British swimmers Michael Jamieson and Andrew Willis set out to rewrite pre-Olympic script


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The Independent Online

If a gold was going to come from anywhere among Britain's swimmers, the pre-Olympic script suggested it would be provided by the team's female contingent.

But Michael Jamieson and Andrew Willis have the opportunity to conjure up a major rewrite and edge the battle of the sexes in the final of tonight's 200m breaststroke tonight.

The pair will line up side by side after finishing first and second in their respective semi-finals although swimming side by side is nothing new for the pair, who train on a daily basis together at the University of Bath, where their coach David McNulty has potentially turned them into world beaters.

Jamieson was particularly impressive twice breaking the British record yesterday, his second swim of 2minutes 8.20 seconds being the third fastest on the planet this year.

But neither man has ever swum in an Olympic final and will line up against vastly more experienced swimmers tonight, among them Hungarian Daniel Gyurta and Japan's Kosuke Kitajima, bidding for a hat-trick of Olympic titles over the distance.

Willis has raced Kitajimia twice in London so far and beaten him on both occasions, both Britons are clearly in the form of their lives but the question is whether they have kept enough in reserve for a final or alternatively used up too much energy to get there.

The other issue is their mental preparation going in. Their coach is well versed on the pressures of an Olympic Games after guiding Joanne Jackson to bronze in the 400m freestyle in Beijing.

But Willis hinted that there may be glitches in his pre-final preparation. "I hope I sleep," he said buzzing from the excitement of his 2minute 8.47seconds swim, taking nearly a second off his previous best.

"It's the first big Games and the best experience of my life," he said. "People have been asking about the boost of having a home crowd and I think that showed for both me and Michael.

"Along the last length it feels like they're pushing you and driving you along. I'm in the final and hopefully we can have big times again tomorrow."

When asked if a rare British one-two in swimming event was possible, neither Willis nor Jamieson would be drawn on the subject but Jamieson said he fully intended to swim faster than his semi-final.

"Hopefully I can shave more time off," he said. "I like to think if we can improve we're going to be in a great position."

The Celtic-supporting Jamieson, whose father - also called Michael - played for Hearts and Alloa, appeared to have a future in football as he excelled in the junior ranks.

But a love of the pool saw Jamieson Jr scrap his footballing interest and focus on swimming, a move that could pay off dramatically with a medal tonight.

As for whether he can win a medal, he said: "Who knows? There's a long way to go and there will be some massive times in that final. There are guys much more accomplished in it but I'm swimming full of confidence and will look to another best in the final."