Foster's exclusion a self-defeating setback for Britain

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The Independent Online

A selection row flared up yesterday after Mark Foster was left out of the 50 metres freestyle for the World Championships in Japan next month. When the squad of 27 swimmers was announced yesterday, the fastest man in water was at a loss to explain his omission and is to appeal the decision.

It is a controversial decision. Foster has qualified for the team in the 50m butterfly which gives the selectors the option also to include him in the 50m freestyle if they wish, but they have not done so. Instead, no one will swim the event.

"We are striving for excellence but this is just putting us back," Foster said. "We won no medals at the Olympics last year and I'm ranked second in the world. The event is wide open so we can't afford not to put me in. It's unbelievable."

The problems started when Foster's goggles broke before the final of the 50m freestyle in Sheffield last month. It was one of four designated meets where swimmers could make the tough qualifying times for the World Championships demanded by Britain's national performance director, Bill Sweetenham. Foster borrowed a pair, which came off when he dived in, and he coasted in for last place. A time trial was arranged and Foster set a British record of 22.13 seconds, which put him in medal contention for Japan.

But, at the final trials in Glasgow last weekend, Foster swam 0.02sec outside the qualifying time and, according to the selection committee, on which Sweetenham sits, time trials do not count. "I have been misled," Foster said. "If the ASA had not arranged the time trial for me in Sheffield, or Bill had said outright that it wouldn't count, I would have rested for Glasgow and made the time."

The committee was unequivocal that, if they allowed Foster a discretionary swim in the 50m freestyle, others, like Karen Pickering who has only qualified for a relay, would demand that they are entered in other events too. The difference is that Foster has bettered the qualifying time for his event, but no one else up for consideration has done so in theirs.

With Lottery funding cut after the team won no medals in Sydney last year, the selection row throws up an unfortunate paradox. The 'no exceptions' rule to the selection policy is supposed to toughen up British swimming, but fewer medals in Japan means less money to run the programme to toughen up British swimming.

Great Britain Team (World Championships, Fukuoka, Japan, 19-31 July): MEN: 200m freestyle: P Palmer. 400m freestyle: J Salter, E Sinclair. 800m freestyle: G Smith, A Faulkner. 1500m freestyle: Smith. 50m backstroke: N Willey. 50m breaststroke: J Gibson. 100m breaststroke: D Mew. 200m breaststroke: I Edmond. 50m butterfly: M Foster. 4x200 freestyle relay: Palmer, Sinclair, Salter, M Spackman. WOMEN: 50m freestyle: A Sheppard, R Brett. 200m freestyle: N Jackson. 800m freestyle: R Cooke. 1500m freestyle: Cooke, N Brown. 50m backstroke: S Price. 100m backstroke: Price. 200m backstroke: J Fargus, K Sexton. 50m breaststroke: Z Baker. 50m butterfly: Sheppard. 200m butterfly: G Lee. 4x100 free relay: Brett, Sheppard, K Pickering, M Marshall. 4x200 free relay: Jackson, Pickering, K Legg, J Belton, Charlotte. Dallas. 4x100 medley relay: Price, J King, Lee, Brett.