Price in tears after gashing leg on underwater camera

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The Independent Online

Sarah Price's dreams of glory ended in tears last night with a freak injury as the weight of recent history tugged at British swimming's heels like a pair of wellingtons filled with cement.

Sarah Price's dreams of glory ended in tears last night with a freak injury as the weight of recent history tugged at British swimming's heels like a pair of wellingtons filled with cement.

Price gashed her leg on an underwater camera during the warm-up for the semi-finals of the 100 metres backstroke and British team officials failed in an appeal to have the race rescheduled.

Both Price and Katy Sexton failed to qualify for tonight's final. Racing in the first of the semis, won by Germany's Antje Buschschulte in 1min 0.94sec, they trailed in last and sixth respectively.

Sexton, 22, who won world silver over the distance in Barcelona last year, clocked 1min 1.96sec.

The 25-year-old Price, who was more than half a second slower, said: "During my warm-up I jumped into the pool and there was a silver box which was hard to see because of the light. I jumped right on it and split open my left leg. It really hurt and there was a massive bump."

Price, who was in tears after emerging from the pool, added: "I'm glad I swam but I didn't train for four years for something like that to happen."

Craig Hunter, the British team manager, said. "Sarah lost 50 minutes of critical preparation time through no fault of her own."

James Gibson and Darren Mew entered the100m breaststroke final hoping for Britain's first Olympic medal since 1996. They dragged themselves from the pool having finished sixth and seventh after clocking times that were slower than they swam to reach the final. The manner of defeat did nothing to lessen the blow.

Twenty metres from home, Gibson, who won World Championship gold over 50m last year, looked to have bronze in his sights. But just as Japan's Kosuke Kitajima and America's Brendan Hansen ahead of him kicked on to take gold and silver, so Hugues Dubosq of France swooped into third. The swimmers either side of Gibson, who was in lane 7, similarly stayed powerful to overtake in the final few strokes.

While Britain's breaststroke disappointment was slightly alleviated by a superb 200m freestyle semi-final swim from Simon Burnett, who earned himself a place in tonight's "race-of-the-century" final, it was only slightly alleviated. Against the likes of Thorpe, Phelps and Van Hoogenbrand, Burnett's surname will have a particularly appropriate ring. He'll be toast.

Last night, he was rightfully delighted with his swim, aka the swim of his life. He finished third behind Pieter van den Hoogenband in a personal best of 1min 47.72sec. The Dutch winner clocked 1min 46sec dead.

"It makes me feel fantastic," Burnett said. "So many coaches have had so much faith in me over the past year or two and I'm just happy that finally I've warranted that faith."

Gibson's reaction to his own race was: "I'm absolutely gutted. I tried so hard tonight, I don't know what's gone wrong. I had the best preparation ever. Throughout the year I've been giving you excuses saying I'm doing the work but tonight that all stops. I didn't deliver."

Mew added: "It wasn't nerves, maybe I was a bit excited." So that's what Britain's performance director, Bill Sweetenham, means about not getting too excited about his impressive results until now. He always warned the Olympics would be tough, and so they are proving.

Another Briton, Gregor Tait, failed to progress from the 100m backstroke semi-final last night, while Rebecca Cooke finished last in her 400m freestyle final. On the bright side, Cooke had done splendidly to reach the final and her main target here has always been the 800m.

In last night's second semi, America's Natalie Coughlin won in a new Olympic record of 1min 0.17sec. She could break her own world record today.

In the 100m butterfly final, Petria Thomas of Australia upset the Olympic champion, Inge de Bruijn, after the Dutch world-record holder went out too fast in search of a better time. But De Bruijn, weighed down by expectation, faded at the crucial time. Sounds familiar.