FORMER Colchester Swimming Club member Laura Stephens was in winning form as elite swimming competition returned to Britain for the first time in nearly a year, at the Manchester International Swim Meet.

Olympic hopeful Stephens, who is now based at Plymouth Leander, was victorious in the 200 metres butterfly final in a time of 2:08.88, her fourth fastest time ever.

The 21-year-old from Wix also finished third in the 100m butterfly final, after clocking a time of 59.28 at the three-day meet, held at the Manchester Aquatics Centre.

She said: “I’m very pleased with how the Manchester meet went.

“It was such a privilege to be able to compete again after almost a year without any racing.

“Before the meet I did not have any high expectations, but mainly focused on the processes we have been working on in training, and my results (especially the 200) showed that being patient and getting the hard work done over the last few months has been paying off.

“This gives me a huge confidence boost going forward and I’m really excited to see what the rest of the season will bring.”

Stephens won the 200m fly, having won her heat in 2:07.62.

The ex-Plymouth College student claimed third spot in the 100m fly final after clocking 58.82, in the heats.

She also finished sixth in the 50m butterfly final in 27:06, after posting a time of 26.83 in the heats.

Former Colchester swimmer Sophie Freeman was also in action, in Manchester.

The teenager finished fourth in the 200m butterfly final in a time of 2:14.43, after clocking 2:14.09 in the heats.

The Plymouth College ( swimmer also finished fifth in the 50m butterfly final and eighth in the 100m butterfly final after posting 1:01.33, having finished in 1:01.08 in the heats.

Writing on her Twitter account, she said: “So happy and grateful to have been able to race this weekend at Manchester with some pretty good swims.

“Looking forward to moving forward and working hard leading up to champs.”

More than 50 finals were contested, over the three-day competition.

The event acted as key racing experience for athletes looking to qualify for this summer’s Olympic and Paralympic Games, with many of Britain’s top competitors across the strokes involved.

Only athletes on the government-approved Elite Athlete Return to Training lists were permitted to compete, with the competition run under the corresponding DCMS guidelines.

The event was run under strict COVID protocols throughout, thanks to rigorous pre-meet collaboration between partners including British Swimming, Manchester City Council, GLL and the City of Manchester Swim Team (COMAST).