - were called up for the freestyle relays.

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