Swimming: Marshall's win boosts Olympic medal hopes

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The Independent Online

Melanie Marshall rubber-stamped her credentials as a genuine Olympic medal hope by winning the 200m national freestyle title here last night in a British record of 1min 57.51sec.

The time was 0.34sec faster than the previous record, set by Marshall in Thursday's semi-finals, and underlines the 22-year-old's stunning recent progress. Marshall, a Loughborough University student, was inside world record time for half of last night's race and believes she can go faster. "Next stop Athens," she said. "I've made it to my first Olympics. Wow."

Gregor Tait and James Goddard, first and second in the 200m backstroke, also confirmed their places in the British team last night. Tait's winning time of 1min 57.42sec was a Commonwealth record, shaving 0.17sec from the previous mark set by Australia's Matt Welsh in Sydney four years ago. Tait's time took more than a second off the previous British record of 1min 58.58sec clocked by Goddard in Thursday's semi-finals.

Kirsty Balfour, who set a British record of 2min 27.88sec in the semi-finals of the 200m breaststroke on Thursday, was unable to better that in last night's final. The 20-year-old Scot won the final but did so outside the Olympic qualifying time of 2min 28.21sec.

The selection policy for British swimming is so stringent that Balfour will not swim in the 200m in Athens. Balfour's semi-final time was inside the world's top 12, as required. But despite winning her final and swimming inside the qualifying time, she failed to so simultaneously.

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