Dominating Hickman sets sights on Olympic medal

James Hickman was back to his best form on the final day of the British Olympic trials here yesterday, dominating the 100 metres butterfly final to equal his British record of 52.87sec.

James Hickman was back to his best form on the final day of the British Olympic trials here yesterday, dominating the 100 metres butterfly final to equal his British record of 52.87sec.

"It has been a busy week with nine swims in four days, so to swim as well as that in the final here is good," he said. "The plan was to go easy over the first 50m and then come back in under 28 seconds. In Sydney I will have to go out faster, and now I have the confidence to hold on," he said.

The time puts Hickman sixth in the world, but to win a medal in this event in Sydney, he will have to go out more than half a second faster than he did last night. With his confidence as high as it is, he should do it.

The question will be whether, after a difficult year, he has the strength to hold on at that speed.

Hickman's father passed away at the beginning of the year and it took a toll on him. "This year has been very tiring mentally, but I feel revived meet by meet, and am happier and bubblier. I just take it race by race and it helps me focus to do that. It's more fun now; the old James is back."

Also back is Karen Pickering, who set a personal best in winning the 100m freestyle in 55.58sec. Alison Sheppard set the early pace but Pickering found another gear to accelerate through the field in the closing stages. Since fracturing a bone in her back in a car accident in 1996, Pickering has struggled to produce her best.

"It was so frustrating to be trapped in a body that couldn't do the work. But I have been doing some solid work this year, which has set me up mentally, so when I stand on the block I know I am the fittest I have ever been. I knew Alison would go out fast and I just wanted to stay relaxed and feed off her on the way back." Pickering, 28, joins the pre-selected Sue Rolph in the event in Sydney, for her third Olympic Games.

Also qualifying for their third Olympics, was a relieved Jaime King and Adam Ruckwood. King was involved in a tough 200m breaststroke battle with Heidi Earp, the winner of the 100m, but kept her stroke together in the final 50 metres to win in 2min 29.95sec.

Ruckwood, too, was put under pressure from Ports-mouth's Simon Militis. At the touch, Ruckwood stopped the clock in 2:00.51, just 0.24sec ahead of his rival, who sneaked under the qualifying time.

But for Ruckwood's team-mate Graeme Smith, it has been a devastating weekend. On Saturday, Smith failed to make the team in the 1500m, finishing third. The Olympic bronze medallist in the event will be selected in the 4 x 200 relay squad, and will have to watch Paul Palmer and Adam Faulkner competing in the race in which he had hoped to win a second Olympic medal.

The 17-year-old Rebecca Cooke will be one of the youngest swimmers making the trip to Sydney and can continue her progression up the rankings of the 800m freestyle. Cooke won the event here by five seconds, finishing in 8:39.18.

In the men's 100m freestyle, just over half a second separated all eight finalists. The race was won by Mark Stevens, who stormed through the field to win in 50.44sec, just outside the Olympic qualifying time.

"I just went for it, it's paid off. If the selectors want to send me [to Sydney] they'll send me, I'm the fastest in the country now. It's up to them," Stevens said.

Helen Don Duncan claimed her second British record when winning the 200m backstroke in 2:11.25, a 0.48sec improvement.

GB OLYMPIC SQUAD NOMINATIONS

Swimmers who will be nominated to the BOA, which will announce the squad tomorrow are:

MEN

Mark Foster (50m freestyle), Paul Palmer (200, 400, 1500m freestyle), Jamie Salter (200, 400m freestyle), Adam Faulkner (1500m freestyle), Adam Ruckwood (100, 200m backstroke), Simon Militis (200m backstroke, 400m IM), Darren Mew (100m breaststroke), Adam Whitehead (100, 200m breaststroke), James Hickman (100, 200m butterfly, 200 IM), Steve Parry (200m butterfly). Relay teams: Mark Stevens, Paul Belk, Anthony Howard, Sion Brinn, Nick Hackell, Matthew Kidd (4x100m), Edward Sinclair, Marc Spackman, Andrew Clayton, Graeme Smith (4x200m).

WOMEN

Alison Sheppard (50m freeestyle), Sue Rolph (100m freestyle, 200m IM), Karen Pickering (100, 200m freestyle), Karen Legg (200m freestyle), Rebecca Cooke (800m freestyle), Sarah Price (100m backstroke), Katy Sexton (100m backstroke), Helen Don Duncan (200m backstroke), Jo Fargus (200m backstroke), Heidi Earp (100m breaststroke), Jaime King (200m breaststroke), Margaretha Pedder (100, 200m butterfly), Georgina Lee (200m butterfly). Relay teams: Rolph, Pickering, Rosalind Brett, Claire Huddart (4x100m), Legg, Nicola Jackson, Janine Belton, Vicky Horner (4x200m).

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