Fall of records raise Sydney expectations

That the standard of British swimming has never been higher was clear on a record-breaking night here. Whether it is high enough to win Olympic medals remains to be seen, but this is a team which will travel in expectation as well as hope.

That the standard of British swimming has never been higher was clear on a record-breaking night here. Whether it is high enough to win Olympic medals remains to be seen, but this is a team which will travel in expectation as well as hope.

With the lesser-known names coming to the fore, five more swimmers achieved the tough qualifying times needed to win a place in the British team for Sydney.

The world short-course champion, Mark Foster, the man with webbed toes, reckoned he did no more than go through the motions in winning the 50m sprint in 22.42sec. However, Darren Mew and Adam Whitehead did anything but in a stirring 100m breaststroke as they confirmed their form of the semi-finals. Mew, based at the Centre of Excellence at the University of Bath, took well over half a second off his own personal best in winning in 1.01.78. Whitehead, from Coventry, also swam a personal best in finishing second in 1.02.29.

Simon Militis' performance was all the more admirable for being effectively against the clock. The Portsmouth swimmer was seven seconds clear of the field in winning the 400m medley in a British record 4.20.07.

The pre-selected Alison Sheppard, who set the poolside buzzing on Tuesday when she broke her own Commonwealth record twice, was unable to achieve the sub-25 second time she had hoped for in winning the final of the women's 50m. It says much about how far Sheppard has come, however, that the Canada-based Scot was disappointed with 25.20sec. "It's always difficult in a final, but I'll have to do it if I'm going to win a medal," Sheppard said.

In the words of the sport's National Performance director Deryk Snelling, the 28-year-old is one of several British women who have "learned to swim with absolute power". "It has a lot to do with confidence," Snelling said. "Taking them away on long training camps, teaching them to focus, to be totally committed. We have some very tough girls now who understand what it takes to win."

One such is Margaretha Pedder, who won a competitive 100m butterfly final in 1.00.74 to win her passport to Australia. The Portsmouth swimmer just touched out the teenagers Georgina Lee and Nicola Jackson.

Two more British records fell in women's semi-finals. First, Sarah Price shattered the British mark in the 100m backstroke. Her time of 1.01.93 was almost matched by Katy Sexton in the second semi-final, and both were well within the Olympic qualifying standard. Then Heidi Earp recorded 1.09.92 to beat Suki Brownsden's 13-year-old record in the 100m breaststroke.

On the basis of the times being achieved here, every swimmer who makes the team will regard reaching a final as their least expectation, but amid the growing optimism, Snelling sounded a note of caution. "Expectations may be too high. Lottery money has enabled us to make great strides in the four years since Atlanta, but it may have been too little too late as far as Sydney is concerned.

"If we'd taken the squad we will take to Australia to Atlanta they'd have been a sensation, but swimming has moved on since then. But what we have been able to do is put a lot of athletes within striking distance of medals.

"When people criticise our qualifying times [based on finishing eighth in the World Championships in Perth and 12th in Atlanta], they were set with a view to taking no passengers."

Snelling introduced British swimming to its future yesterday, in the formidably experienced and equally formidably rotund form of the Australian Bill Sweetenham, who takes over from Snelling in November. Formerly head coach at the Australian Institute of Sport and National Youth Coach, Sweetenham has played a major role in making his country the strongest swimming nation in the world.

"I needed a new challenge, and the fact that Great Britain is one of the few swimming nations on the up told me something special can be achieved here," said Sweetenham, who knows a large part of his job will be persuading the British public - and football-obsessed sports media - to take swimming seriously.

"We have to make swimming into a priority sport, and medals won't hurt in changing people's perceptions."

News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker