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Hocking has high hopes for final

13 August 2016

SWIMMING: The women’s 200m backstroke final tonight could signal the return of Belinda Hocking.

The 2014 Pan Pacific and Commonwealth Games champion had a year off from competition in 2015 to focus on her life outside of the pool, but she is back and proving a force to be reckoned with.

It was a series of unfortunate events that saw Hocking finally make the decision to have a break from the sport, a car accident and an incident with a candle catching alight on her jumper and burning her hand – requiring plastic surgery – were the last straws.

Before she left the sport Hocking was at the top of her game. She had won silver at the 2013 world championships and then upgraded to gold at both major international meets in 2014, but the 25-year-old needed a break.

Hocking stopped competing but kept up training when she could, fitting it between studying, work for the Victorian Olympic Council and just being a ‘normal person’; socialising and not sticking to the strict boundaries that come with being an elite athlete.

But there was a desire that still burned for Hocking and with just a few months of hard training up her belt she surprised even herself by taking out the 200m backstroke title at the Australian championships in April and qualifying for the Olympic team.

Hocking had to beat the reigning world champion Emily Seebohm as well as rising stars Madison Wilson and Minna Atherton, and clock a qualifying time, and the Rohan Taylor-coached star defied the odds and was working her way back to her best.

In Rio she comfortably cruised through the heats and semi-finals of her pet event, sticking to her trademark strong finish, and tonight she will race in the final ranked fifth, with a time of 2:08.67.

Although up against some quality competitors, including triple gold medallist from the Games already, Katinka Hosszu, Hocking is up for the challenge and will be hoping to defy the odds one last time.

Ashwood hoping to go the distance

Australia’s distance queen Jessica Ashwood will tonight take on a red-hot field in the final of the women’s 800m freestyle.

The Australian record holder in the event will come up against the USA powerhouse and triple-gold medallist from the meet so far, Katie Ledecky, silver medallist from the 400m freestyle Jazmin Carlin from Great Britain and bronze medallist in this event from Beijing, Lotte Friis from Denmark.

The 16 laps will most likely see a battle for a minor medals with Ledecky, the defending Olympic champion from London, almost untouchable going in with a semi-final time of 8:12.86.

Ashwood, who finished fourth at the 2015 world championships in this event, is in fine form; she set the Australian record of 8:18.14 just two short months ago at the Santa Clara meet in California and if she can go close to that tonight she could be in with a shot at a place on the podium.

The finals will commence at 10:00pm (11:00am AEST) at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium.  

Kathleen Rayment


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