Steph Proud vows to challenge swimming champions

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STEPH Proud has vowed to make sure she doesn’t get left out in the cold at the British Gas Swimming Championships in Manchester.

The 22-year-old, former European junior champion, cruised into tonight’s 200m backstroke final as the fastest qualifier, where she will come up against the European champion Lizzie Simmonds and 100m world champion Gemma Spofforth.

With only two spots on the British team for this summer’s World Championships in Shanghai up for grabs, Proud knows she must upset the odds if she’s to secure a trip to the Far East.

Spofforth and Simmonds battled it out for 100m backstroke glory, taking gold and silver respectively but Proud, who trains in Florida with Spofforth, insists the longer distance will be a different story.

“It was all about getting through to the final because I think that is going to be the real big one with Lizzie and Gemma and me going against each other,” said Proud.

“There is a really good rivalry between us ahead of the final and I think in general it is good to have those girls around who are world class swimmers who can really push you on.

“Hopefully I can get my hand on the wall first and get in there. I think the important for me going into a final is just to make sure I stay relaxed and that’s what I’ll be trying to do.

“If I am relaxed and happy and not getting too stressed about it then hopefully it can go well.

“There’s not too much rivalry in the call room or anything between me, Lizzie and Gemma. Most of the time there is just lots of friendly banter and it’s quite good in there.”

Proud clocked 2:11.26 seconds, a season’s best, as she was the quickest qualifier for tonight’s final, with Rachel Lefley and Karley Mann second and third respectively.

Strangely Simmonds and Spofforth were conservative in qualifying, but Proud is predicting a return to form for the pair when it matters most in the final.

“They are two world-class swimmers and I know there’s a lot more to come,” she added. “My times are where they need to be at the moment and so I’m hopeful ahead of the final.”

Former Sunderland swimmer Phoebe Lenderyou, now swimming for City of Newcastle, was 13th overall in 2:17.94.

H The nation’s leading energy supplier British Gas is the principal partner of British Swimming, and is supporting the sport at all levels, from grass roots to our elite athletes. Visit www.britishgas.co.uk/swimming