Nations left trailing in wake of Leander stars
CITY swimming club Plymouth Leander are better at winning races than entire countries, according to results from an international swimming meet.
Leander saw off Ukraine, Luxembourg and Israel at the 15th Euro meet in Luxembourg over the weekend.
In fact, Leander beat off the attentions of a number of other countries to finish second in the top team award.
The only team capable of besting the city swimming club were Essen, from Germany, who won the top team award.
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Leander coach Jon Rudd said his team of 35 swimmers could have beaten Essen if Leander had their full array of experienced internationals on show.
Missing from their line-up were Commonwealth Games medallist Antony James, who is suffering from a minor back injury.
Steven Becklerleg and Sian Harking were also unavailable.
Frustratingly for Leander – and for the Great Britain team – was the plight of three of their top young swimmers.
Joe Patching, Ben Pound and Grace Vertigans were on their way to Belgium to represent Great Britain in an international meet, but were stranded at Heathrow Airport in London by bad weather.
Rudd said: "It's a shame, because they could have come with us and instead they ended up doing nothing."
He added: "We beat Ukraine, who are of course a country, not a club and we finished ahead of the national teams of Israel and a few other countries as well."
Leander's Lithuanian starlet, Ruta Meilutyte, who won gold at the London Olympics, broke two meet records in the 50m and 100m breast-stroke.
Meilutyte had set one of the records herself, in the 100m breaststroke, when Leander last took part in the meet in 2011.
The 15-year-old, who won the 100m breaststroke gold at last year's Olympics, was voted the top female swimmer at the Luxembourg meet.
Rudd said the meeting had been useful in getting the swimmers ready for the British Open competition at Leeds in March.
The competition doubles as qualifiers for major European and world meets.
Rudd said: "It's that part of the season where you wouldn't expect a best performance from the swimmers.
"If they are close to their best or they do their best, they have ground out a result.
"It is a starting point for some of the swimmers for the British Open, which also acts as a qualifier for the European Youth teams and the Olympic youth teams.
"We've got a few in the mix and Luxembourg gives them a competition under the belts and it's given us, the coaches, an opportunity to see where they are at and what we've got to work on."
Two Leander swimmers who stood out in the senior competition in Luxembourg were Turkish international Hazal Sarikaya and Dan Jones, who won silver medals in the 50m breaststroke and the butterfly, respectively.
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