Swimming: Last-minute dash takes toll on Foster

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The momentum in world swimming that was started at last year's Sydney Olympics shows no sign of slowing. The three world and five British records set in Antwerp last night confirmed the suspicions that these could be the best European short course championships yet.

The silver medal from the British men's 4x50 metres medley team and Georgina Lee's bronze in the 200m butterfly is perhaps not a fair reflection of the performance of a team unlucky not to have won more.

Mark Foster will rue the one that got away. The three-time winner of the 50m freestyle and current world record holder caused a stir when he failed to line up for the start alongside the other finalists. As the swimmers were called to the blocks, Foster was still hurrying to the start, adjusting his bodysuit and goggles as he went.

Foster knows better than any that the 50m sprint is a battle to control the emotions, to retain a calm focus under pressure. He was never in the race, finishing fourth, 0.01seconds behind the Dutchman Pieter Van den Hoogenband for the bronze. He is lucky that his world record remained intact, Sweden's Stefan Nystrand, the defending champion, winning 0.02sec shy of Foster's mark.

"I thought there was another medal ceremony and when I heard them calling lane three I thought 'this is my race'. I need to be focused and it was all too last minute. But my focus is the world short course in April and that's where I'll be going for it."

Foster atoned for his mistake to anchor the relay to a British and Commonwealth record in the 4x50m medley. In a thrilling race, Germany twice lowered the world record, both in the heats and final, dragging the British quartet to silver in 1:35.19.

There were Commonwealth records too for James Gibson in the 100m breaststroke and Sarah Price in the 100m backstroke semis and two British records for Scotland's Gregor Tait. A fifth place in the 200m backstroke marked the end of a successful year for Tait, who narrowly missed the medals against some of the most established names in world backstroke.

There is every reason to be optimistic for success in today's finals. Gibson and Darren Mew are ranked first and second going into the 100m breaststroke final, Price is second into the 200m backstroke final and James Hickman gave a determined effort in the 100m butterfly and is also second fastest.

Among the newer members of the team, Edinburgh's Michael Cole finished a highly creditable fourth in the 200m individual medley and typified the efforts of the team as a whole.

But the biggest surprise came in the presentation of the medals. They do things differently in Belgium and they broke with tradition last night by surprising the medallists, the crowd and the commentators by presenting the bronze medal first and the gold medal last and not playing the national anthems at all.

EUROPEAN SHORT-COURSE CHAMPIONSHIPS (Antwerp, Bel): Leading results: MEN: 50metre freestyle: 1 S Nystrand (Swe) 21.15sec; 2 O Volinets (Ukr) 21.60; 3 P van den Hoogenband (Neth) 21.65. Selected: 4 M Foster (GB) 21.66. 200m backstroke: 1 G Kozulj (Croa) 1min 53.37sec; 2 Y Gath (Isr) 1:54.15; 3 S Dufour (Fr) 1:54.21. Selected: 5 G Tait (GB) 1:54.27; 8 A Ruckwood (GB) 1:55.78. 200m medley: 1 P Mankoc (Sloven) 1:56.18; 2 J Sievinen (Fin) 1:56.60; 3 A Boggiatto (It) 1:57.52. Selected: 4 M Cole (GB) 1:58.44; 8 A Bree (Irl) 1:59.19. 400m freestyle: 1 E Brembilla (It) 3:41.27; 2 J Hoffmann (Ger) 3:42.09; 3 J F Carstensen (Den) 3:42.28. 4x50m medley: 1 Germany (S Theloke, M Warnecke, T Rupprath, C Dehmlow) 1:34.78 (world record); 2 Britain (G Tait, J Gibson, J Hickman, M Foster) 1:35.19; 3 Sweden (J Pettersson, P Isaksson, L Froelander, S Nystrand) 1:35.68. WOMEN: 50m breaststroke: 1 E Igelstrom (Swe) 30.56sec (world record); 2 J Schafer (Ger) 30.92; 3 V Lischka (Aut) 31.37. 200m butterfly: 1 O Jedrzejczak (Pol) 2min 07.95sec; 2 M Jacobsen (Den) 2:08.13; 3 G Lee (GB) 2:08.14. Selected: 5 N Jackson (GB) 2:10.01. 200m medley: 1 Y Klochkova (Ukr) 2:09.52; 2 N Hetzer (Ger) 2:09.70; 3 A Kejzar (Sloven) 2:10.82.

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