Swimming: Marshall fury after 'ready room' blunder cuts back Beijing hopes

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The Independent Online

Olympic medal hopeful Melanie Marshall has been barred from two of her events at this summer's Games in Beijing after a procedural slip-up disrupted the second day of the British championships here yesterday.

Marshall was scheduled to compete in the 100m freestyle final but was forbidden from taking part because officials deemed her late for registration. All competitors must report to a "ready room" 15 minutes before they swim. Marshall was in the vicinity but not in the room itself, so was prevented from swimming.

The race was delayed several minutes while Marshall, clearly furious, tried to persuade officials to change their minds, while repeating the phrase: "They won't let me swim." In order to qualify for the Games, athletes must swim inside set times in heats, then finish first or second in the final.

Marshall's absence from the 100m final means she will not go to Beijing in that event or in the 4x100m relay. Britain would have had an outside chance of a relay medal with Marshall, but without her, that hope is realistically gone.

Marshall later conceded she was responsible for the mix-up, although she remained annoyed that her attendance just outside the ready room could not be excused. She added: "It could be the best thing to have happened. I'm angry now, and I'll take it out in the water." Her best event, the 200m freestyle, is on Saturday and she will hope to qualify individually and for the 4x200m relay team.

The race was won in Marshall's absence by Caitlin McClatchey, 22, one of three Scots to be crowned British champions in yesterday morning's four finals. McClatchey broke the British record in Monday evening's heats but was slightly slower yesterday, winning in 54.58sec, with Fran Halsall, 17, second in 54.81sec. Both will go to Beijing in that event, and as part of a now-depleted 4x100m relay team.

Halsall is among a crop of teenage British women starting to make waves, but was disappointed with her time yesterday. She had visibly eased off in Monday's heat, saving her best for the final. "I'm not happy," said the Liverpool swimmer. "I was hoping to swim faster."

The two other Scots who booked their seats to China yesterday were Edinburgh's Gregor Tait, who won the 100m backstroke in 54.22sec, and Aberdeen's David Carry, who took the 400m title in 3min 49.78sec. Tait will join the pre-qualified Liam Tancock in the 100m backstroke, while Carry and Dean Milwain, second in the 400m yesterday, will go in that event.

Teenagers filled the podium in the women's 200m butterfly. Jemma Lowe, who was 18 on Monday, won in 2min 7.61sec, with Ellen Gandy, 16, second, and Jessica Dickons, 18 this year, third. Lowe and Gandy will go to the Olympics with livewire hopes of reaching finals and shocking much older, more seasoned rivals.

Wales' Lowe, who now lives in Stockton, smashed the British 200m fly record in the heats on Monday, clocking the second fastest time in the world this year. "That was a lot more painful than the heats," she said after the final. "I was a bit nervous and didn't sleep too well. And I bet there are not many people who can say they went to bed at 9pm on their 18th birthday!"

To replicate the programme in Beijing, all the heats here are being swum in the evening, with the finals the following morning.

The most eagerly awaited heat last night was the men's 50m freestyle, where Mark Foster, 37, was hoping for a place in this morning's final – and an Olympic berth two years after retiring.

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