Suffolk swimmer Chris Walker-Hebborn fails to qualify for Olympics

CHRIS Walker-Hebborn suffered dismay and frustration last night in his bid to become the first Suffolk athlete to clinch a place in this summer’s Olympic Games.

The Bury St Edmunds-born swimmer finished a disappointing third in the 200-metres backstroke final at the British Championships

in the Olympic Aquatic Centre at Stratford.

Walker-Hebborn, 21, started favourite to reclaim the national title and with it a spot in the British team for London 2012.

But though he turned first three times, he was overhauled in the closing stages of the fourth and final length by both Calum Jarvis of Plymouth and Marco Loughran of Guildford.

Jarvis swam a personal best of one minute 59.48 seconds to take the British title.

Loughran was second in 1:59.79 and Walker-Hebborn third in 1:59.80.

Most Read

All three were well outside the Olympic qualifying time of 1:58.48, which Walker-Hebborn – with a personal best of 1:56.00, the second-fastest ever by a British swimmer – was confidently expected to achieve.

Walker-Hebborn qualified for last night’s final as second fastest, behind his fellow Bath University student Jarvis.

Both finished Wednesday’s semi-finals well outside Olympic qualifying time, but Walker-Hebborn clearly eased up in the knowledge that only the times in last night’s final would count for Games qualification.

When it came to the crunch, though, he went quickly in the first half but was unable to sustain the pace.

The Team Ipswich swimmer, now based at British Swimming’s intensive training centre in Bath, last won British Championships gold

in 2009.

He had to settle for silver a year later and bronze in 2011.

His performances leading up to this week’s selection trials had suggested, however, that he was swimming back into form.

Instead he suffered his second disappointment of the championships, having been second, outside the qualifying time, in the 100m backstroke earlier in the week.

Walker-Hebborn first came to prominence in the 2008 European Junior Championships in Belgrade, where he took four gold medals,

including the 100m and 200m backstroke double.

A year later, he won the British 200m backstroke title in Sheffield before breaking the British record on his World Championship debut in Rome.

He reached three finals at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi but took only one medal – a bronze in the 4x100m medley.

He lost his British title that year, taking silver in both the 100m and 200m backstroke events in Sheffield.

In last year’s championships, in Manchester, he retained his 100m silver – as he did once again this week – but slipped to bronze in the 200m.