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Fit-again Burch chasing Olympic spot

Home advantage: Burch is one of several Bermuda swimmers competing at the National Aquatic Centre this week (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Roy-Allan Burch believes he is closer than ever to qualifying for the Rio Olympics in August.

The Bermuda swimmer competed in the Arena Pro Series meet in Charlotte this past weekend and posted his fastest time in the 50 metres freestyle since a horrific injury last year.

Burch’s time of 23.34sec put him on the cusp of the Olympic B standard, which is 23.05, a time he hopes to hit at this week’s Validus Bermuda National Championships.

Although his time was somewhat slower than his previous personal best over that distance, Burch was happy enough with his performance.

“It’s a post-injury personal best, so I’m trying to make sure I evaluate myself as the athlete that I am now, and not the athlete that I used to be,” he said.

The time was also impressive given that Burch, by his own admission, entered the event “physically and mentally exhausted” after moving house the previous week.

However, his struggles allowed him a “moment of clarity” when he realised that he could go faster still and qualify for his third Olympic Games.

“Even after that swim I knew I could go faster because not everything was correct [technically],” he said. “I feel good about the swim, I just have to rediscover some parts of my old self in terms of the preparation.

“I wouldn’t keep going if I didn’t feel like I could do it [qualify], it’s just a matter of execution. I’m right on top of it [qualifying], it’s not this overwhelming distance to overcome.”

The national championships, which will run from Thursday to Sunday at the National Aquatic Centre, have been sanctioned by FINA, the sport’s governing body, as a qualifier for Rio. As a result, athletes from around the world will descend on Bermuda this week as they try to qualify for the Games in August.

All Bermuda’s top swimmers have returned for the event, with Julian Fletcher, Rebecca Heyliger and Madelyn Moore all hoping to reach the Olympic B standard in their respective disciplines.

Heyliger has returned from university in Southern California to compete in the 50 free, where she needs to drop four tenths of a second to hit the B standard.

Fletcher will be accompanied by two of his Trojan Swim Club team-mates, from Venezuela and Syria, as he attempts to qualify in the 100 and 200 breaststroke.

Claire Donahue, the United States Olympic gold medal winner, will also be competing as part of the South Florida Aquatic Club team that Lisa Blackburn is bringing with her as she tries to lower her times in the breaststroke events.

Other countries being represented at the meet include Trinidad and Tobago, Panama and Guam.

Team Canada are bringing 12 members of their youth development squad, with the Bermuda Amateur Swimming Association hoping they will provide a stiff challenge for the island’s young swimmers, who are hoping to qualify for the Caribbean Island Swimming Championships.

“The swimmers have all been training hard and are at the fine tuning stage as they prepare to swim fast,” Ben Smith, the Bermuda coach, said. “We are very proud of the results of all of the swimmers so far this season, but we are looking forward to another highlight this weekend.”