Swimming: Historic fifth win for Hickman

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The Independent Online

Britain's James Hickman has become the first swimmer to win consecutive gold medals at five World Short Course Championships.

The Manchester Aquatics star has dominated the men's 200m butterfly event over the past seven years with golds in 1997, 1999, 2000, 2002 and has now added 2004 to his list of honours.

Victory in Indianapolis sees him achieve an unprecedented feat, yet the 28-year-old is under no illusion his task would have been more difficult if it had not been for the withdrawal of his main rival, American sensation Michael Phelps.

However, rather than take comfort from Phelps' omission from the event, Hickman was left slightly disappointed not to have faced the American as he felt the race would have been a highlight of the meet.

Hickman still had the rest of the field to beat, as well as the pressure he had placed on himself ahead of the final, and he did so in a time of 1:53.41, ahead of Romanian Ioan Gherghel in 1:54.06 and Peng Wu of China in 1:54.51.

"I'm bouncing right now but number five was the most nerve-wracking race of my whole career. I think the more you win, the more the pressure mounts," said Hickman.

"The first one is easy in comparison because you're the hunter and not the hunted. It's better to chase than to be chased.

"There was a lot of pressure and weight on my shoulders which has been lifted. I think overall I did pretty well.

"I know Michael (Phelps) wasn't here but it would have been a good race if he had been. I was always here to try to take control of that event but it's just a shame we couldn't race each other.

"The last 25m was hard, my arms felt like lead and I felt like I had no strength left. There was no one around me though and maybe if there was it would have been a faster time."

Despite his victory, a delighted Hickman also announced his plans to retire even before he had collected the most precious of all his gold medals.

"I enjoy what I do. It can be the best feeling in the world. All those people watching and cheering you on, it's just fantastic, but I will be retiring at the end of this year because I want to stop while I'm at the top," added Hickman.

"It's been a great year, I've got the European Short Course Championships in Vienna to go and then I'll call it a day hopefully at one more good performance."

Britain's small squad of five concluded their championships with five medals in total.

Alison Sheppard was hoping to add to the tally but in a strong field missed out on a medal by just five 100ths of a second when the Bearsden and Milngavie swimmer finished sixth in the women's 50m freestyle in 24.65.

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