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Four Arena Elite swimmers to compete in 2013 British Gas International Swimming Meet

Tolentino, 4 March 2013 – The 2013 British Gas International Swimming Meet scheduled to take place at the John Charles Centre for Sport in Leeds from March 7-10 will feature four athletes from swimwear company Arena’s individually sponsored Elite Team.

Twenty-two-year-old Francesca Halsall, who was born just outside Liverpool and is now based in Loughborough, won both 50m and 100m freestyle titles at last year’s championships, and made the finals of both events at the London Olympics. She was the 2010 European 100m freestyle champion, 2010 Commonwealth 50m fly champion, and 100m freestyle runner-up at the 2009 World Championships in Rome. At this year’s Championships, she is competing in her two favourite events, the 50m and 100m freestyle sprints.

“This year’s started really well,” said Fran, “it’s exciting having a new coach and it was great to get back into training. I’ve done a good block of winter training and things are feeling good in the pool.” Of her ambitions in Leeds and the rest of the year, she says: “I’ve been working on my race plan and tidying up my starts and turns. After the British Champs we have trials, and then I’ll be looking to swim fast at the World Champs in Barcelona.” Away from the pool this year, she’s “hoping to visit Tuscany and eat lots of great Italian food!”.

Scot Hannah Miley will have a very busy Championships, swimming in no less than eight events – in addition to her fortes, the 200m and 400m IM, she will also compete in 200m, 400m, and 800m freestyle, 100m breaststroke, and 200m butterfly and backstroke. Miley is the defending British champion in both IM events, and since 2010 has won 400m IM titles at the Commonwealth, European, World SC and European SC Championships, along with a silver at the 2011 World Championships in Shanghai.

Hannah reflected on how 2012 ended and where she’s headed this year: “I finished last year with my best short course season ever, so now I need to try and put the work into a long course pool. I’ve had a couple of long course competitions at the start of this year, and so far things are heading in the right direction. My main target is to qualify for the World Champs, and hopefully if that’s successful, then to race at the Worlds in July.” As far as non-swimming events are concerned, she added: “I have my graduation in July to look forward to,” and then raised the prospect of something entirely different: “I'd love to go and work at Harnas (wildlife sanctuary in South Africa); whether I do that this year or next, it’s a big dream for me.”

Plymouth-based 15-year-old Ruta Meilutyte of Lithuania hopes to continue the incredible successes of the past 12 months as she attempts to defend the 100m breaststroke title she won a year ago. Ruta stunned the swimming world by winning the Olympic 100m breaststroke title in July, and then went on to win 50m and 100m breaststroke golds at the World SC Championships in Istanbul, breaking both the championship and European records in the process. For good measure, she also won a 100m IM silver in Istanbul. In Leeds she will swim 50m and 100m breaststroke, 50m and 100m freestyle, 50m butterfly, and 100m backstroke.

The 15-year-old has a measured outlook on the season ahead: “Training is going well and I've raced twice so far with very pleasing results. Going into Leeds, I just want to see how I'm progressing with my training this early in the season, and I'm not doing anything different. I won't rest until the summer.” The summer will of course include the Barcelona World Championships, and also the World Junior Championships in Dubai at the end of August. In between the two, she has something special planned: “I'm really looking forward to seeing the family that I have in Lithuania and spending some time with them.”

Dutch swimming star Ranomi Kromowidjojo comes to the Championships on the back of an incredible year which culminated in her being crowned 2012 European Female Swimmer of the Year. Her Olympic double-gold in the freestyle sprints set new Olympic records in both events, and put her into an elite group of just a handful of swimmers to win more than one individual gold medal in London. At this year’s Championships Ranomi will swim in five events – 50m, 100m, and 200m freestyle, 50m backstroke, and 100m butterfly.

Ranomi’s London heroics earned her a well-deserved break in the latter half of 2012: “After the Olympics I took a few months off to do some other things than swimming, but after a while I really started missing the daily training and competitions. So I was really happy to get back to the pool and train professionally again.” Going into the Leeds meet, her goals are modest: “I’m looking forward to swimming my first serious competition since the Games in London. After a training camp of three weeks in Thailand with the Dutch National Team, I’m excited to see how far along I am at this moment. This will also be the first meet with my new coach Marcel Wouda.” Beyond the British Gas meet, her goals are both simple and ambitious: “At the beginning of April I’ll swim the Dutch National Swim Cup in Eindhoven; this will be the trials for the World Championship later this year in Barcelona. For me the World Championships in Barcelona at the end of July, beginning of August, will be the most important event of this year. Hopefully I can swim my best races there this summer.”