Rio Paralympic golden girl Rachael Watson set the Brisbane Aquatic Centre alight this morning setting a new S4 world record on day four of the Hancock Prospecting Australian Swimming Championships.
The girl from Chandler set a speedy tone for the morning, clocking a time of 38.66 and then there was a world best time by Abigail Lihou in the S9 50m freestyle of 33.10 in a stellar morning for the Paralympic program.
Watson received a hero’s welcome as she waved to the crowd. It was only eight months ago she set a new Paralympic record to win Rio gold in 40.14.
At the 2016 Hancock Prospecting Australian Swimming Championships, she came within a whisker of the S4 world record for the 100m freestyle, catching the eye of both athletes and coaches of the Australian Paralympic Swimming squad. She made her international debut just a few months later at the IDM Berlin Open, where she won the women’s 50m freestyle in an S4 Oceania record time of 39.97 – not far behind the world record.
Watson was one of seven Australians to win individual Paralympic gold in Rio. Rachael is a triplet, and was diagnosed with spastic diplegic cerebral palsy when she was two-years-old, resulting from being born nearly four months prematurely. She first took up swimming as a form of physiotherapy and pain relief.
Watson and Lihou will both be back in the pool for what will be an exciting night four of the championships, looking to again better their times.
And what a night it is going to be with the clash of the titans in the 100m freestyle with Olympic champion Kyle Chalmers up against Commonwealth record holder Cam McEvoy and a host of youngsters in the 100m freestyle.
McEvoy looked to be back in his sprint groove today, just two days after a disappointing fifth in the 200m freestyle final. The boy from Bond may have been shaken and not stirred as he steamed through the first 50m in 23.09 to clock the fastest time of the day – 48.70 ahead of St Peters Western young gun Jack Cartwright (48.81) with Olympic champion Chalmers (Marion) next on 49.14, another youngster Louis Townsend (Rackley) 49.15, Alex Graham (Bond) 49.32, Dan Smith (St Peters Western) 49.53, Zac Incerti (UWA West Coast) 49.68 and Jack Gerrard (Melbourne Vicentre) making up the top eight in 49.74.
It left dual Olympian and Rio relay bronze medallist James Roberts (Somerset) out in ninth in 49.77 and last year’s finalist Will Stockwell (Commercial) 10th in 49.91. Rio Olympian Taylor McKeown also looked impressive this morning in her pet event the 200m breaststroke, where she finished fifth in Rio in a blanket finish.
McKeown was easily the fastest qualifier in 2:26.73, ahead of Jessica Hansen (Nunawading) 2:32.08 and Sarah Beale (Acacia Bayside) 2:32.31.
“That was good, I came into the heats this morning and I knew it wasn’t going to take a fast time to make the final so I just practised my race plan, but I did it at 85 percent instead of 100 and 2:26.7 is a solid heat swim given the effort I put in,” McKeown said.
I didn’t go that fast last year, so if I can put it together tonight and get my stroke and my race plan right you know, potentially another swim at worlds.
“This year’s trials has been so much more enjoyable because I’ve got my little sister staying with me and she’s keeping up with the program, she’s doing a really good job and fingers crossed with her 200m backstroke tonight.
“Her PB is just over the qualifying time and you never know. She has surprised me more times before, like when she beats me in the 200m IM.
“I’m going to be straight out of my 200m breaststroke and rooting for her tonight. “Compared to last year I had a groin injury so, I’ve had nothing holding me back this preparation. I guess my body is ready physically, I’ve just got to get the mental side right and remain positive and calm and enjoy the moment.”