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Horton wins 200m battle of Olympic champions

11 April 2017

SWIMMING: Olympic 400m champion Mack Horton surprised even himself when he stormed down the outside to win a thrilling 200m freestyle final on the second night of the Hancock Prospecting Australian Championships at the Brisbane Aquatic Centre tonight.

It was a night that also saw the boy from the Blue Mountains in NSW, Matthew Wilson, finally crack it for his first major Australian team after missing both the Olympic and World Short Course teams in the 200m breaststroke by the narrowest of margins last year.

And in a story of perseverance, Western Australia’s Holly Barratt, qualified for her first major Australian team in the 100m backstroke at 29 years of age – arguably one of the oldest rookie in swimming history.

But all eyes were on the men’s 200m freestyle – although not necessarily on Horton who arrived at the pool in his usual relaxed self after winning the 400m freestyle last night and qualifying for the World Championships in Hungary.

Tonight the ever smiling Horton set about warming up for a race he treated “as a bit of fun” after scraping into the final in lane eight –the slowest qualifier in an all-star field.

It was St Peters Western rookie Jack Cartwright who led down the first lap and then defending champion Cam McEvoy (Bond) took over for the next two laps to lead out of the 150m turn.

Then the attention quickly turned to 100m freestyle Olympic champion Kyle Chalmers in lane seven who turned on the after-burners to hit the front over the final 25m.

And like a true heavyweight title fight, it all came down to the battle of the Olympic champions and it was Horton, rarely beaten in the final round, who out-touched Chalmers by a whisker - 0.04 - to take the title in a personal best time of 1:46.83.

Chalmers also clocked a personal best time of 1:46.87 for silver with Alexander Graham (Bond) 1:47.39 a brilliant third and 2016 Junior Pan Pac champion Cartwright 1:47.57 fourth.

But in the battle for the title the world championship qualifying time of 1:46.45 escaped them and then Horton admitted the 200m individual swim wasn’t on his radar – just the relay which has qualified for Hungary with the combined times of the first four adding up to 7:08.66 – under the relay time of 7:11.70.

Horton arrived at the pool and said he felt good in the water.

“I really didn’t know what I was doing to be honest; it was a bit of a surprise; it was just a matter of literally just rocking and having a crack. I was maybe ready for a podium finish and a spot on the relay,” Horton said.

“But I thought I was in a really good position in lane eight with Kyle and Cam (McEvoy) next to me (in lanes six and seven).

“I just went with Kyle and I know he can bring it home so I thought if I can bring it home over him then it’s a good place to be.”

In other events Matt Wilson (SOPAC) retained his 200m breaststroke title in 2:09.29 and qualifies for his first international meet after just missing the Olympic team and the World Short Course Championships.

“Last year was knocking me around a little. Missing the Olympic team and Short Course by less than a second but I’m stoked, that I’ve finally done it,” said Wilson, who was hugged by his team mates that greeted him in the warm down.

“There are a lot of emotions. That slap on the water at the end just naturally came out.

“I just needed to get onto the wall. I didn’t really think about taking the extra stroke.

“The plan was just to get the qualifying time, and its good, I’m stoked.”

In other events, defending world champion Emily Seebohm (Brisbane Grammar) earned her 10th National 100m backstroke title in 58.62 after an extraordinary comeback from surgery and she earns a place on the team to defend her world title.

But there was joy all round for Holly Barratt (Rockingham, WA) 59.66, who at 29 becomes arguably the “oldest rookie” on an Australian Swim Team.

In the women’s 100m breaststroke, Rio Olympian Taylor McKeown (USC Spartans) 1:07.33 snatched victory on the final strokes from Jessica Hansen (Nunawading) 1:07.23 with Leiston Pickett (Southport Olympic) third in 1:07.52.

Hansen went out in 31.65 and looked likely to hold on until 2015 champion McKeown, fifth in the 200m in Rio, stormed home to snatch the gold.

The women’s 100m butterfly saw the Dolphins “Miss Versatility” Emma McKeon comfortably win her third straight national title in 57.27, ahead of fellow Olympian Brianna Throssell (UWA West Coast) 58.83 and Jemma Schlicht (USC Spartans) 59.08.

McKeon was the only one to swim under the qualifying time of 58.05 and gives her a second swim in the July World Championships in Hungary, with her pet event the 200m freestyle up tomorrow.

Blair Evans (UWA West Coast) continued her good form from the heats to retain her national women’s 400m IM title in 4:41.46, followed by Meg Bailey (Hunter) 4:43.67 and Kiah Melverton (TSS Aquatics) 4:48.21.

Brayden McCarthy (Bond) took the national men’s 50m butterfly title in 23.70, followed up by last night’s 100m butterfly winner David Morgan (TSS Aquatics) 23.82.

The Australian Swimming Championships heats continue at 11am today. See all the results HERE and live strweam the finals HERE.

Swimming Australia

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