Swimming: Europe sunk but Brits are left buoyant

US turn Duel into one-sided affair but home team on track to make a splash at Olympics
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The Independent Online

If you can beat the US in the pool, there's a good chance you can be a podium contender at global level. So while the weekend's Duel in the Pool in Manchester saw the European E-Stars of Britain, Italy and Germany drubbed by the United States, a closer look at the results indicates a bright future for Britain.

The E-Stars took just nine out of 30 races as the US won 185-78 on points, but eight of those E-Stars victories were by Britons, and six by the most promising generation of British female talent in memory. They are the world-beaters of the 2012 London Olympics.

Fran Halsall, 19, is a Scouser as gifted and hard-working as she is ebullient. She won her core events in the 50 metres and 100m freestyle in the Duel and added the 100m fly for good measure. She was also a world silver medallist this summer in Rome.

Lizzie Simmonds, 18, won the 200m and 100m backstroke in Manchester, and can pick up Games medals. Gemma Spofforth, 22, world champion and world record breaker in the 100m backstroke this summer, is a contender in the same disciplines.

Rebecca Adlington, a double Olympic champion from Beijing, won the Duel 800m freestyle easily. Adlington and Jo Jackson, who missed the Duel with a lung infection, both have several Olympic and/or world championship freestyle medals and will seek more in London.

Hannah Miley, 20, is an individual medley contender at the highest level, while Ellen Gandy, 18, is a British butterfly specialist who lives in Melbourne and is among a handful of other hopefuls.

The British men who won over the weekend were James Goddard in the 200m IM, and Michael Rock, who shocked Michael Phelps in the 200m fly. Rock's achievement must be considered in context: he was wearing one of the performance-enhanching polyurethane suits that will be banned from 1 January while Phelps wore a textile jammer that will be legal in 2010.

Nonetheless, Rock and Goddard, plus the 50m backstroke world champion Liam Tancock and the upcoming backstroker Chris Walker-Hebborn, 19, and breaststroker Dan Sliwinski, also 19, represent the improving fortunes of British men's swimming.

If Italy and Germany had each chipped in eight race wins like Britain over the weekend, instead of just one between them – Italy's Federico Colbertaldo took the men's 800m freestyle – then the Duel would have been just that, instead of a breeze for the US.

But the best of the Germans (Britta Steffen and Paul Biedermann), and Italians (Federica Pellegrini, Alessia Filippi) did not come and an E-Stars team with more strength in depth from France, the Netherlands, Russia and elsewhere will be a future target. For now, this inaugural Duel on British shores was a noisy, colourful, successful 2,000-seat sell-out.

On the back-to-textile era, Britain's head coach, Dennis Pursley, said: "I'm ecstatic. It will be a level playing field and that is really what sport should be about."