British swimmers hoping to make a splash


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The Independent Online

After seven years of planning, the pool competition at the London Olympics finally gets under way tomorrow with Hannah Miley a very real contender to secure Britain's first swimming medal at the Aquatics Centre.

Joe Roebuck will be the first Briton to dive into the pool when he goes in the third heat of the men's 400 metres individual medley while Roberto Pavoni has a dream start when he lines up alongside Beijing silver medallist Laszlo Cseh and in the same heat as 14-time Olympic champion Michael Phelps.

It is Miley, though, who is strongly fancied to add to the medals she has won at world, European and Commonwealth level when she goes in the women's 400m individual medley, which will see the final concluded in the evening.

While there is the chance British medals may already have been won, especially with Mark Cavendish going in the cycling road race, a top-three place from Miley would give Team GB great momentum.

National performance director Michael Scott said: "It's always good to get off to a great start but you measure starts by relative performance.

"So what we want Hannah to do is to get up and have a good swim, hopefully do a season's best or a personal best.

"Whatever that achieves we'll be proud and it will galvanise the team because it is about each individual getting up and doing their best and that creates momentum rather than relying on one individual.

"Our momentum we built in Beijing was all about the number of PBs and the number of season's bests we were getting, that creates the positivity.

"That is more the emphasis we place: the collective 43 (pool swimmers).

"Every individual aspiring to perform to their best of the ability."

Expectation is high for Miley who is coached by her father Patrick in a 25-metre pool in Inverurie.

The pair prepare in minute detail but the Garioch swimmer admits the atmosphere of a home crowd is an unknown factor.

She said: "It's difficult to prepare for because we've never really had a scenario where we've had that.

"The closest we got was the trials when there were two and a half thousand people watching.

"Going out with my headphones on it wasn't so much hearing it, it was feeling it. The reverberations going through my chest were just incredible. It's going to be intriguing what that feels like when it's eight times noisier.

"I don't think anybody can really prepare for that until you get out there and experience it but it's how you control that, how you react to it that's going to be the key thing.

"You can either be like 'wow' and take it all in or start panicking."

Miley will be joined in the medley by Aimee Willmott whose father Stuart competed in the 1984 Olympics.

Britain won six swimming medals four years ago in Beijing, three in the pool and three in the open water, their most successful haul for 100 years.

Standing at the summit was Rebecca Adlington who claimed two titles, the first Briton to win two swimming golds at a single Games since Henry Taylor in 1908.

However, with only two competitors in the open water in Keri-anne Payne and Daniel Fogg, it means the host nation must improve in the pool if they are to match their Beijing haul.

Scott said: "We are going to have to lift our game significantly in the pool to match that target and Shanghai (2011 World Championships) was a classic example of more countries winning medals and making finals.

"It has become very competitive so we have to get more competitive to take the next step, it's a global sport."

A number of swimmers are in the upper echelons of the world rankings but it is generally accepted everyone starts with a clean slate.

Scott added: "You've got to get up and race on the day, past history doesn't count, they've got to perform.

"People who are ranked first are going to have to perform and people who are ranked eighth are going to have to perform.

"It's back to square one and it's about who is ready to race and perform come the eight-day swimming programme.

"It's a form guide, that is all it is."

Also swimming tomorrow are Ellen Gandy and Fran Halsall in the heats of the 100m butterfly, David Carry and Robbie Renwick in the 400m freestyle - which will progress to a straight final in the evening - Michael Jamieson and Craig Benson in the 100m breaststroke while the final event of the morning will see Great Britain's women attempt to qualify for the final of 4x100m freestyle.