Lizzie Simmonds ducked under the minute mark for the second time this season to lead qualifying into tomorrow's 100m backstroke final at the British Gas Swimming Championships in Sheffield.

World champion and world record holder Gemma Spofforth had commanded all the attention ahead of qualifying at Ponds Forge, returning to action a week after captaining Florida University to the NCAA title in USA.

But Simmonds, who swam 59.90 to win the 200m at the duel meet against Germany in February, let her form in the pool do the talking, cruising through her heat before romping home in a season's best 59.84 seconds to win her semi-final.

Spofforth also impressed in Sheffield, winning the second semi in 1:00.62 minutes, and Simmonds insisted it was going to take a special effort to beat her friend and rival to the automatic qualification spot in tomorrow's final.

I’ll face a huge name in Gemma and we're both intent on going for that Commonwealth spot but I'm going to give it my best," said Simmonds, who could still qualify if she finishes second on Wednesday.

"I'm going to have to calm myself down a little bit though because I'm really excited at the moment but I know we could have a really good battle out there.

"The time is great but the pressure is always off in the semi final and it won't be like that tomorrow."

Meanwhile, Amy Smith enjoyed a night to remember as she lifted the 50m butterfly title as well as sealing her place in Wednesday night's 100m freestyle final.

The 22-year old was a comfortable winner in the butterfly, powering a length clear of the field to win in a personal best 26.88 seconds ahead of Ellen Gandy and Louise Pate.

She couldn't match world silver medallist Fran Halsall in qualification for Wednesday's 100m freestyle final but Smith set another personal best of 55.13 secs to qualify second fastest.

And the Loughborough-based swimmer admitted finishing in the top four English finishers to guarantee her place at October's Commonwealth Games was her ultimate priority.

"The Commonwealth spot is my aim so that's more important that winning the 50m fly title really," said Smith.

"But obviously it's nice to have won a title and set so many personal bests so hopefully I can transfer that into my freestyle as well."
Teenage sensation Achieng Ajulu-Bushell and Luke Wood were the other champions on the day, winning the women's 50m breaststroke and men's 50m backstroke respectively.
Ajulu-Bushell, who competed for Kenya at last summer's World Championships but has since switched allegiance to England and Great Britain, finished in 31.18 seconds, defeating Stephanie Slater and Lowri Tynan to capture her first title with a confidence that belied her 16 years.
And Wood took advantage of the withdrawal of world champion and world record holder Liam Tancock to win in 26.17, with Scott Hathaway and David Gregory collecting silver and bronze.
Article courtesy of by Chris Cottrell, Sportsbeat, in Sheffield