Disabled Christchurch swimmer Sophie Pascoe has secured her place in the New Zealand London Paralympic team with a series of world record-breaking performances in England.
Pascoe, 19, set three world marks and had three other best times at the British Disability championships in Sheffield which was a qualifying meeting for New Zealand Paralympic swimming hopefuls. All that is required now is official ratification of her place in the 2012 team.
Pascoe was in irrepressible form in spite of a heavy workload at the three-day championships.
Her world records came in the 100m butterfly and the 100m freestyle. In the latter event she is now only a fraction of a second from breaking the magical minute barrier.
"That would be not a bad effort for someone with only one leg," said her coach, Roly Crichton, also a former gold medal-winning Paralympian swimmer, from England.
At the last Paralympics in Beijing, Pascoe won gold in the 100m backstroke and breaststroke and 200m individual medley, and silver in the 100m butterfly.
Pascoe's first record last weekend came in the 100m freestyle when she recorded 1min 00.37sec, taking 0.80sec off the old time. Her other record was in the 100m butterfly which she broke twice in the one day – in the heats in the morning and again in the final that night.
Her heat time was 1min 6.27sec and her final time 1:5.66. In the two swims she lopped 1.91sec off the old record which she held. The time would have been less than half a second off earning her a place in the B final at the able-bodied New Zealand championships last month.
Pascoe came within half a second of her own 200m individual medley record at the weekend – the only event she did not do in a best time. But that event was on the first day of the championships when she had six races – three heats and three finals.
Pascoe also swam 1min 7.22sec in the 100m backstroke, 28.25sec in the 50m freestyle, and 1min 20.40sec in the 100m breaststroke, all best times. Crichton said Pascoe's times will have put pressure on her opponents.
"She has set a benchmark that her opponents will find difficult to match now four months out from the Paralympics," Crichton said.
The Paralympic swim team won't be named until late June or early July, but Pascoe can plan her buildup to London now. Included is a high-altitude camp in Flagstaff, Arizona, in the weeks before the Paralympics.
The New Zealand Paralympic Association sent a team of seven swimmers to Sheffield for the British championships because the competition was much stronger than they would get racing in New Zealand.
The group was set difficult qualifying standards. They had to show they were capable of winning a medal in London, or finishing in the top six and show they have the ability to finish in the top three at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro in four years.
Another team member, Auckland's Cameron Leslie, broke his own world record in the 150m individual medley, a record he set at the Beijing Paralympics. His time was 2min 30.78sec, 2.79sec inside his old time.
- © Fairfax NZ News