LAURA Stephens boosted her Olympic hopes with an impressive performance at the British Swimming Invitation Meet, in Manchester.

The 21-year-old, formerly of Colchester Swimming Club, produced a high quality in-season swim to claim victory in the Women’s 200 metres butterfly, just a second outside her lifetime best.

Stephens, who is now based at Plymouth Leander, clocked a time of 2:08.58 to finish ahead of second-placed Emily Large (2:09.54) and Keanna MacInnes (2:09.88), who was third.

It was an important performance for Stephens, who is hoping to book her place in the Team GB squad for this summer’s Tokyo Olympics.

Stephens also finished third in the 50m fly final in a time of 27.01.

The former Colchester County High School for Girls pupil also clocked 1:00.35 to finish fourth in the 100m fly heats but did not compete in the final.

Stephens was among Britain's elite swimmers and para-swimmers who were looking to take another important step towards this summer’s Olympic and Paralympic Games over three days of action.

It provided Tokyo hopefuls with another crucial competition opportunity in the lead-up to next month’s British Swimming Selection Trials and British Para-Swimming International Meet.

The entire competition was held under strict COVID protocols, with all athletes, coaches and staff entering a strict pool-hotel bubble for the duration, maintaining social distancing throughout and face masks worn at all times when athletes were not in the water or on the blocks.

Stephens’ performance follows hot on the heels of her impressive display at last month’s Manchester International Swim Meet where she won her 200m fly final in 2:08.88, finished third in the 100m fly final (59.28) and was sixth in the 50m fly final in 27:06.

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

The Plymouth College student finished sixth in both the 100m (1:01.29) and 200m (2:14.15) fly finals and also competed in the 50m fly heats (28.33).