Rio 2016Olympic & Paralympic Games


13 Aug 2016

Swimmers looking good on day seven in Rio

Fran Halsall won both her heat and semi-final of the 50m freestyle on day seven at the Rio Olympic Games, to further underline her medal potential.

Fourth fastest in the world this year, Halsall won her heat with ease in 24.26 to qualify second fastest for the semi-finals. Drawn in the first of two races, she asserted her authority on the race, and despite being fractionally slower than her earlier swim, the James Gibson coached swimmer took victory to secure her final berth.

“It was nice to win my semi-final and it means I have earnt myself the right to compete for a medal. That was what it was all about going through the rounds and making sure I have got a lane in the final.

“I have done that and fourth fastest is kind of the perfect place to be. One of the blue lanes is a little bit less stressful than the yellow ones in the middle so that is really nice. I couldn’t have asked for a better swim. I got in, won my race, so I am racing well. This morning felt really easy so if I can put the two together tomorrow I will be there or thereabouts I think.”

Having finished fourth in London 2012, Halsall will be desperate to go at least one better in the final at 02.03 BST on Sunday morning.

First year geography student Tim Shuttleworth put in a brave swim in the men’s 1500m, the longest event in the pool. Finishing in eighth in one of the fastest heats, the 19 year old didn’t qualify for the final, but will have drawn a lot from the experience having never expected to be in Rio.

Arriving in Loughborough as an unknown quantity, Shuttleworth has taken almost a minute off his personal best in the space of nine months, and will be excited for the future, knowing he will have finished his degree and be at peak age by the time Tokyo 2020 comes around.

Adam Peaty continued where he left off on Sunday night (where he won the Olympic 100m breaststroke title) to help power Team GB into the 4x100m medley relay final. Swimming his favoured breaststroke leg, Peaty moved the team way clear of the field to put the result beyond doubt. Post-race Peaty said:

“Definitely my swim was very relaxed; I wasn’t really pushing that first 50m or last 50m so it was a bit reserved, but hopefully tomorrow that will drop down quite a bit. It is the fastest relay breaststroke split I have done and there is a lot more to come tomorrow night.”

Georgia Davies was another Loughborough swimmer in relay action, lining up in the women’s equivalent. The backstroker, who just missed out on a spot in her individual final, put in a solid swim to ensure the team will line up in the final with an outside chance of a medal.

“I can’t wait! We cut it quite fine there but for me personally I have never been in an Olympic final so to be part of the relay, which is even more fun than an individual, I am really excited.”

Both Peaty and Davies will go for glory, as part of their respective 4x100m teams, on Saturday evening.

There was huge disappointment for the British men’s hockey team as they failed to advance to the quarter-finals. Current student Ian Sloan was one of five Loughborough men in that squad, alongside captain Barry Middleton, David Condon, Mark Gleghorne and Henry Weir.

In their final must win group game against Spain, they couldn’t get the win they needed, drawing 1-1, which then meant New Zealand had to suffer defeat in their final game, which they didn’t.

Having performed well in the build up to the Olympics the team will be bitterly disappointed not to progress, and afterwards Middleton said:

“It went sort of too plan in terms of the performance. We moved the ball well, worked them hard and created chances but things didn’t quite fall for us and we didn’t have the luck. The corner we scored wasn’t given and it didn’t go for us. Sometimes those things go for you and sometimes they don’t. You have to keep getting in the positions and the luck brings itself.

“Afterwards we needed some luck from somewhere else. Results had to come but we shouldn’t have been relying on other teams.”

Like Team GB, Ireland finished fifth in their group after a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Argentina, so they do not advance to the quarter-finals. Loughborough alumni John Jackson and Paul Gleghorne, along with the whole Irish squad, can be extremely proud of their achievements however, becoming the first Irish hockey team to qualify for the Olympics in over a century.

Loughborough University alumna Beth Potter lined up in the first athletics final of Rio 2016, the women’s 10,000m. Run at a blistering pace from the gun, this is a race Potter will never forget, as Ethiopian Almaz Ayana smashed the world record with a 29.17.45 run. Potter, a physics graduate, was a bit disappointed with her 34th place finish in 33.04, but reflected:

“I’ve had a really good season this year and had a really big breakthrough so you can’t do well in all your races but I am glad to be here; I made it to an Olympics.

“It was amazing out there – I’ve just learnt to race better and enjoy the experience.”

Loughborough based Asha Philip made light work of qualification for the women’s 100m semi-finals, finishing third in 11.34. It wasn’t quite as easy for hammer thrower Sophie Hitchon however, who took the 11th of 12 qualifying spots for the final with a throw of 70.37m, but she is known for producing the goods in championship finals, when it really matters.

There was big disappointment for former Loughborough student Martyn Rooney as he finished fifth in his 400m heat and failed to advance. With his sights set on a place in the final, he’ll now have to go away, regroup, and focus all of his energy on trying to win a medal in the men’s 4x400m relay.

“It was awful, it’s just embarrassing. I feel like I’m in great shape, I’m in a hell of a lot better shape than I was this time last year but maybe I was just too blasé and that’s something you can’t do at an Olympic Games.

“I’ll have to make up for it in the relay, for my country, my family and myself. I’ll have to sort it out as I feel amazing and in incredible shape. If there’s an opportunity to do it against the best then I’ll be there hopefully.”

Nanna Vainio’s debut Olympics have come to an end as she lost out to her Danish rival Line Kjærsfeldt in her final badminton group match. The Finnish Loughborough University graduate was delighted to qualify for Rio and will be buoyed by her experiences.

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Pete Matthews
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Loughborough University