THEY might be Great Britain team-mates, but it’s safe to assume Hannah Miley will not be on Aimee Willmott’s Christmas card list this year.
Three days after missing out to Miley in the battle for the 400m Individual Medley gold medal at the Commonwealth Games, Middlesbrough’s Willmott was pipped by her Scottish rival again as the pair tussled for the bronze medal in the final of the 200IM.
England’s Siobhan-Marie O’Connor finally claimed a gold to go along with the three silvers and a bronze she had already won in Glasgow, with Australia’s Alicia Coutts finishing second.
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Willmott was only fifth heading into the final 50m, but a storming last freestyle leg saw her briefly threatened to force her way into the top three, only for Miley to dig deep and pull half-a-second ahead of her at the finish.
“It’s nice to get close to Hannah because she’s one of the best swimmers in the world in the medley events,” said the Teessider, who also missed out on a medal in the 4x200m freestyle relay on Saturday when she was not selected for the final despite having competed in the heats.
“To be so close to her, and be edging closer and closer, is a good confidence boost for me. Next year, I’ll obviously aim to be even closer or hopefully just in front of Hannah. I’ve got a lot of things to work on to do that though.”
While Willmott’s performance in Thursday’s 400IM final saw her set a new personal best, tonight’s performance was a more than half-a-second slower than her lifetime best mark for the 200m.
That frustrated the 21-year-old more than anything, as a peak display would almost certainly have seen her claim her second medal of the Games.
“I’m more disappointed with the time than missing out on a medal to be honest,” she said. “I would have liked to snuck under 2.10 because that’s what I came into the final to do. I’m obviously disappointed that I went 2.11 and just missed out on the bronze.
“I’ve got to get myself back and rested and forget about it because I still have two events to go. I’m only really halfway through my programme even though we’ve had four days of competition.
“I’ve got the 200m butterfly (tomorrow) and 400m freestyle (on Tuesday) still to go. Hopefully I can do some personal best times in those and see if I can come away with another medal.”
Willmott swims in the second of tomorrow’s 200m butterfly heats, and if she makes the final, she could find herself lining up against Miley for the third time in five days as well as taking on fellow North-Easterner Jemma Lowe.
“The butterfly will be a really tough race,” she said. “It looks fairly wide open, and it could kind of be anyone’s really. It’s going to be a quick race, so I’ll just have to get out there and try to hold on.”
O’Connor’s victory in tonight’s final ended a succession of narrow misses, and saw the 18-year-old shatter the Games record as she led from first stroke to last to post the fastest time in the world this year.
“I’m absolutely over the moon,” said O’Connor. “I knew it would be so hard to get a medal because of the strength of the field, so I can’t ask for any more. Hannah’s been my role model, and it’s been great to train with her.”
England’s second gold medal of the night came courtesy of Fran Halsall, who added the 50m butterfly title to the 50m freestyle crown she claimed 24 hours earlier.
After a disappointing London Olympics, Halsall has rediscovered her best form in Glasgow, and she repelled a fast finish from Arianna Vanderpool Wallace to confirm her status as the sprint queen.
“That was really good,” said Halsall. “I swam a bit faster (than in the semi-final) and it’s another PB so I can’t complain. I couldn’t feel anyone’s presence during the race, and it’s been a good couple of days.”
Harrogate’s Sophie Taylor should contend for a medal in tomorrow’s 100m breaststroke final after qualifying as the second-fastest swimmer from tonight’s semi-finals.
Eighteen-year-old Taylor, who is a member of the City of Leeds club, produced a superb sprint finish to overhaul Australian Lorna Tonks and win the second semi-final in a time of 1:07.20.
A repeat of that performance in the final should be enough to secure a medal, although she will probably have to go faster to finish ahead of Jamaican Alia Atkinson, who will start as the favourite for gold.