Swimming: Medal for Baker tops successful day for Britain

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The Independent Online

Zoe Baker won Britain's first medal at the world short-course championships in Moscow last night on a successful day for the British team. All four swimmers in the squad were in action and all four gave the performances demanded by the performance director, Bill Sweetenham, who expects each to win a medal.

Baker lined up in the final of the 50m breaststroke, one of three women who had broken the world record in the last three months. In a tense final, the current record-holder, Emma Igelstrom, rose to the challenge to become the first woman to break 30 seconds in the event. The Swede powered her way to a world record 29.96sec, as Baker faded to win bronze in 30.56, 0.25sec shy of her best. China's Luo Xuenjuan, the other former record-holder was second.

"I was laid up for two days last week after a bite from a silver back spider on my leg swelled up to the size of a fist," Baker said. "It's not an excuse. I said I would be happy with a medal and I am, although I wanted to be the first to go under 30. I take my hat off to Emma. I was beaten by a better swimmer."

Scotland's Alison Sheppard broke one British record and four Scottish records in four swims yesterday. In both the heats and semi-finals of first the 100m freestyle and then the 100m individual medley, Sheppard set the records tumbling. She is fifth into today's final of the freestyle, and, with a British record 1:00.99, is third fastest into the medley final. In Moscow to win a medal in the 50m freestyle, a medal in one of today's finals would be a bonus.

James Hickman finished fifth in the final of the 100m butterfly, 0.6sec outside his British record. The event was won by Australia's Olympic bronze medallist, Geoff Heugill. Hickman was not disappointed and will be confident of victory in his preferred 200m event on Sunday. "I'm pleased to have stepped up a level for the final. None of these guys will be racing the 200m, so I expect to finish in front of the others," he said.

And Mark Foster rounded off a successful day for the team in the 50m freestyle. Even the return of the great Alex Popov did not distract Foster from qualifying in third position for today's final. Foster, the world record-holder and two-time defending champion, is ideally placed to win Britain's first gold.

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