Swimming: 'Zombie' Adlington overcomes slow lane to take World silver

Double Olympic champion Rebecca Adlington made light of having to swim from lane one to claim the silver medal in the 400 metres freestyle at the World Championships here yesterday. The 22-year-old scraped into the final as the seventh-fastest qualifier after looking a shadow of the swimmer she has been this season in the heats. However, just as in the last World Championships in Rome where she only just made the final before finishing third, Adlington swam a controlled race to be second to Federica Pellegrini, the Italian successfully defending her crown.

While Adlington's time of 4min 04.01sec – 2.04sec behind Pellegrini – was way outside her season's best it mattered little as she held off Frenchwoman Camille Muffat by 0.05sec. Adlington said: "It was hard and the time wasn't as quick and wasn't there but I am pleased. This morning was just horrific and painful."

An outside lane means a swimmer has little indication of how the race is unfolding and is not pulled along with the fastest qualifiers in the middle lanes. Adlington admits it was like a repeat of Rome. She said: "A lane's a lane. Everyone kept saying to me, 'It did you good in '09', and I came away with a bronze and a PB [personal best]. I didn't get a PB this time but I got a silver medal so I improved, that's got to be encouraging."

Adlington put her struggles in the morning down to a combination of experimenting with her training in the cycle leading to London 2012 as well as tiredness caused by sleepless nights during the recent training camp in Osaka, which have continued since she arrived in Shanghai. "I was so tired this morning, I was like a zombie," she said. "You know when you wake up mid-dream and all day you feel crap? It's so annoying, I hate it."

The Mansfield-born swimmer believes she and her coach, Bill Furniss, have now found the formula which best suits her, 12 months out from the Olympics. "We've done all the trying and experimenting and now we fully know what we need to do next year, which is such a big thing."

Earlier, Tom Daley witnessed a masterclass by Qiu Bo as the Chinese diver succeeded him as 10-metre platform champion, with the 17-year-old Briton finishing fifth. Daley was in with a chance of a medal in the final rounds before finishing a little under 30 points adrift of Germany's Sascha Klein in third with 505.10pts. David Boudia of the United States was second on 544.25.

Qiu was a class apart, being awarded a total of 16 perfect 10s, including seven on one dive, as he scored 585.45pts. It meant the Chinese completed a clean sweep of all the diving gold medals. The result sent Daley into next year's World Series, which gives him the opportunity to face the world's best divers in the run-up to the London Olympics. He said: "I am happy with fifth place. I can go home, get more consistency, get more volume on the dives and, hopefully, be more consistent in competition."

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