Lowe puts foot on the Games plane

SAMUEL LOWE’S outstanding 200m backstroke performance landed him both a prestigious record and a Commonwealth Games B standard as a new-look Island Championships unfolded at St Sampson’s High over the weekend.

The 17-year-old Guernsey Swimming Club star clocked 2min. 4.68sec. to beat a gala record set in 2003 by Ian Powell, the butterfly and breaststroke specialist whose achievements are recalled in the ‘Sporting Heroes’ hall of fame at Beau Sejour. Powell swam his outright Guernsey mark of 1-58.04 in Stockport in 2011.

And after lining up on Saturday with a personal best of 2-05.32, agonisingly 0.02sec. outside the B standard, Lowe has become only the third Sarnian swimmer to secure a Birmingham 2022 qualifying mark this cycle.

‘[The] 200m backstroke was probably my best chance of getting the B time, and I am really happy with that,’ Lowe said while catching his breath afterwards.

‘It’s great to see all the hard training has paid off.

‘I knew if I got the record, I would get the time, so they were both on my mind at the same time.

‘After my 400m freestyle [4-12.24] I was a bit disappointed, but I put it behind me and had a good swim, which is great.’

That off-colour 400m time was still good enough to win and, on the Friday, he had narrowly missed the 800m freestyle B standard with 8-29-02 but lowered his own Guernsey record in the process.

Lowe’s strong performances were a clear highlight of Friday and Saturday’s Island Championships sessions, but the fact that the event went ahead at all was a cause for celebration.

The GSC only gave the event the definite green light on Thursday afternoon, having discussed with relevant parties how to hold the event safely.

Hold it they did, though the barring of spectators and various distancing measures afforded a distinctive and much more spacious feeling to the venue.

Numbers were also down overall due to several late withdrawals.

Only supportive fellow swimmers and officials, plus a couple of media personnel, had the pleasure of watching some cracking performances, which included additional gala records from GSC’s Laura Le Cras and the Barracudas duo of Orla Rabey and Oriana Wheeler.

Le Cras covered her focal 50m breaststroke in 33.12, eclipsing a record dating back 22 years and belonging to former Commonwealth Games swimmer Helen Watts. She added wins over 100m freestyle and breaststroke.

Rabey also broke a long-standing record, in this case the 200m butterfly, swimming 2-18.52 to slice over four seconds from the highly-decorated Gail Strobridge’s mark from 2004.

Orla Rabey took the long-held Gail Strobridge butterfly mark. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 30246618)

She then took a mark off notable youth talent Kristina Neves in the 100m butterfly, clocking 1-03.99.

Wheeler took second to her with 1-04.91 in that race and beat Neves’ age 15-16 record.

But, at the young age of 16, Rabey sealed three senior titles that day, starting with that morning’s 200m individual medley.

That afternoon Wheeler posted a quick 5-03.02 in a hard, solo swim over the 400m IM, together with a dominant 200m backstroke win.

Both of these Barracudas entered the Commonwealth Games qualifying window as outside possibilities and now, with several off-island competitions lined up in December, will be hoping they can push on and gain last-ditch qualifiers.

‘It has been a tough qualifying period,’ admitted Barracudas head coach Sara Parfit.

Her opposite number, GSC head coach Naomi Wakeford, was so pleased to see this domestic pinnacle going ahead in any format.

‘We have done our utmost for it to go ahead and be as safe as possible,’ she said.

‘It has been quite a bit of hard work, but it’s been worth it to give them the opportunity to swim.

‘Numbers are down, which is a shame, but it’s still a good competition and they have swum well – quite a few records have gone.’

Barracudas sprinter Jonny Beck, another Birmingham hopeful, doubled up over 50m breaststroke and 100m freestyle.

After losing out narrowly to Beck in the 50m breaststroke, GSC’s Luke Le Cras achieved his own double over the 100m and 200m equivalents.

All told, over a dozen swimmers took their share of the senior crowns in two quite varied days of racing.

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