STEPHANIE Proud ripped up the form book to claim 200m backstroke gold at the British Gas Championships and book her ticket to Shanghai this summer.
The former European Junior champion, from Chester-le-Street, clocked 2:09.41minutes to leave European champion Lizzie Simmonds and world 100m backstroke gold medallist Gemma Spofforth trailing in her wake at the Manchester Aquatics Centre.
Prior to the race all the talk had been about the Spofforth versus Simmonds showdown but neither could keep pace with Proud, finishing second and fifth respectively.
And with her place on the plane to this summer’s World Championships now confirmed Proud was beaming from ear to ear as she prepared to collect a long overdue gold medal.
“I’m so happy. I’ve just missed out so many times before so it feels fantastic to make the qualifying time and to win it,” said Proud.
“I came here with a lot of confidence because I’ve been swimming really well recently. I’ve been over to Australia and up to Loughborough, I’ve been everywhere really and I knew I was capable of a performance like that.
“A lot of people ask me if it’s intimidating to swim against Lizzie and Gemma but it really isn’t. They’re fantastic swimmers and fantastic girls but I’m just really happy.
“Even though it was good enough to qualify I really don’t think the time was that fast. I think there’s another two seconds to come off that.
“It might have been only about half-a-second off my best without the suits but I don’t think the suits have affected me that much and I know I can go a lot quicker than that.”
Elsewhere, the curtain came down on City of Sunderland swimmer Jonathan Carlisle’s week as he bowed out of the 50m backstroke heats.
Primarily a 200m swimmer Carlisle was looking to end his week on a high by making the semi-final over the shorter distance but it wasn’t to be in Manchester.
The 18-year-old – who had seen his build up disrupted by injury and illness – qualified for the Manchester event with a time of 27.41 seconds.
But he was well down on that time, ending 18th quickest overall in a time of 27.74 seconds, over a second shy of fastest qualifier Luke Wood.
“The swim was OK,” said Carlisle. “I’ve had a few injuries this year so I’m just trying to get back to my full fitness. The 50 really isn’t my event. I’m normally best at the 200 but I haven’t done that well this week.
“I’ll move on to youth nationals and open nationals at the end of the year now, that’s my main target for this year now.”
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