Olympic Games: Swimming: Gillingham and Moorhouse sink without trace

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The Independent Online
The golden scenario turned out to be made of base metal. Nick Gillingham and Adrian Moorhouse not only failed to achieve the perfect one-two result in the final of the 100 metres breaststroke here last night, they finished last and second last. It was not an auspicious start to Britain's 1992 Olympics.

The anticipation, a British gold and silver, proved to be far better than the event. Gillingham, 25, won his heat in the morning but in doing so aggravated a groin injury that crippled his chances for the evening final. As for Moorhouse, the 1988 Olympic champion, his 28 years - considered old in the youth-orientated world of swimming - finally caught up with him.

Gillingham had most reason to feel aggrieved with what fate had served up. The possessor of the fastest time this year, he still finished within a second of the winner, Nelson Diebel of the United States, despite an injury that has hampered him intermittently for 18 months. His coach, Barry Prime, conscious that his charge has a 200m breaststroke event on Wednesday, tried to persuade him to pull out, but to no avail.

'I thought it was better to err on the side of caution,' Prime said, 'but he was determined to race. I knew as soon as he dived in that he had no chance. He wasn't flowing, he was holding something back. It's a pity because I still believe he is the best technician of all the breaststrokers.'

The portents were not promising from the moment Gillingham lost his balance in the final and false-started. An ice pack had deadened the pain and the extra time it took to restart counted against him, even more so when, anxious not to incur the wrath of the judges, he was hestitant in the race proper. He was two feet behind the leader when the swimmers emerged from their dive and never regained that water.

In the morning, Gillingham had also started poorly but more than compensated with a finishing surge that not only won the heat but caused his groin to 'twang' in the last 15 metres. But he is always stronger towards the end of the 100m and even last night he was optimistic as he entered the race's final third. 'With 30 metres to go both Adrian and I thought we had a chance of being in the frame,' he said.

'Norbert Rozsa (who finished second) seemed to be behind me and no one seemed too far ahead. It was quite a surprise to find out we were seventh and eighth.'

Gillingham will now spend as much time in the treatment room as in the pool in an attempt to be fit for Wednesday and the race in which he was a silver medallist in Seoul four years ago.

'I'm positive I'll swim in the 200m,' he said. 'I came here with two chances and the 100 was my lesser event. I haven't given up hope of getting a medal. The injury is painful but no worse than when I dived in. I have no regrets about deciding to race.'

In Moorhouse's case, it was his last chance. When he won the 100m breaststroke in Seoul, he was the second oldest swimming gold medallist at the Games and he has said that he will retire after competing in Barcelona. He began more promisingly than Gillingham and at the turn was still nudging Diebel. When he needed to find the acceleration over the last 30 metres, however, there was not enough there.

Gillingham and Moorhouse failed to threaten their best times that would have earned them medals, but personal records are the standards the British team wanted to be judged by in Barcelona and Paul Howe and Paul Palmer achieved that in the 200m freestyle heats.

Howe, a bronze medallist in the 200m freestyle relay eight years ago, became the first Britain to go under 1min 50sec when he finished fifth and was still celebrating when Paul Palmer slipped 0.65sec under him three minutes later. The 17-year-old triple European junior gold medallist from Lincoln gave advance notice of the force he might be in Atlanta in 1996 with 1:49.21 and then went even faster in the evening, winning the B final in a time of 1:48.92.

The British women had less reason to remember the day with any fondness, Sharron Davies and Helen Slatter each finishing last in their heats of the 400m individual medley and Karen Pickering 17th fastest in the 100m freestyle. But for Pickering and Alison Shepperd, who finished sixth in her 100m heat, there are stronger events to come. 'Thank God that's over,' Shepperd said afterwards.

Gillingham and Moorhouse were probably thinking along similar lines.

(Photograph omitted)