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Clifford-Stephenson ends year on a high

PUBLISHED: 17:00 30 December 2016

Lewis Clifford-Stephenson wears his British Short Course medals around his neck, while showing off several others won in 2016

Lewis Clifford-Stephenson wears his British Short Course medals around his neck, while showing off several others won in 2016

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Hornchurch swimmer medals at short course championships

Lewis Clifford-Stephenson (right) on the podium at the ASA Short Course Championships in Sheffield Lewis Clifford-Stephenson (right) on the podium at the ASA Short Course Championships in Sheffield

Hornchurch’s Lewis Clifford-Stephenson produced a gold and silver lining to his 2016 season at the ASA Short Course Championships in Sheffield.

The former Sanders School pupil and Killerwhales youngster, now 23, took silver in the men’s 50m freestyle in 22.19secs behind Great Britain’s Ben Proud, who had finished fourth at the Rio Olympics.

And he followed that up with gold in the 50m breaststroke in 27.02, pipping Lawrence Palmer by one-hundredth of a second to land the title.

“I’d never won a British Champs before so I was buzzing,” said Clifford-Stephenson.

“They’re my two main events and I’d won the 50m freestyle at the English Nationals in the summer, before the short course season started.”

Clifford-Stephenson certainly travelled to Ponds Forge in confident mood, having won 36 races in a row prior to the event.

And although Olympian Proud ended his run of success, Clifford-Stephenson could still reflect on a job well done as he starts to plot his next challenge.

He added: “I’m on a break now over Christmas but still training two hours in the gym and an hour in the pool. I’d do that every day when I’m competing, other than Sundays.

“I wouldn’t be able to do it without my sponsor, Kilnbridge Construction and Dermot McDermott.

“I was training three times a day in Italy over the last 20 months, with pro team ABN Swim Project, just outside of Naples.

“My coach in London got a job there and I went and had a trial and they accepted me.

“I’ve been training at the Chelsea & Westminster club since coming back and have to decide where I go to next, in order to go that extra step.”

Clifford-Stephenson is certainly setting his sights high, after just missing out on a place at the Rio Games himself.

He added: “The aim is to set up a four-year plan for Tokyo. I’ve got the world trials in April in Sheffield and hope to make the GB team for those championships.

“If not, the 2018 Commonwealths in Australia could be my breakthrough. They’re a bit easier to make, with England, Scotland and Wales all sending teams, and England take three swimmers per event. I’m ranked second in 50m breaststroke and freestyle in short course, so need to focus on my long course.”

Competing on those big international stages would complete the journey for Clifford-Stephenson, who has been making a splash for as long as he can remember.

He said: ”From a young age, my parents took me swimming to learn to be safe really. I was a bit of an all-rounder, doing boxing and football, but I got a medal at nationals when I was 11 and decided to carry on with swimming.

“Funnily enough the last time I got two medals at Nationals was then, when I was 11, so to do it again now meant a lot.”

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