British women set relay world record

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Neil Walker began the process in the morning, and it continued for the rest of the day as records tumbled at the World Short-Course Championships here yesterday.

Walker broke the men's 50 metres backstroke world short-course record twice in the same day. The American, who clocked 24.04sec in the morning's heats, shattered that mark with 23.42 in the semi-finals. He improved the record of 24.11 set by Matt Welsh, of Australia, in Hobart on 14 January.

Britain joined the party, the 4x200 metres women's freestyle relay team setting a world record of 7min 49.11sec. Claire Huddart, Nicola Jackson, Karen Legg and Karen Pickering beat the 7:51.70 set at the last edition of these championships in Hong Kong last year.

It was the first British women's world record in the sport since Anita Lonsbrough in the 200m breaststroke final at the Rome Olympics in1960.

Jenny Thompson clocked the fastest split of 1:55.74 to anchor the United States to the silver medals in 7:50.59, also inside the old mark, and China took the bronzes in 7:52.70.

British records fell too, when James Salter and James Gibson both broke British marks on the first morning. Salter's record came in the 200m freestyle. The 24-year-old City of Edinburgh swimmer touched home in one minute 46.15sec to shave seven-hundredths of a second off Edward Sinclair's previous mark, established in Lisbon last December.

Salter said: "I wanted to get a good swim straight off to get my confidence up at the start of the week." Salter was four- hundredths quicker than the second-fastest qualifier, Bela Szabados of Hungary, with less than one second separating the eight finalists.

Gibson, the national winter 50m breaststroke champion, clocked 27.56 to lower Richard Maden's previous mark of 27.74.

Gibson, a 20-year-old Loughborough University student, said: "It's my first major games and I am well happy. Hopefully there is a lot more to come. I am on the crest of a wave at the moment and loving every minute of it. I raise my game when I am with the big boys, nothing fazes me."

The City of Leeds swimmer James Hickman, the world 200m butterfly short-course champion, looked impressive in his heat of the 100m butterfly to qualify as second-fastest for the final.

His time of 52.05 was just one-hundredth of a second slower than the defending champion, Lars Frolander of Sweden. Hickman was a bronze medal winner in the event at the last World Championships.

In the men's 4x100m freestyle relay Sweden setanother world record, clocking 3min 09.57sec to beat the mark of 3:10.45 set by Brazil in Riode Janeiro on 20 December, 1998.