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Kean Cracks Kiwi Mark; Gold No3 For Boyle

Mar 29, 2012  - Craig Lord

New Zealand nationals, Auckland, Day 5 finals:

Gareth Kean, booked a ticket for the 200m backstroke at the London 2012 Olympic Games with a 1:57.15 national record ahead of Kurt Bassett, whose 1:58.69 effort for silver was just 0.21sec shy of the FINA A cut.  

In other events, Lauren Boyle added the 800m free to her Olympic schedule after wins over 200m and 400m this week, and the national women's 4x100m free quartet set a Kiwi record but must wait to see if that is good enough to make the plane to Europe in July.

Coached by Gary Hurring, Commonwealth champion over 200m backstroke for New Zealand back in 1978, Kean had held the record at 1:57.37 since making the podium at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, while he gave warning in heats with a 1:57.38 this morning in Auckland.

Kean won from the front, half a second up at 50m, almost a second at 100m, that rate of gain on those who followed rolled out throughout the race. The bronze went to Corey Main, 17, in 2:01.54, while Bassett's best of 1:58.46, inside Olympic cut, stems from a time of shiny suits in 2009. 

The splits:

  • Kean        27.28 57.21 (29.93) 1:27.43 (30.22) 1:57.15 (29.72)
  • Bassett     27.78 58.10 (30.32) 1:28.42 (30.32) 1:58.69 (30.27)

The winning time is third best in the world this year behind efforts of 1:54.02 by Japan's Ryosuke, and 1:56.39 by France's Benjamin Stasiulis at French trials that ended in Dunkirk last weekend.

Reflecting on the ebb and flow of selection trials and tribulations, Kean, speaking through his federation media service, said: “I was overly confident going into the 100m having qualified numerous times. So coming into this meet the 200m was the key so I could go to London in more than one race.

“Doing the 200m in London will make the 100m back a lot easier. There’s going to be a lot more training and distance work to swim the 200 which will hopefully rub off on the 100.

“With all the skills I have worked on in the last year which has made the 100 so special now, so hopefully those skills with then transfer into improving the 200. I’d like to be competitive and some good times will come in both of them in London.. t would have been great to have both of us go under. 

"Kurt is a fantastic swimmer and after his break he is getting faster and faster and so close. But next year he will be right there which is great for backstroke in New Zealand,” said Kean, who took to the water after almost drowning as a child in an incident that led his parents to make sure their son could swim.

In the wake of silver behind England's James Goddard in Delhi, he told reporters: "Commonwealth Games were like a stepping stone. It led me to feel more confident about what I can do in the years to come. Its like a progression of top meets, the Olympics is the ultimate.”

New Zealand will complete its Olympic preparations with a final camp in Belgium before making the hop to Britain. Kean, in common with many heading for the big event, is also looking beyond a time of battle, travel far and wide with his brother among the things on his wish list.

Women's 800m freestyle 

Lauren Boyle, of North Shore, clocked 8:28.15 to win the 800m way out front, silver going to Cara Baker in 8:38.82. The winning time booked Boyle another swim at the Games. 

“I was really pleased with that. I’ve raced every day and produced consistently good and fast performances in the morning heats and in the finals,” said Boyle. “I had not raced for so long so it was a bit unknown really. But with about 17 weeks now to London I think I am in a great place. It’s exciting to qualify in three events. Overall I am most excited about my 400m race here and I will sit down with my coach and see what we attack in London. The schedule is not as demanding as here so that will be great.”

Busy Boyle races 1500m heats tomorrow and the 2.8km State King of the Bays ocean swim on Saturday. 

Women's 4x100m freestyle

Tash Hind, Penelope Marshall, Amaka Gessler and Hayley Palmer clocked 3:41.10 in an Olympic trial that left them 2sec inside the world top 12 cut from 2011 and in line for selection to the Games. With 12 teams qualified, FINA will invite the next four fastest nations after the qualifying period finishes on June 4.

The quartet broke their own New Zealand record by a second, set in winning the silver medal at the Delhi Commonwealth Games. “It was great out there tonight. To achieve this when we have had three races in a day and only an hour between the last two was outstanding,” said Palmer. We are all good friends and train together so we know if we get the chance that we can go much faster in London.”

In other races:

Women's 100m freestyle

Penelope Marshall, of North Shore, pipped former US Olympic relay swimmer Rhi Jeffrey, now vying for New Zealand selection and training at West Auckland Aquatics, 55.54 to 55.65, the bronze going to Tash Hind, Capital, in 55.86. Hayley Palmer clocked 56.02 as fourth home. 

As above, New Zealand's prospects of having a 4x100m free quartet at London 2012 until the last FINA cut of the best 16 teams in the world is known.  The winning time in the solo race is outside the top 60 in the world this year alone, with 17 countries having at least one swimmer faster, with many still to race in peak condition.

Jeffrey, 25, has a best time of 55.21, from 2003. She hit the headlines last year when her 17-year-old boyfriend was said to have "divorced" his parents. In short, Justin Wright fell in love, won a landmark legal battle to be a member of the New Zealand swim federation and therefore be eligible for team selection without his parents permission. 

Wright's girlfriend was persona non grata according to his parents Paul and Sandy, who felt their teenager too young for Jeffrey. They denied their boy the right to compete, boy sued and has a right to take up selection if he earns it. That won't include London 2012 for 18-year-old Wright, a 53sec 100m free swimmer this week at trials.

Coach to both swimmers, David Wright, intervened in the dispute when the to and fro of e-mails on the matter became "abusive". Much water under the bridge - and New Zealand has much bigger issues to face as it reviews a troubled past with a view to a brighter future. Wright is not convinced the powers that be are on the right track on a number of levels, including attitude and the safety of swimmers: you can read more on that at his blog.

Women's 200m breaststroke

Natasha Lloyd, 16 and racing for North Canterbury, was the dominant winner in 2:30.67, shy of the London 2012 A cut but almost 6sec up on next best, Beckie Dooley on 2:36.28 for silver and Stephanie Bennington on 2:40.70. 

Men's 200m medley

Mitchell Donaldson, of North Shore, took the win in 2:02.28, outside FINA A cut. A couple of strokes away was his 19-year-old training partner and a teenager following in the giant strokes of dad Alex Baumann, Ashton on 2:04.10 for silver. 

Baumann senior was Olympic 200m and 400m medley champion in 1984 and world record holder in both events in the 1980s for Canada. His best 200m mark was 2:01.42, in 1984. The family recently moved to New Zealand, where Baumann is overseeing an excellence programme aimed at raising the bar across a number of sports.  The bronze in the medley today went to Steven Kent, on 2:04.92.