Willmott qualifies for Commonwealth Games team as North-East swimmers dominate opening night of British Championships

The Northern Echo: BRITISH CHAMPION: Aimee Willmott claimed the British 400m Individual Medley title and qualified for the English team at the Commonwealth Games BRITISH CHAMPION: Aimee Willmott claimed the British 400m Individual Medley title and qualified for the English team at the Commonwealth Games

AIMEE WILLMOTT secured a place on the English team for the Commonwealth Games as she claimed the British 400m Individual Medley title at the British Gas Swimming Championships in Glasgow last night.

Willmott, who trains at Middlesbrough Swimming Club and is ranked number one in the world on her performances since the turn of the year, sailed under the Commonwealth qualifying time as she finished almost seven seconds clear of the field to cement her status as one of the leading medal contenders for this summer's Games.

She won her first major 400IM medal when she claimed bronze at this winter's European Short-Course Championships, and last night's commanding performance confirming the positive strides she has made during the winter short-course season.

Having qualified for the final as the fastest performer in the heats, Willmott dominated from the off as she claimed the national title in her preferred event in a time of 4:35.94.

Danielle Lowe claimed the silver medal, but was well adrift of Willmott at the finish as she posted a time of 4:42.42. Fifteen-year-old Rosie Rudin posted a new personal best to claim bronze.

Willmott will compete in the 200IM, 200m butterfly and 200m freestyle this week, but the 400mIM offers her best chance of a Commonwealth medal.

Scotland's Hannah Miley, who will compete in the Scottish trials later this month, will offer stiff competition in Glasgow this summer, but 21-year-old Willmott beat her rival at the recent European Short-Course Championships and is in the form of her life as she looks ahead to the rest of the long-course season.

She was not the only North-Easterner celebrating last night as disability swimmers Matt Wylie and Josef Craig also triumphed in their respective categories in the final of the multi-classification 100m freestyle.

Wylie, who is from Washington and swims with City of Sunderland, broke the British S9 record in a time of 58.69secs and finished almost a second-and-a-half in front of Ryan West, who took silver.

The 17-year-old is regarded as one of the most talented youngsters on the British Paralympic team, and was never really threatened as he claimed the national title.

Jarrow's Craig competed in the same race and lowered his 100m personal best as he won the S7 category in a time of 1:01.29.

Craig, who was Team GB's youngest gold medallist in either the Olympics or Paralympics at London 2012, normally swims over longer distances, with his preferred event the 400m freestyle.

However, he is tackling shorter distances as the S7 400m freestyle is not part of the Commonwealth Games schedule, and last night's display confirmed his ability to hit world-class standards in the sprint disciplines.

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