West Norfolk swimmers excel at British Championships in Sheffield
Freddie Laws and Nathan Wells were in record-breaking form as West Norfolk Swimming Club’s four representatives enjoyed an excellent week at the British Swimming Championships in Sheffield.
The duo both set new county records during the week as the Purple Army contingent rubbed shoulders with the cream of British swimming.
The opening day of the championships on Tuesday saw all four in action, with Molly Lee and Sarah O’Brien kick-starting proceedings in the Women’s 50 metre breaststroke.
Lee came home in a season’s best time of 34.12 seconds followed by O’Brien with a personal best of 34.36 seconds.
Wells was in action in two events, with a season’s best in the 400 metre freestyle coming after an excellent swim in the 50 metre backstroke which saw him claim the Norfolk County record with a personal best time of 26.87 seconds.
Laws was the fourth and final member of the West Norfolk contingent to hit the water, with a personal best of 1 minute and 5.21 seconds in the 100 metre breaststroke.
The day was a landmark moment for the 18-year-old, swimming just five heats earlier than his childhood hero, two-time Olympic Champion and world record holder, Adam Peaty – a little over seven years to the day after first meeting him .
Day two saw Wells and Laws continue their good form, with the former achieving a season’s best in the 100 metre backstroke and the latter a personal best swim of 30.10 seconds in the 50 metre breaststroke.
The third day was a lonely but action-packed day for Wells, being the sole West Norfolk swimmer in action as he contested both the blue-ribbon 100 metre freestyle event and the gruelling 400 metre individual medley.
The latter event sees swimmers complete eight lengths of an Olympic-sized swimming pool completed using each of the four strokes (two lengths on each).
Wells delivered a season’s best performance in both, with a time of 52.70 seconds in the freestyle and four minutes 35.16 seconds in the medley.
Whilst swimming in the same event as his hero on day one may have been expected to be Freddie Laws’ highlight of the week, day four proved to be even sweeter.
Swimming in the 200 metre breaststroke, Laws clocked a personal best time of two minutes 21.70 seconds en route to booking himself a slot in that evening’s “Priority Paris Final”.
The final is held for swim-mers born in the year 2001 or later, and named after the 2024 Games which could provide the very best competitors in this age range a chance to make their Olympic debuts.
Heading into the final, Laws was ranked seventh within the category and thus found himself racing in an outside lane with any chance of podium success being a long-shot on paper.
However, a strong start saw him fighting in the mid-pack in the first half of the race, before spending the remaining 100 metres gradually closing in on the leading trio of swimmers.
Pushing on, the West Norfolk swimmer managed to accelerate past not one, but two of the front three to find himself in second place.
Laws held the position in a tight finish, clocking a time of 2 minutes 19.33 seconds as he bettered his personal best set in the heats to secure a silver medal and a Norfolk County record for good measure.
The Saturday saw Nath-an Wells make his own app-earance in the evening finals session, securing a slot in the B Final of the Men’s 200 metre IM with a season’s best swim in the heats which he later bettered again in the final.
Finally, day six saw Wells joined in action by Lee and O’Brien once more.
The former rounded off his week with a season’s best in the 200 metre freestyle and a personal best of two minutes 6.79 seconds in the 200 metre backstroke.
The women’s 100 metre breaststroke event saw West Norfolk’s two competitors separated by only one-hundredth of a second with Lee just pipping her teammate with a time of 1 minute 14.95 seconds to O’Brien’s 1 minute 14.96.