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Road To Athens 2004

19 Feb, 2021

Road To Athens 2004

19 Feb, 2021

This week we bring you an article from 2004 in The Lincolnshire Echo covering Lincoln Vulcan's at the Olympic Trials. The article is dated April 15th 2004.


Ace Welbourn to fly county flag in Athens

When Lincoln Vulcans’ chief coach Graham Bassi has time to reflect on the achievements of his swimmers at the British Swimming Olympic Trials over Easter, he cannot fail to be impressed.

Rob Welbourn’s qualification for the Paralympic Games in two events, coupled with the fabulous exploits of Lizzie Simmonds and Jordan Tomlinson brought high praise from National Performance Director Bill Sweetenham.

Welbourn got things off to a great start at Sheffield’s Ponds Forge Leisure Centre when, in the very first heat of the opening event, he reduced his 50m Freestyle personal best to 26.91 – just outside the British record. It was also the fastest of the swimmers in the S10 disability category.

Jordan Tomlinson was soon to follow in the women’s 50m Freestyle and once again it was a PB, reducing her time to 27.63 and a 25th overall. 

James Graves admitted to being nervous before the start of the men’s 100m butterfly, and he paid the price. He finished in 17th place and was first reserve for the semi-finals.

Lizzie Simmonds had a terrific start in her heat of the women’s 100m backstroke, surfacing in second place behind Sarah Price. She tussled with Price and Melanie Marshall before finishing in fourth place, qualifying for the semi-finals.

In the ‘finals’ session, Rob took fourth place in the multi-disability 50m freestyle final.

Lizzie Simmonds once again was in illustrious company with Stephanie Proud, Katy Sexton and Zoe Cray, all going in her semi of the women’s 100m backstroke. Another PB saw Lizzie through to the final as fifth seed. On day two, 13 year old Lizzie recorded another huge PB of some six seconds to earn 13th place overall.

Lizzie was soon back in action, along with Jordan, this time in the women’s 200m freestyle. Lizzie managed a PB and finished in 36th place, but Jordan came into her own. In a powerful display, she reduced her previous best by more than four seconds, finishing second in the heat, and 33rd overall.

Last up in the mornning session was Rob Welbourn in the multi-disability backstroke. A PB showed he was still in good form and he reduced it further in the evening final, once again awarded fourth overall. Also in the evening finals, Lizzie took seventh place in the women’s 100m backstroke.

Day three saw Lizzie qualify for the semi-finals of the 200 IM in eigth place with another personal best. Jordan Tomlinson, in the 800m freestyle, was also catching the eye of the hierarchy of British Swimming with a seven second PB which earned her 10th place and a reserve spot for the final.

In the early evening semi-final for the 200 IM, Lizzie was back to her best with a further two-second PB, qualifying sixth fastest for the final.

In his debrief at the end of the session, Bassi told his swimmers: “Tomorrow we will put someone on the plane to Athens.” Whether he truly believed the prophecy, only he will know. What was more important was whether a6 year old Rob Welbourn believed it. It seems he did.

On Saturday morning, Rob’s 100m freestyle heat saw him make the British Paralympic qualifying standard by just five/100ths of a second, in a British record of 57.44. In the same session, Lizzie was still producing Pbs to qualify for the semi-final of the 200m backstroke.

Also on Saturday morning, 15 year old Jenny Oldham made her debut at this level. Competing in the gruelling women’s 200m butterfly she swam with excellent control – two seconds inside her previous best to earn a fine 42nd place.

In the evening, the pressure was off for Rob and he swam 57.72 in the final. But with no other swimmer in the category within two seconds, he knew he would be going to Athens.

Lizzie was just outside her semi-final time for the 200 IM and finished in eight place. She has a PB again in the 200m backstroke, but it was only enough for ninth, just missing the final.

On Sunday morning, another measured swim from Jordan gave her another personal best by more than two seconds and 22nd place.

The last word, however, was left to Rob when, as predicted, he stormed to his second Paralympic qualifying time in the 400m freestyle. He was exactly one second outside his British record, but bearing in mind his nearest rival was seven seconds adrift, it was another world class performance and one which should make him a serious contender for a medal in Athens in September.

Rob flew out to join a warm weather British Paralympic Training Camp in Larnaca, Cyprus yesterday. For two weeks, the camp will endeavour to simulate the conditions he will encoutner later at the Games later in the year.

Meanwhile, Bassi and Lizzie Simmonds are now in Perth, Australia where Lizzie will compete in the National Age Championships.

“Our swimmers have had an outstanding week. Everyone has been awesome and their achievements have pout Lincoln on the map” said Bassi, before his departure. “Every swimmer gained PBs and the praise our swimmers have received from Bill Sweetenham is fantastic.”

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