Britain smash world record

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The Independent Online

The British women's 4x200 metres freestyle team, who won gold at the World Championships last month, set a dramatic world record here last night.

After three exhausting weeks of travel and competitions the team raced on their own in a specially arranged time trial at the British Short-Course Championships here. The quartet of Karen Legg, Janine Belton, Nicola Jackson and Karen Pickering were lifted by a vociferous crowd that carried them to a time of 7 minutes 49.11 seconds ­ nearly two seconds under their own world record set in April last year.

It is the first women's world record in British water since the Empire Games in Cardiff in 1958 and caps an astonishing run of success for British swimmers, as four earlier British records fell on the second afternoon of the championships.

In a summer of rare victories over Australia, Rebecca Cooke broke the Commonwealth record in the 800 metres freestyle, which was set in 1993 by the Australian world champion, Hayley Lewis. With her unorthodox splashing stroke the 18-year-old from Reading, who finished sixth in this event at the World Championships last month, attacked from the start and never let go of the pace. Cooke's time of 8min 21.47sec was 0.46sec inside the Australian's record and 2.49sec within the British record, formerly held by Sarah Hardcastle.

There was a British record, too, for Bath's Robin Francis in the 400 metres individual medley. The 19-year-old newcomer clocked 4:13.67 to slice exactly two seconds off the previous mark. Francis had to chase the early leader, Steve Parry, who was under world-record pace after the fly and backstroke legs. As Parry faded on the breaststroke, Francis made his move and held off the rest of the field over the final 100m freestyle.

Neil Willey was pushed hard in the 50m backstroke, but held off Scotland's Gregor Tait to win in a British record 24.55sec, just a hundredth of a second inside the record held by James Hickman.

Swimming on her own in a 50m butterfly time-trial, Loughborough's Ros Brett set a British record of 26.79sec after withdrawing from the individual event earlier in the day.