Swimming: Sweetenham's 'watery wimps' spark gold rush

Ian Thorpe looked on from poolside here as his Commonwealth 200 metres freestyle title passed into English hands on a night when the Poms hit back at their hosts to take two gold and two silver medals.

The previous day British swimmers had been described in one local newspaper headline as "Watery Wimps" - a reference to official calls for Bill Sweetenham, the Australian in charge of British swimming, to rule with more velvet glove and less iron fist.

But with Ross Davenport taking advantage of Thorpe's absence through illness to finish a fraction ahead of his team-mate Simon Burnett in 1min 47.29sec, and with Matthew Clay and Liam Tancock taking gold and silver respectively in the 50m backstroke, England produced a flourish to match that achieved the previous evening by Scotland's two surprise gold medallists, Caitlin McClatchey and David Carry.

It was the first significant success by the new wave of swimmers who have learned their sport under the direction of Sweetenham, who watched with satisfaction from the stands.

Clay, 23, was born in South Africa to British parents but has lived in England since he was six. He is with the British sprint team working in Swansea under Bill Pilczuk, the former world champion. (Pilczuk was not the only American to make a contribution on the night - the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, presented one of the medals.) Davenport, 21, is coached by Sweetenham's No 2, Ian Turner, at Loughborough University, where Tancock also trains. Burnett is being fast-tracked at the University of Arizona.

Although it was Land of Hope and Glory that rang out twice in the canopied, 10,000-capacity venue, England's swimmers clearly see themselves as part of a British challenge to a host nation weakened by the absence of Thorpe and the injured Grant Hackett.

The previous day, Thorpe had enjoyed a joke by the Queen, who had suggested after hearing he had won seven medals at the 2002 Manchester Games that the rest of the Commonwealth should be glad that he was not competing here.

Davenport was glad all over. "It's been a fantastic night for British swimming against the so-called superstars in their own back yard," he said. "We have shown what we are made of and everything is looking good for a great British performance. I am excited about the relay still to come, but I am more excited about Beijing in two years' time."

Davenport, a supporter of his home-town team Derby County, said that in recent months he had altered his approach to competing. "I used to be a little scared pup, but now I look on these events as an opportunity rather than something to be scared of."

His positive attitude was mirrored by that of Clay, who like Davenport was considered the less likely gold medallist for England in his event given that Tancock, who finished 0.06sec behind him in 25.10sec, had qualified with a Games record of 24.84sec.

"It was kind of a shock," Clay said. "I was half a second off the pace going into this race, but I thought there was no reason why I shouldn't win it. My coach is a former world champion and is very cool under pressure. The last words he said to me before I left were, 'I see no reason why you can't do it'. I was determined to swim my own race. I even blacked out my goggles so I couldn't see the others."

That is the kind of tunnel vision that could translate into Olympic success two years hence - or even next year, when Melbourne hosts the World Championships. By then the Aussies will know what to expect.

Arts and Entertainment
Joe Cocker performing on the Stravinski hall stage during the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland in 2002
musicHe 'turned my song into an anthem', says former Beatle
News
Clarke Carlisle
sport
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballLatest score and Twitter updates
Arts and Entertainment
David Hasselhof in Peter Pan
theatreThe US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
Life and Style
A still from a scene cut from The Interview showing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's death.
tech
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Regulatory / Compliance / Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Exeter - An excellent opportunity for a Solici...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'