Swimming: Murdoch’s might thrills home crowd

Making waves: Ross Murdoch after his highly impressive performance in the 100m breaststroke. Photograph: Phil Wilkinson
Making waves: Ross Murdoch after his highly impressive performance in the 100m breaststroke. Photograph: Phil Wilkinson
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Despite the decision of Caitlin McClatchey to pull out of last night’s 400m freestyle, robbing the event of one of its headline attractions, the Scottish Gas National Short Course Championships at Edinburgh’s 
Commonwealth Pool was still a qualified success for the home competitors.

In particular, Ross Murdoch, one of the big names competing here rather than at the European equivalent in Denmark, didn’t let an enthusiastic crowd down, putting in a dominant performance to blow away a fearsomely competitive 100m breaststroke field.

Things didn’t go to plan for that other big beast of Scottish swimming, Robbie Renwick, the Glasgow swimmer being comprehensively beaten in the men’s 100m freestyle. Renwick finished fourth behind the increasingly impressive Adam Barrett – who on Friday smashed the British 100m butterfly record – as well as Callum Jarvis and Stirling’s Rob Bale, the first Scot home.

The evening started off on a bittersweet note for the home crowd and Perth City’s impressive teenager Stephen Milne, who had hoped to challenge for the 1,500m freestyle. Instead, he trailed in eight seconds behind the winner, City of Sheffield’s Nicholas Grainger, and was also beaten by Loughborough student Jack Burnell, who recently competed for GB at the world open water championships, with the two English swimmers having led from the get-go. Yet Milne, whose appearance in the final of the US Nationals has established him as a rising star, still won the Scottish championships in a time of 14min 52.12secs, a personal best for the teenager.

In the women’s 50m freestyle, Stirling University student Sian Harkin was the fastest Scot, finishing behind England’s Sophie Smith and Emma Wilkins while, in the women’s 200m backstroke, 16-year-old Borderer Lucy Hope also finished third but set a new Scottish record. The winner, Olympian Lizzie Simmonds, finished almost seven seconds ahead of second-placed Georgia Davies.

In the hugely competitive men’s 100m breaststroke, Murdoch showed his quality, the University of Stirling swimmer comfortably winning in a time of 58.7secs, the only one to break the minute mark. That came after he won silver in the 50m breaststroke on Friday and a week after he won the 50m, 100m and 200m breaststroke in Amsterdam. In an all-Scottish final, there was less than 0.8 of a second between the remaining seven swimmers, with 16-year-old Strathallan schoolboy Duncan Scott, who has been breaking junior records for fun, bringing up the rear.

Fife’s Mark Szaranek had a 
glittering junior career and the 18-year-old Carnegie swimmer’s progress should be fast-tracked when he heads off to join Ryan Lochte at the Florida Gators. Yesterday, however, he was up against two 2012 Olympians in Joe Roebuck and Roberto Pavoni, and had to make do with a fighting third place in a fast 200m individual medley final as Roebuck just edged out his countryman Pavoni.

Szaranek also had to bend the knee to Pavoni in the 200m butterfly, when the Scot finished fifth. Fourth was Scotland’s 2010 Commonwealth Games competitor Cameron Brodie as Pavoni just failed to overhaul Welsh winner Tom Laxton.

East Lothian swimmer Rachael Matos also put in an impressive time in the 100m butterfly when she was just edged out by Loughborough’s Rachel Kelly. She suffered the same fate in the 100m individual medley, when she was narrowly beaten by England’s Sophie Smith. Matos’s was just one of a slew of impressive Scots performances, the next coming in the men’s 50m backstroke when Rory Lamont’s winning time of 24.02secs was just one hundredth outside Todd Cooper’s four-year-old Scottish record. His secret, he said, was “less swimming”. He added: “I’m working on the skills I need to be competing in the 50 metres at the Commonwealth Games, everything is designed around that because we’re all gunning for Glasgow 2014.”

The women’s 50m breaststroke was even more impressive for the home swimmers. Three Edinburgh University team-mates who train at the Commonwealth Pool led the charge. Kathryne Johnstone’s winning time of 30.76secs smashed the Scottish record with Andrea Strachan and Corrie Scott close behind.

Aisha Thornton, in fourth, was top Scot in the women’s 400m freestyle.