Chris Walker-Hebborn is set for a double assault on World Championship glory after hitting form at the British Gas Swimming Championships.
The 22-year-old ended Liam Tancock’s four-year reign as domestic champion in the 100-metre backstroke last week and would have made it two from two in the following 200m final on Sunday had it not been for a miraculous swim from Scotland’s Craig McNally.
McNally shaved two seconds off his personal best to take gold with Walker-Hebborn second in a season’s best time of one minute 57.20 seconds.
Both McNally and Walker-Hebborn’s swims saw them duck under the qualifying standard of 1.57.42 with both named in the squad for Barcelona later this month in the 200m and the Bury St Edmunds ace named for both events on Monday.
The swimmer was naturally delighted with a job well done – although he conceded McNally deserved his spot at the top of the podium.
“I’m really happy, it was just under the qualifying time so hopefully that’s another event at the worlds,” he said.
“I can’t match the pace of Craig McNally coming back at the moment, I gave it all I had.
“The win would have been nice, but 1.56.3 is a big time and I can’t say I was expecting it, but it was a great race.
“I had a great week, hopefully I can manage two events at the worlds, but it was a long week, emotionally it’s been quite draining.
“Mentally preparing for an event like this is probably more nerve-racking than the worlds itself.”
Walker-Hebborn’s impressive form in Sheffield is a positive for British Swimming having previously revealed he was close to quitting the sport after a disappointing London 2012 and 2011 World Championship.
While he is planning on taking one day off after his efforts in Sheffield, he insists that will be the limit as he looks to finally deliver on the senior stage having impressed as a junior.
“It’s been a tough few years so, to come here and qualify like I have, has been quite a weight off the shoulders. I’m pretty happy,” he added.
“It will straight back into training after a break, no messing around.
“Maybe one or two weeks and then start to bring it back down again.
“Fingers crossed I can get a medal in Barcelona. I think the 100 back puts me fifth now with some of the Americans racing this week.
“It puts me in good stead for a final so I’ve just got to keep my fingers crossed and get on with it.”
n This year British Gas is launching SwimBritain, a programme to create a healthier nation and get 500,000 people swimming more regularly by 2015.