Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Andrew Willis admits he is on top of the world after moving one step closer to his second Olympic Games with a gold-medal winning performance at the British Swimming Championships in Glasgow.
Willis, who finished eighth in the 200m breaststroke at London 2012, touched the wall in a personal best of 2:08.08 in the same event to dip under the Olympic qualifying standard on his way to being crowned British Champion.
The 25-year-old came from behind to fight off stiff competition from Stirling duo Craig Benson and Ross Murdoch in the final length, and knew it was going to take his all to make that all-important cut.
“I knew it was going to take a lifetime best to win that,” he said. “And what a race it was.
“It was so easy to tense up because of the nature of the final and what was at stake for a lot of us, so I just had to stick to what I needed to do.
“I knew I could get it but I had to keep my nerve, so I just kept my head down and went for it.
“It’s such a great feeling and that is only going to help us, especially as a nation to progress at the big meets as well.”
Willis’ victory came ahead of long-time rival Michael Jamieson – a silver-medallist in this event four years ago in London.
Jamieson could only manage fifth in the final, finishing off the pace in 2:10.55, and he admitted afterwards he didn’t know what the future holds.
He said: “It will be hard to come back because the Olympics is the big one.
“I’ve always thought the last couple of years I would get back to my best.
“The honest answer is that I don’t know if my body is capable of swimming the times it used to.
“I don’t know where to go from here. I’m just gutted it wasn’t there.”
The Olympic squad is set to be announced next Thursday and James Guy boosted his likely programme in Rio after picking up his second gold medal of the week in the 100m butterfly final.
A personal best time of 52.15 failed to meet the qualifying standard required, but Guy is a candidate to feature in the medley relay, in addition to the 400m freestyle he won on the opening night.
“A win is a win, I wanted to be faster than that but I’ll take it,” he said.
“It is the medley relay spot on offer and obviously last year we came fourth at the World Championships.
“There are some tweaks we can make to that team so hopefully we can get a medal in Rio, which would be quite nice.”
Elsewhere in Friday’s finals, Siobhan-Marie O’Connor won 100m freestyle gold in her first race of the Championships.
Her time of 54.18 set a new season best for the 20-year-old but fell just short of the time needed to qualify her for her second Olympic Games.
And it was gold too for Lizzie Simmonds in the 200m backstroke as she romped to victory in a time of 2:09.24, but she will also have to wait to see if she has made the plane to Rio.