Guernsey Press

Swimmers are spurred on with Games spots at stake

THE push for Guernsey 2023 standards helped spur on competitors at the three-day Sure Island Swimming Championships weekend.

Oriana Wheeler equalled the record of Gail Strobridge in the 200m individual medley. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 31512621)

It speaks volumes that prolific Island Games medallist Tom Hollingsworth travelled over from Australia to compete, with the qualifying window for the great home event closing next month.

But ultimately it was the up-and-coming swimmers in their mid-to-late teens that made the biggest impression at Beau Sejour.

Representing hosts the Guernsey Swimming Club, Laura Le Cras dominated the 50m breaststroke in 33.03sec. to shave a small margin off her own record from last year.

In a starkly different race, Barracudas’ Ailish Rabey edged her own 1,500m freestyle mark down to 18-35.79 following a cracking contest, where fellow medallists Delphine Riley (18-40.81) and Hannah Kennedy (18-41.60) also ducked under the old time. Fourth-placed Maddy Russell also finished within 10sec. of the winner.

Fellow Barracuda Oriana Wheeler happened to touch in 2-23.63 for the 200m individual medley, which is exactly the same time Gail Strobridge swam all the way back in 2003.

A newer face for the Barracudas, 16-year-old Owain Edwards, eclipsed an age-group record of Miles Munro pedigree when he covered the 50m butterfly in 26.67.

These four races were just some of the myriad attractions unfolding at a busy pool across five different sessions.

Watched over by a packed stand and with some of the new Games-orientated electronics also on show, swimmers across the age groups vied for titles and personal bests, even if the record haul proved relatively tame.

Some of the Commonwealth Games swimmers are easing back in following the electric highs of Birmingham, but Jonny Beck (24.80) and Le Cras (27.22) still impressed by winning senior titles in the showpiece 50m freestyle.

Commonwealth Games swimmer Laura Le Cras was one of two to set a new gala record over the weekend. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 31512664)

If 100m freestyle is to be considered the blue-riband event then two others deserve to be particularly proud, with Rabey out-duelling Games swimmer Molly Staples with 59.55 and similarly junior Edwards overcoming Beck’s flying start to win in 55.04.

GSC head coach Naomi Wakeford highlighted the performances of juniors Emma Bourgaize and Tallulah-Mae Rautenbach, who won six age-group titles apiece.

But overall there were too many strong swims to mention.

‘There have been some really good swims from everyone, from both clubs,’ Wakeford said.

‘They have been picking their swims, but they have all been thinking about what swims they want to do for the Island Games.

‘It is one of their last opportunities, unless they are going away for Christmas.’

Although the championships did not harmonise with the qualifying window for the nationals, Hampshire times were still up for grabs.

Barracudas counterpart Sara Parfit, likewise, called it ‘a really good weekend of racing’.

‘People are really competing for places for the Island Games,’ she said.

‘We all want the best people doing the swims in the competition, so it’s great that people are actually enjoying racing and it’s excellent for people to watch as well.’