A Hastings Seagull Swimming Club talent has been crowned a European champion in record-breaking fashion.
Hannah Keen won a gold medal in the Arena European Masters Swimming Championships at the London Aquatics Centre.
She said: “It was a bit of a surprise to be honest. It’s not where I thought I would end up at the end of the race so I’m very, very pleased. I think it still hasn’t really sunk in.”
More than 10,000 competitors from 48 nations descended on the 2012 Olympic venue to battle it out for European medals, but there was no stopping the excellent Keen in the 30-34 years women’s 50m freestyle.
Not only did she win the race with a jaw-dropping time of 26.61, but Keen also smashed the all-time UK age group record for the event by 0.51 seconds and was only just outside the European record.
Keen was 0.8 seconds clear of Dutch runner-up Pauline Gouwens and her time was also faster than Czech swimmer Sabina Dostalova’s winning time in the younger 25-29 years age group.
If that wasn’t impressive enough, the 30-year-old did it despite not having swum competitively for around a year and having struggled with an injury in the lead-up to the event.
“I had seen I was ranked fifth going into it so I thought I might be able to sneak a medal if I did my best performance, but a few weeks after that my back started playing up,” Keen continued.
“It was a bit touch and go whether I was going to be able to do it three weeks out from the competition and I have to give a big thank you to my osteopath, Tasha Dobson of Old Town Osteopathy, because without her treatment, I don’t think I would’ve been able to go.”
Keen has done a lot of competitive swimming in the past and reached a very high level. She won silver in the 100m freestyle and gold in the 50m freestyle at the 2012 British Gas UK National Age Group Swimming Championships, and competed at the Olympic Trials in the same year.
“This is obviously such a huge thing being a European competition and not a national competition,” continued Keen, whose personal best is a super quick 25.7, set in 2013.
“Back then I was training all the time for it and knew what my goals were going into it. This time, because I hadn’t raced for a year, I didn’t know what to expect.
“It was at least half a second faster than I was expecting to go. I certainly wasn’t expecting to go under 27 seconds and to come away with a British record in my age group was a massive surprise.”
Keen, who works as an office manager for BeSure Security Systems, lives in Hastings and has represented Hastings Seagull for the best part of two decades.
A Seagull spokesman said: “Hannah’s disciplined training and her continued outstanding performances continue to be an inspiration to both our youngest and our oldest swimmers at Hastings Seagull.”
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