Wearing a striking coral-pink suit, Fran Halsall ensured her multi-medal Olympic hopes stayed on course with a dominant performance in the British trials last night. On International Women's Day it was another good evening for Britain's female swimmers, who are heading towards July's Games on a wave of optimism.
Halsall was joined in the Olympic team by Amy Smith, who finished in her wake in the 100m freestyle, and Stacey Todd. Smith and Todd, in the 200m breaststroke, both did personal bests, while Halsall has never swum faster at this early stage of the year.
While next week's Australian trials may bring a reality check, as will times recorded in the United States and around Europe over the coming months, Michael Smith, Britain's (Australian) performance director, will be pleased that most of his swimmers have matched the lofty billing he gave them ahead of the week-long trials.
Halsall, along with Rebecca Adlington, who competes in the 800m final tonight, is one of the team's flagship swimmers. In last year's world championships in Shanghai, she finished fourth in this event but was only 0.3sec off gold. That came after a preparation hampered by an ankle injury. This time around her training could not be going better – despite what she said last night after registering a time of 53.57sec, the quickest in the world this year.
"I'm a bit disappointed with the time," said Halsall. "I thought I'd go a bit faster but then I've never been this fast at this time of year, so I can only take good things from it."
Ellie Simmonds underlined the women's fine week by setting the first world record in the London pool in the accompanying Paralympic trials. "The women have been carrying us for six years," said James Goddard. "They must be getting tired."
Goddard and Joe Roebuck did their bit for the men, both qualifying in the 200m individual medley. Roebuck has produced a most impressive series: last night's gold, snatched on the last length, was his second after the 200m butterfly and he also qualified in the 400m IM. "It has been a great week," said Roebuck, a 26-year-old student. "Everything has gone my way."
In contrast Goddard concentrated on this event. He is a 200m backstroke specialist – but that Olympic final falls only minutes before the 200m IM.