Lee secures passport to Sydney

The first event of the penultimate day of the Olympic swimming trials picked up yesterday where it left off on Friday. Still high from the battle between Steve Parry and James Hickman over 200m butterfly, which Parry won by a fraction in a desperately close race, the two faced each other in the semi-finals of the 100m event.

The first event of the penultimate day of the Olympic swimming trials picked up yesterday where it left off on Friday. Still high from the battle between Steve Parry and James Hickman over 200m butterfly, which Parry won by a fraction in a desperately close race, the two faced each other in the semi-finals of the 100m event.

With another packed crowd witnessing some of the best racing of the week, a fatigued Parry was touched out in the first semi-final by Beckenham's David Bennett, who won in 54.40sec. But there was no mistake from Hickman, who sprinted to victory a few moments later in 53.50.

Hickman is the better sprinter of the two, and his best of 52.87 ranks him sixth in the world, but the 200m is still the event where the best chance for a medal lies for both men.

Throughout the week, swimmers who have been selected to the team are presented with a mock-up of a passport to accompany their medals, called the 'Passport to Sydney'. The first two recipients last night were Portsmouth's Margaretha Pedder and Georgina Lee from Birmingham, who finished over four seconds clear of the field in the 200m butterfly.

Swimming stroke for stroke, Lee just held on to win by 0.23sec in 2:11.36.

"I'm excited and relieved to have my place on the team," she said. "I have taken a year off to concentrate on swimming before going to university, but I may be rethinking my plans." The men's 100m freestyle produced high drama. As all eight swimmers raced in a line across the pool, it was not just about first and second. The extra incentive was the additional places on offer for the 4x100 relay squad. In the final charge for the wall, Cardiff's Mark Stevens had the longest reach, stopping the clock in 50.44. But with just 0.32sec separating all eight finalists, there is every chance that Jamaican Sion Brinn, who finished fifth, will be selected to the British team, four years after representing Jamaica in the Atlanta Games.

The women's 200m backstroke has been the most eagerly anticipated race of the week. Three swimmers have played pass the parcel with the British record in the last month and of course, only two of the three can go. In the semi-finals, Helen Don Duncan, 19, sliced nearly a second off the record which 18-year-old Jo Fargus set in Helsinki three weeks ago. Fargus, in turn, took it from Portsmouth's Commonwealth champion, Katy Sexton.

Times however, will count for nothing as, quite simply, the first two to finish will receive their passports to Sydney.

Sexton is starting from a position of strength, having already been selected over 100m, and can swim free of the pressure of making the Olympic team. But Don Duncan's record of 2:11.73 places her sixth in the world and any of the qualifiers therefore could be looking at a final place in Sydney.

Karen Pickering set a best time of 55.63sec in the first semi-final of the 100m freestyle. Pickering is already selected for Sydney, her fourth Olympics, but to swim this event she will have to win today's final. She will have to beat Alison Sheppard, the sprint specialist, and Karen Legg, who defeated Pickering in the 200m on Thursday.

Britain's two medallists from Atlanta, Paul Palmer and Graeme Smith, both qualified for the final of the 1500m. Smith's best time of 15:02.48 ranks him third behind two powerful Australians and if either, or both, can be the first Briton to break through 15 minutes, they will have every chance of a medal in Sydney.

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