Tait lowers mark as Britons prosper

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The Independent Online

The short-course Championships that ended here yesterday saw a continuation of an astonishing run of British swimming performances.

Since July 22, the team has competed in the World Championships in Fukuoka, the Australian nationals in Perth and then travelled here directly last Wednesday. Instead of complaining of a difficult schedule, the swimmers have thrived under the pressure setting two world, four European, 10 Commonwealth and an astonishing 28 British records.

The world record, set on Friday by the world champion women's 4x200 metres freestyle relay squad, lifted a surprisingly buoyant championships to an unprecedented level, and was the first women's world-record to be set in Britain since the Empire Games in 1958.

The Championships are doubling as the trials for the European Short-course Championships in Antwerp in December, but there are fewer takers than expected as the swimmers revise their competition priorities towards next year's Commonwealth Games.

Already unavailable for Antwerp are Mark Foster and Paul Palmer, and yesterday Karen Pickering, who won the individual 200m freestyle over her gold-medal winning team-mates from Fukuoka, also withdrew from the team.

Pickering, 29, won the event in 1:56.48 – 0.4 seconds outside the British record she set in Perth, but well clear of Karen Legg and Nicola Jackson, who disputed the minor places.

On a great day for the Scots, Gregor Tait lowered the British record in the 100m backstroke to 52.98sec, and Ian Edmond and Alison Sheppard were just fractions outside their targets in the 50m freestyle and 200m breaststroke respectively.

There were British records, too, for Darren Mew in the 50m breaststroke, and Matthew Kidd took nearly half a second off Mike Fibbens' nine-year-old record in the 100m freestyle, to clock 48.06sec in one of Britain's weakest events.

But the European record-holder Zoe Baker will miss her second European Short-course Championships in a row. To compete in her best event, the 50m breaststroke, Baker had to qualify in the 100m, which she failed to do.