NEWCASTLE swimmer Meg Bailey will take the next step towards realising her Olympic dream when she contests the NSW State Championships fresh from claiming a national crown.
The 24-year-old Commonwealth Games representative, who has delayed retirement plans to focus on qualifying for a rescheduled Tokyo in 2021, heads to Homebush with renewed confidence having picked up one gold, one silver and two bronze medals at the Australian Short Course Championships.
Bailey took out the women's 400 metre individual medley, was second in the 200m butterfly and ranked third in both the 200m IM and rarely seen 100m IM.
The recent meet, held virtually across four states because of the COVID-19 crisis, followed a solid block of training and long hiatus from competition for Bailey, her Sydney-based squad and other Games hopefuls.
"We've definitely hit it [training] pretty hard, but it has paid off for all of us," Bailey told the Newcastle Herald.
"Talking to my coach [Adam Kable] it was the biggest amount of PBs [personal bests] his squad's had at a meet. I feel like we're on a good path and I'm excited for next year."
Bailey said there were some "surprisingly fast swims" at the finals-only carnival with many athletes "a lot fitter than they expected" despite a lack of racing throughout a coronavirus-disrupted 2020.
She improved her own short-course times in the 200m butterfly (two minutes, 6.06 seconds) and 200m IM (2:09.15) but didn't reach a prior mark for the 400m IM (4:33.50).
Bailey attended a Dolphins camp, which included the Campbell sisters Cate and Bronte, around Ballina in the lead up to the event and then moved north of the border last month before competing in Brisbane.
"We wanted to quarantine just in case we couldn't get let in [border restrictions]," she said.
"It was going to be better competition up there and it was a good decision."
Results from each location weren't released until all racing was completed.
Bailey will now turn her attention back to long-course swimming at the state titles from Saturday through to December 17.
"Any opportuity to race at this stage is pretty crucial," she said.
"It's a good practice run and gives us a chance to analyse it going into 2021."
Bailey looks set to have a break over Christmas before refocusing for the Australian Swimming Championships in April and Olympic trials in June.
Meanwhile, fellow Novocastrian and Gold Coast-based Thomas Fraser-Holmes is eyeing off the men's 100, 200 and 400m freestyle as well as the 200m IM at the Queensland State Championships from Saturday.
It follows a silver medal in the 200m IM at the recent virtual Australian Short Course Championships, stopping the clock in 1:58.26.
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