Kieran Bird Soars To 3:46 Best For A Ticket To Tokyo, Olympic Debut As Latest New Guy On GB Team From Jol Finck’s Squad

2021-04-14 Reading Time: 5 minutes
Kieran Bird - Photo by Georgie Kerr, courtesy of British Swimming

Coach Jol Finck led James Guy to the World 200m free title in 2015 and now has another Olympian and potential podium upset on his hands after Kieran Bird soared to a 3:46.00 career high and 4sec improvement in the 400m freestyle for a ticket to Tokyo and his Olympic debut at British Swimming selection trials in London this evening.

On a day when every final produced qualifiers for the Olympic Games and Adam Peaty with a 57.39sec in the 100m breaststroke and Duncan Scott, on 1:55.90 in the 200m medley took top billing, Kieran Bird was the most unexpected. he even thought so himself, having set a goal of doing damage in the 800m, which will make its Games debut for men in Japan come July.

With a fine name up front when it comes to memories of some of the greatest moments in distance freestyle swimming, Kieran Bird, 22 this year, arrived at trials with a 3:50 personal best. An outside shot at best, to all, perhaps, but those closest to his preparation at the Bath Performance Centre.

The target time set at 3:46.78, all in the final had a tall order, Bird needed to wipe a second per 100m off his best pace. He topped that by shadowing Tom Dean all the way to the last turn before blasting a 26.92 last length, leaving Dean with a silver lining in 3:47.48, the bronze to Dan Jervis in 3:47.61.

Dean’s effort may yet get him to Tokyo, under discretionary clauses: not once but twice did he contract Covid-19, each infection requiring rest, recovery and rebuild. Today, however, not was Bird who had the instant ticket in his hand.

Jazz Carlin, the 2016 double Olympic silver medallist over 400 and 800m freestyle and a former teammate at Bath, was waiting for Kieran Bird for the quick-fire poolside interview after battle.

Bird celebrated his work with coach Jol Finck and added:

“Im just over the moon … the work for all those years I’ve been swimming has come together. I’m just so, so happy with that. Me and Jol have been working on the 800, targeting that, so that (400 win) was unexpected.”

Kieran Bird

Much talk in March and now April of where all such things leave folk on the current world rankings. As Duncan Scott noted after a 1:55.90 British record in the 200m medley (report coming up after a chat with Duncan), “there’s a lot of other world-class folk who haven’t raced at peak form since 2019, so you can’;t read much into all of that”.

Quite so. Even so, what a swim from Kieran Bird, brain as well as braun. Here’s how it panned out:

The ebb and flow:

PlaceNameYoBClub Time  Pts 
1.Kieran Bird(99)Bath NC 3:46.00  923 
 50m 26.20100m 54.67150m 1:23.54200m 1:52.49250m 2:21.56300m 2:50.67350m 3:19.08400m 3:46.00 
2.Thomas Dean(00)Bath NC 3:47.48  905 
 50m 25.61100m 53.89150m 1:22.77200m 1:51.99250m 2:21.09300m 2:49.76350m 3:18.89400m 3:47.48 
3.Daniel Jervis(96)Swansea Uni 3:47.61  903 
 50m 26.22100m 54.32150m 1:23.20200m 1:52.29250m 2:21.40300m 2:50.56350m 3:19.79400m 3:47.61 

Women’s 200 free: First GB Ticket At Trials To Freya Anderson

Freya Anderson
Freya Anderson – Photo by Georgie Kerr, courtesy of British Swimming

Freya Anderson got British Swimming Olympic Trials off to a solid start with a 1:56.80 triumph and automatic ticket to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in the 200m freestyle at the London Aquatics Centre this evening.

Anderson, Britain’s top 100m swimmer kept her powder dry until the second half of the race, passing early leader Lucy Hope and closest rival Abbie Wood down the third length. Wood took silver in 1:57.48, just 0.2sec shy of instant selection to the team for Tokyo. The bronze went to Hope in 1:57.65, while Holly Hibbott finished fourth in 1:58.41. The sum of the first four home suggests that Britain will have a 4x200m freestyle quartet in Tokyo, that decision to be made by selectors beyond trials.

The ebb and flow

PlaceNameYoBClub Time  Pts 50100150
1.Freya Anderson(01)Bath NC 1:56.80  905 27.6757.591:27.25
2.Abbie Wood(99)Loughboro NC 1:57.48  889 27.5057.451:27.35
3.Lucy Hope(97)Edinburgh Un 1:57.65  885 27.3057.021:27.68
4.Holly Hibbott(99)Bath NC 1:58.41  868 28.0458.191:28.53
5.Tamryn Van Selm(04)Millfield 1:59.89  836 28.4758.591:29.32
6.Candice Hall(97)Loughboro Un 1:59.97  835 27.9457.981:28.74
7.Emma Russell(03)UniOfStirl 2:00.63  821 28.4758.721:29.49
8.Mia Slevin(03)Derventio 2:00.88  816 28.4858.861:30.00

Anderson said: “It feels really good to get under the [target] time. I wanted faster but its good to get into the 1:56s: my pb is 1.56.6 from 2019 before [the pandemic struck] and its good to get back to that after all that’s happened.”

Her move to the Bath performance centre with coach Dave McNulty a year ago had been “a smooth transition”, she noted, adding: “I’m really happy to have moved there. I love the group there and training with Dave, its really good.”

Anderson will race the 100m freestyle on Saturday.

Women’s 400m Medley: Aimee Willmott Makes 2nd Games

Aimee Willmott
Aimee Willmott – Photo by Georgie Kerr, courtesy of British Swimming

Aimee Willmott was not sure after Rio 2016 whether she would get as far as Tokyo 2020 yet, after a one-year delay, lockdowns and the challenges of pandemic, there she was, at 2021 Olympic trials and rattling along way out front to a 4:35.70 ticket to a Covid-delayed Tokyo Games in the 400m medley.

The race was a lonely effort that marked the end of her trials and the beginning of the end of her career, she indicated after victory, when former teammate Jazz Carlin asked her how it felt: “It was tough. I knew it was going to be tough going into the race: me versus the clock. I just tried to get into my race, and thought if I die, well so be it at least I had to try. After Rio I really wasn’t sure if I’d make it to Tokyo … but I’m really happy I’m here – and hopefully I can finish my career on a high in Tokyo.”

Hannah Miley
Hannah Miley – Photo by Georgie Kerr, courtesy of British Swimming

Silver went to Lily Booker in 4:43.40, while British record holder, twice Commonwealth champion and twice an Olympic finalist, Hannah Miley finished third in 4:45.00, not this day the quarry and sparring partner she had long been for Willmott.

If any looking at her 4:31 career high is tempted to think Miley is done, think again: 4:45 in a 400m medley is not at all bad a few months beyond shoulder surgery and rehabilitation.

Miley, it seems, will work on through the rest of the pandemic and into 2022, when she aims to be back at the Commonwealth Games for Scotland after gold in the 400m medley in 2010 and 2014, then silver behind Willmott, for England, in 2018.

The flow of the 400IM:

PlaceNameYoBClub Time   Pts 
1.Aimee Willmott(93)UniOfStirl 4:35.70  901 
 50m 29.69100m 1:02.88150m 1:37.72200m 2:12.17250m 2:51.37300m 3:30.81350m 4:03.81400m 4:35.70 
2.Lily Booker(01)Millfield 4:43.40  830 
 50m 30.40100m 1:05.04150m 1:41.74200m 2:18.03250m 2:57.00300m 3:36.17350m 4:10.35400m 4:43.40 
3.Hannah Miley(89)Aberdeen Per 4:45.00  816 
 50m 30.50100m 1:05.90150m 1:42.05200m 2:20.06250m 2:58.87300m 3:39.42350m 4:12.58400m 4:45.00 
4.Katie Shanahan(04)Co Glasgow 4:45.28  813 
 50m 30.42100m 1:04.76150m 1:41.97200m 2:19.90250m 2:59.58300m 3:40.48350m 4:13.27400m 4:45.28 

W100m ‘fly: Harriet Jones Hurries Below 58 For Tokyo Ticket

None of the three favourites for the win had entered the 100m butterfly at trials in a time faster that 58sec. Two emerged from the battle that ensued with 57-plus efforts on their chart. At the helm was Harriet Jones, who wiped not far shy of a second off her best to claim the win in 57.79, just inside the target time.

Frustration, at least for now, held hands with Laura Stephens: on 57.98, she was just 0.06sec shy of the cut. It is not certain what that may mean, the selection policy granting discretion to selectors after the count is in at the end of trials and plans in a pandemic are set for further events at which British swimmers may qualify for Tokyo. One such event is set for Glasgow in May. The Mare Nostrum Tour had been touted as another opportunity but current travel conditions in Europe may rule that out.

Third place went to Alys Thomas, the Commonwealth 200m butterfly champion for Wales in 2018, on 58.63 in the 100m today, her bigger target to come.

The 100 ‘fly podium:

PlaceNameYoBClub Time   Pts 50
1.Harriet Jones(97)Co Cardiff 57.79  884 26.67
2.Laura Stephens(99)Plymouth Lea 57.98  876 27.37
3.Alys Thomas(90)Swansea Uni 58.63  847 27.80

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