A SEVEN-year absence from the pool wasn’t enough to stop Bridgwater swimmer Rich Hill from equalling his personal best times at the ASA Somerset County Championships and qualifying for next month’s National Championships.

Rich, 26, retired from competitive swimming in 2007, aged 19 due to work commitments and travel costs.

After deciding to make a comeback, Rich rejoined the local team, Bridgwater Amateur Swimming Club (BASC), and working closely with head coach Ricky Hayes.

Having only been back in training five weeks, he was able to equal his lifetime best times in several events, and in the 100m butterfly and breast stroke set new personal best times.

At the end of March came the very first Masters event on the year – and in the 100m butterfly Rich not only achieved another lifetime best, by eight tenths of a second, but also qualification for the British Gas Masters National Championships held in at the Welsh International Pool, Swansea, held in June.

If this wasn’t enough, the time Rich completed (1.00.45) ranked him number one in England so far in 2014 in the 25-29 age category.

Rich said: “Who would have thought this was possible. Seven years with no swim training and I am able to match the times I swam before I stopped.

“I have had to train much smarter, because I have far less pool time, I’ve also had to learn to start differently as the racing blocks have changed their design.

“So, to have achieved what I have so far this year is a massive achievement. I owe a huge amount of thanks to Ricky at BASC for the support and guidance.

“I’m feeling positive about the rest of the season and really looking forward to competing at the Welsh International Pool next month.”