Swimming: Balfour's brilliance delivers Britain's first gold

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The Independent Online

The European Championships are all about finding out who is ready to win Olympic medals in Beijing in two years' time and Kirsty Balfour will be Britain's leading contender, after an emphatic victory in the 200 metres breaststroke here last night. Balfour delivered Britain's first gold of the championships after a dominant performance that saw her finish nearly three seconds clear of the field.

The 22-year-old attacked early in the race, after which the result was never in doubt. The only question was how fast she would go, and in stopping the clock in 2min 25.66sec, just shy of the European record, Balfour now has two of the five fastest times in the world so far this year.

"I had the European record on my mind, but I am pleased with the time," she said. "I have taken a big step forward this year."

Balfour added gold to the silver she won in the 100m breaststroke earlier this week, bringing home Britain's seventh medal of these championships with more expected over the weekend.

The men's 4x200m freestyle team will hope to deliver a second gold for Britain tonight, and are joined by the breaststroke sprinters James Gibson and Darren Mew, with Mel Marshall and Jo Jackson eyeing the medals in a highly competitive 200m freestyle final. James Goddard also has an outside chance in the 200m backstroke.

Yuri Prilukov won his third European title in succession in the 1500m freestyle. His 14:51.93 sent a warning to Wales' European record holder, David Davies, who is absent here because of a foot infection, about his intentions for Beijing in 2008.

The men's 100m freestyle was won by Italy's Filippo Magnini, from Stefan Nystrand and Pieter Van den Hoogenband.