Photo-shoot: Britons ready to take on the world

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The national championships in Sheffield last weekend were the chance for Britain's swimmers to stake their claim for a place in next month's World Championships in Australia.

After their successes in Spain in the European Championships earlier this year, Britain have high hopes of another good showing Down Under.

Twenty-two swimmers had already qualified before last weekend, but the Sheffield event provided others with a final opportunity to earn their place in the party which leaves for Perth next week.

The most impressive performance came from James Hickman, who broke national records twice in 24 hours as he maintained his impressive comeback from illness.

Hickman had been forced to go to Sheffield chasing qualifying times because of the illness that wrecked his hopes of adding a European title to the short-course crown he won in Sweden last April.

"It was important to me that I performed well here," Hickman said. "It's good for your confidence. Even if you're out for a short time, things move on and you start to question yourself. But I feel like I'm really back amongst the best."

On the Saturday night Hickman broke the national 200m individual medley mark set in 1988 by Neil Cochran. The 21-year-old world short-course 200m butterfly champion then sliced nearly two seconds off John Davey's 10- year-old 400m individual medley mark the following day.

The 100m and 200m butterfly will be Hickman's two main events in Perth when competition gets under way on 12 January. He is also likely to contest the 200m individual medley.

The British squad are in a training camp before the World Championships, where Deryk Snelling, the national performance director, wants his team to take the first steps towards becoming a major force in world swimming by the time the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester come round.

"That's when the things we have put in place over the last year will start to pay off," Snelling said. "But we also hope to do well at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney."

As part of his preparations, Snelling has asked former greats of British swimming like David Wilkie, Duncan Goodhew and Adrian Moorhouse to work with the current squad.

Copies of these photographs - and any others by the Independent's sports photographers David Ashdown, Peter Jay and Robert Hallam - can be ordered by telephoning 0171-293 2534.