Goddard and Tait carried on crest of Parry's wave

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The Independent Online

The optimism instilled in Britain's swimmers by Stephen Parry's 200 metres butterfly bronze on Tuesday was carried into the early races at the pool here last night, with James Goddard and Gregor Tait both storming through their 200m backstroke semi-finals to reach tonight's finale.

The optimism instilled in Britain's swimmers by Stephen Parry's 200 metres butterfly bronze on Tuesday was carried into the early races at the pool here last night, with James Goddard and Gregor Tait both storming through their 200m backstroke semi-finals to reach tonight's finale.

Goddard powered to victory in the first semi-final in 1min 57.25sec. Tait joined him in tonight's all important last eight by clocking 1min 58.75sec in the second semi-final in third place behind America's Aaron Peirsol, who won in an Olympic record of 1min 55.14sec.

Buoyed by the displays of Goddard and Tait, their team-mates at poolside went appropriately bonkers. The mood was so upbeat that talk of a medal in the women's 4x200m freestyle relay later seemed less of a pipedream. The 4x200m team, including Melanie Marshall, had gained their place in the final with a win in their semi-final yesterday morning, albeit against an understrength Australian four.

Both Goddard and Tait swam close to their personal bests in the morning's heats. Goddard, 21, who won Commonwealth gold in his home city of Manchester in 2002, clocked 1min 57.96sec to qualify second fastest just six-hundredths away from his lifetime best.

"I decided I just had to attack it because big names are going out in the heats here," he said afterwards, admitting that Parry, a club-mate at Stockport Metro, had inspired him.

The Glasgow-born Tait, 25, who holds the Commonwealth record, progressed safely through the heats in fifth place with a time of 1min 59.35sec. "We've not had a great week so far but it's good for us to get in and show people what it's all about," he said.

Adrian Turner, Robin Francis and Kirsty Balfour all progressed through heats yesterday morning to contest tough semi-finals last night. None of the trio's morning times suggested they would make their finals. Turner and Francis qualified in 13th and 12th places respectively.

Balfour, a late entry for the 200m breaststroke, qualified for last night's semi-finals with the 11th quickest time. She made the British team only as a relay swimmer but justified her place in the individual event with a time of 2min 29.78sec.

Marshall, 22, who described her failure in the 200m freestyle semi-finals earlier this week as "embarrassing" and "just awful", withdrew from yesterday's 100m heats to concentrate on the relay.

She swam an impressive anchor leg in the morning, when she joined one veteran, Karen Pickering, and two teenagers, Joanne Jackson and Caitlin McClatchey, to qualify second fastest behind the Americans. Britain finished ahead of the Sydney 2000 silver medallists, Australia, in 8min 1.77sec.

Pickering, who won the world title in the same event in 2001 after a double disqualification, swam the first leg yesterday morning.

Afterwards she said: "That was fantastic. We got ourselves together at breakfast this morning and picked each other up. We all needed to have great swims for individual reasons and we did. I'm particularly proud of Mel, she gave a tough final leg.

"She could have sat back and accepted second and we would still have qualified for the final but she went for it and that's a lift for the whole team."

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