US-based Hayley Palmer set herself for her world championship tilt with an impressive sprint on the fourth night of finals at the State Insurance New Zealand Championships in Auckland tonight.
The 21-year-old is now based in Florida under highly accomplished American coach Randy Reese and she returned to win the 50m freestyle on sprint night at the West Wave Aquatic Centre.
She just missed out on direct qualification for the world championships by a fingertip, clocking 25.50s but her time has provided plenty of encouragement ahead of tomorrow’s 100m freestyle which is her main aim.
“I’m pretty happy with that. To do a 25.5 is encouraging when we have not been concentrating on pure speed this year so far,” Palmer said.
“It’s given me some real confidence for the 100m freestyle. It would have been nice to have nipped under the time tonight but I’m really pleased.
“It’s great to come home and get all the support from the club, family and friends.”
There were mixed feelings for big sprinter Carl O’Donnell (HPC North Shore) who defended his 100m freestyle title in 50.55 ahead of clubmate Andrew McMillan (51.16) and Serbian visitor Velimir Stjepanovic (Laser Mt Eden) in 51.31. But O’Donnell was a mere 11/100ths outside the FINA B time needed to advance the claims for a men’s 4x100m medley relay for the world championships.
Eighteen year old Mitchell Donaldson (North Shore) enjoyed a breakthrough victory in the men’s 200m individual medley.
The Whangaparaoa teenager was a prodigious age group talent until a shoulder injury derailed his fledgling career 18 months ago. After time out he returned to the pool seriously in July and tonight’s win in a personal best 2:04.24 has given him a major lift.
“It means so much. I can’t tell you how much it means to me,” Donaldson said. “I got the shoulder injury about 18 months ago and I just didn’t enjoy swimming.
“I took some time out but I missed the sport and got back in the pool. With the help of the physio at Millennium with treatment I am fit and healthy and loving it.”
Canterbury 15 year old Sophia Batchelor (AquaGym) had to wait after her touch pad did not register to be confirmed as winner of the 50m backstroke, her second title of the championship. Batchelor, coached by Leanne Speechley, clocked 29.50 with a super-fast finish to pip the High Performance Centre North Shore pair of Emily Thomas (29.58) and Melissa Ingram (29.75).
Titleholder Daniel Bell (HPC North Shore) clocked a slick 25.68 to edge out fellow Commonwealth Games backstroke medallist Gareth Kean (Capital) in 25.80, although it was a personal best for the Wellington teenager.
Southland’s Natalie Wiegersma showed her experience to come from behind to dominate the second half of the 200m butterfly. She won in a strong 2:13.85 ahead of early leader and top qualifier Charlotte Webby (Aquabladz Taranaki) in 2:15.17.
Christchurch’s Abbie Johnston (AquaGym), 14, became the youngest winner of the championships to date when she took out the 50m breaststroke in 33.14 from Kelly Briden (QEII) 33.27 and Katie Kenneally (Neptune) in an all-South Island podium.
Results of day 4 finals at the State Insurance NZ Swimming Championships at West Wave Aquatic Centre, Henderson tonight:
Women’s 50m breaststroke: Abbie Johnston (Aquagym) 33.14, 1; Kelly Briden (QEII) 33.27, 2; Katie Kenneally (Neptune) 33.48, 3.
Men’s 50m backstroke: Daniel Bell (HPC North Shore) 25.68, 1; Gareth Kean (Capital) 25.80, 2; Eric Abba (United) 27.15, 3.
Women’s 50m backstroke: Sophia Batchelor (Aquagym) 29.50, 1; Emily Thomas (HPC North Shore) 29.58, 2; Melissa Ingram (HPC North Shore) 29.75, 3.
Men’s 100m freestyle: Carl O’Donnell (HPC North Shore) 50.55, 1; Andrew McMillan (HPC North Shore) 51.16, 2; Velimir Stjepanovic (Laser Mt Eden) 51.31, 3.
Women’s 200m butterfly: Natalie Wiegersma (Waverley) 2:13.85, 1; Charlotte Webby (Aquabladz) 2:15.17, 2; Bianca Bradley (Aquabladz) 2:17.64, 3.
Men’s 200m individual medley: Mitchell Donaldson (HPC North Shore) 2:04.24, 1; Steven Kent (North Shore) 2:04.74, 2; Carsten Corazza (Howick Pakuranga) 2:05.35, 3.
Women’s 50m freestyle: Hayley Palmer (HPC North Shore) 25.50, 1; Amaka Gessler (HPC Motueka) 25.95, 2; Samantha Richter (North Shore) 26.00, 3.
The meet continues until Friday.
Full details: www.swimmingnz.org.nz