Commonwealth Games: Swimming - Agony then ecstasy for Hickman

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The Independent Online
AUSTRALIA SET a world record in the 4 x 200m freestyle team and England won another three silver medals before another boisterous sell- out crowd.

A truly memorable night began in high drama when James Hickman was disqualified for a false start in the 100m butterfly. It was an event in which he would have won a medal and half an hour later he used his anger to take two seconds off his British record in the 400m individual medley to win silver.

In the race of the Games so far and amid the deafening noise, Hickman and Australian Trent Steed jockeyed for the lead. After seven of the eight lengths, Steed was ahead by over a second but Hickman was not finished. Catching up with every stroke, the two men battled to the finish.

In a desperate lunge for the wall, Steed held on to win by just 0.3 secs. Hickman had mixed emotions. "I didn't deserve the disqualification," he said. "I heard something behind me, click, and I went. There's no point crying about it because I had another race to focus on. I'm disappointed because I could have won a medal but I'm very pleased with the silver in my first-ever international 400m IM."

The disqualification by the referee from Singapore, Tan Eng Chai for a "deliberate false start" was a preposterous one. The rule is that if the referee thinks a false start is deliberate and that the swimmer has unnecessarily delayed the start they can be disqualified.

But if officialdom delays the start, as they did for 45 minutes before the heats this morning, then that is fine. But it will not tolerate an extra two minutes for a false start in a final. There was much boo-ing from the crowd, and rightly so.

Without Hickman, the Australians swept the medals. Geoff Huegil took gold with the world champion and world record holder Michael Klim finishing a surprising third.

Karen Pickering bounced back from yesterday's disappointment to win her second silver of these games in the 200m freestyle. Swimming from Lane One, Pickering led from the front, finally succumbing to Australia's Susan O'Neill at the final turn. But in a gutsy swim, Pickering relied on her experience to hold on for the silver medal. "It was hard to pick myself up after yesterday's 100m. My coach and team-mates did a great job getting me focussed again. They didn't give me sympathy, they just said "come on, get a grip. Move on."

The Australians finally broke the world record in the 2 x 200m freestyle team that they had been chasing for over a year. The latest Australian swimming sensation, 15-year-old Ian Thorpe led the team off and world champion Michael Klim brought them home to a deafening ovation. England took the silver and know the size of task in front of them if they are to challenge the Australians for gold in Sydney in the Year 2000.