Lois Toulson secured Great Britain another Olympic Games place on Tuesday afternoon in South Korea as she booked her place in the Women’s 10m Platform final.
With a top 12 finish in individual events qualifying an athletes nation a spot at Tokyo 2020, which is now just over a year away, the stakes are even higher at this year’s World Aquatics Championships in Gwangju.
The Women’s 10m Platform competition got underway on Tuesday morning, with the prelims offering 18 women the chance to contest the semi-finals. Lois Toulson and Robyn Birch secured their spots, returning to the Nambu University International Pool in the afternoon looking for the top 12 finish that would see them into tomorrow night’s final.
After a sixth place finish in the synchro event alongside Eden Cheng, Touslon came flying out of the blocks but badly dropped her second dive, leaving her with a lot to do. Birch was solid through the first two rounds, but then like Toulson a big mistake saw her slip down the leaderboard.
Leeds based Toulson thankfully showed unbelievable mental fortitude, delivering three high scoring dives, the best an Armstand Back 2 Somersaults, 1 ½ Twists (6243D) that scored 72.00 points, to secure her final place in seventh.
With a big sigh of relief, Toulson said:
“It’s a massive relief – I think that’s one of the toughest days of competition I’ve ever had. I was so nervous knowing Olympic spots were on the line, so I’m just really happy and really relieved that I managed to make the final and secure that spot for GB.
“After I dropped one of my easiest dives at the start it would have been easy to get down, but I managed to keep my head up and put my harder dives down.”
Despite a quality 72.00 point Back 2 ½ Somersaults 1 ½ Twists Pike (5253B) to round out her series it wasn’t quite enough for Birch, as she finished just two spots outside a qualifying position.
“I was really happy to make the semi-final but I’m disappointed with my performance in the semi. I think one of my dives that I’ve been struggling with seemed to drop it for me, so I’m a bit frustrated, but pleased with my other dives.”
Over at Yeomju Gymnasium Kate Shortman and Izzy Thorpe were back in Artistic Swimming action, this time in the Women’s Duet Freestyle, where they were hoping they could produce the performance of their lives in a bid to make the final. Swimming their ‘heroes’ routine, the young pair delivered an impressive performance, which received strong scores across the board, with the level of difficulty of their routine particularly impressing the judges. Ultimately they would fall just short of their personal best and a place in the final as they finished 14th, just 0.7 points off the top 12 position needed to advance.
None-the-less that was the pair’s best World Championship performance to date, matching their 14th place finish in the Duet Technical event on Friday, so they were rightly pleased with their efforts, Thorpe commenting:
“This competition is the main competition of the year and something we’ve been preparing for all season. We’ve had lots of practice this year at World Series and things and we felt that swim went well. It’s not the highest score we’ve got but our coaches’ feedback is that they’re happy with it and that it was a good swim, especially relative to the competition.”
“This week has been amazing. It’s our second World Championships and so we’re getting more experience and higher rankings. Either way we’ll just have to work really hard for next year and come back with a bang. Also, some competitors like Belarus, who were beating us at the start of the year, we’re now ahead of and quite substantially and sustained, so that’s definitely a positive.”
When asked about the new routine they’re planning in their bid for Tokyo 2020 qualification year, Thorpe commented:
“Ooooo! We know the theme and we know the some of the music, but we don’t want to give too much away - but it’s really exciting!”
Shortman will return to the pool tomorrow evening for the Solo Freestyle final, their final outing in Gwangju.
The Marathon Swimming action resumed at Yeosu Ocean Park, south of Gwangju, with the Men’s 10km swim seeing the crème de le crème of open water swimmers doing battle. In action for Great Britain were Jack Burnell and Toby Robinson, the National Centre Loughborough pair hoping to challenge for a top 10 finish, which would secure them an Olympic qualifying spot.
After the usual frantic start both men settled into the main pack before Burnell decided to take to the front and force the pace from 4km to 6km, which started to really string out the main bunch. Further back in the group Robinson was slowly moving up as his opponents would one by one fall off the furious pace being set in the perfectly flat conditions.
Burnell maintained a good position and would fancy his chances coming into the finale, however after getting swamped in the last 1km he had to draw on all his reserves. Ultimately he didn’t quite have the speed he needed to get a coveted Tokyo 2020 berth, touching in 12th, less than five seconds off the top 10 and only 14 seconds behind the winner.
Naturally disappointed, Burnell said afterwards:
“I don’t really have many words to be honest. I did everything I possibly could and I prepared the best I could and I’m the best shape I’ve ever been in, so it’s quite hard to pick out what went wrong. It was a very good race but it just wasn’t really there at the end for some reason.
“This is a position I never dreamt I’d be in and a position I worked very hard not to be in, but sometimes life deals you a bad hand, but the only way is to move forward, keep my head up and try and get that qualification next year.”
Just 13 seconds behind his teammate in 18th, Robinson reflected on the positives, commenting:
“It was so fast – it really got going from about 5km and from then it just didn’t let up – it just kept going and going and going and people were coming off the back. It was a fight to survive the last 5km but I’m disappointed with 18th as I was going for top 10, but I guess qualification is still open for next summer.”
The British Marathon Swimmers will be back in action on Wednesday morning, with Maisie McCartney in action in the Women’s 5km.
The final diving event of the day was the Mixed Team Event, which saw Eden Cheng and Ross Haslam perform three dives each, with at least one from each of the 3m and 10m boards. A springboard diver, Haslam made the long journey up to the 10m board, executing an impressive Armstand Forward Somersault Pike (612B), whilst Cheng was also in unfamiliar territory on the springboard. In rounds two and three the pair returned to more natural habitat, swapping boards as they looked to mix it with the other 15 nations in action.
A shaky second round put the new pairing under pressure, with this event ultimately a chance for them to get more World Championship experience, something they did with a pair of brilliant final round dives. Haslam was up first, scoring 73.10 with Cheng backing it up from the tower with 60.80 effort, giving them a total of 327.90 points.
That score saw them finish the competition in sixth, the pair pleased with how they competed, Haslam saying:
“It’s a very different experience to any competition we’ve done before but actually we really enjoyed it and it’s nice to do something that’s a bit different. I think if you’d said we’d come out with sixth before the start I think we’d have been pretty happy! We’re both a little disappointed with a couple of our dives, but it’s a great opportunity to get a few individual dives done before Europeans at the end of the year.”
Wednesday sees Olympic champion Jack Laugher return to action in the Men’s 3m Springboard, having won synchro silver on Saturday.
Full results from the FINA World Aquatics Championships can be found here.
You can catch all the action live on FINA TV