Medal hopes were dashed this morning after Ellen Gandy made a shock exit from the 200m butterfly heats with a disappointing performance.
Gandy was almost four seconds off her best swim this year, set in Australia in February, in finishing fifth in the third of four heats.
Afterwards, the Bromley-born athlete, who relocated to Melbourne in 2007 when her father was appointed chief executive of the city’s airport, was at a loss to explain her poor form.
She said: “I felt okay to start with but, after 100m, I felt like I’d been hit by a truck. I’ve been feeling fine and had no health issues. I just don’t know what happened.”
It was a disappointing return for Gandy, who was one of the young swimmers to adorn the Back the Bid poster on the Thames Barrier in London’s attempts to host the Games.
Gandy, usually much stronger over the latter part of the race, went out hard in the opening 100m and paid for it, her powerful butterfly strokes looking incredibly laboured in the final 25m in particular.
There was better news in the same event as Jemma Lowe was the third fastest of the 16 qualifiers into tonight’s semi-final and she was similarly bemused by Gandy’s poor showing. Lowe said: “I didn’t really know what was going on as I blocked it out to focus on myself. She made the Olympic final in the 100m butterfly and had a fantastic year last year. Everyone has ups and downs and I’m sure she gave it her best this time.”
Having not qualified for the 100m butterfly, Lowe looked incredibly fresh from the outset and afterwards declared it “a good result and a good time” behind only American Kathleen Hersey and China’s Liuyang Jiao on the time sheets.
The female contingent of the British swimming team had been billed as the stronger of the genders but it was the men who stole the limelight in the morning session.
The quartet of David Carry, Ross Davenport, Rob Bale and Robbie Renwick qualified fifth fastest in the 4x200m freestyle heats although will struggle to come close to a medal against powerful line-ups from America, France and Australia tonight.
But perhaps most impressive was the form of the Bath-based pairing of Michael Jamieson and Andrew Willis, who qualified second and third for the semi-finals of the 200m breaststroke, pacing their swims with aplomb.
Many of Britain’s swimmers have struggled to get close to the times they achieved at the Olympic trials but Willis matched his exactly while Jamieson took nearly a second out of his time, setting a new British record.
A medal is still a tough ask for both men but a place in tomorrow’s final is a conceivable prospect for two of the up-and-coming stars of British swimming, which would mark an early birthday present for Jamieson, who turns 24 on Sunday.
The Scot has relished life in the Olympic Village and sat with Great Britain footballers Ryan Giggs and Craig Bellamy at breakfast last week, talking to the pair about Bellamy’s former club Celtic, who Jamieson supports.
“It’s amazing to be with guys like that — it’s all part of the experience,” said Jamieson, who said he would need to raise his game from the heats to make the final.
“I was in the first seeded heat so it’s difficult to pitch where you are. I had to set a marker. I’m absolutely delighted and fingers crossed there’s more to go tonight.”
Willis, who like Jamieson made the final of the event at last year’s World Championships, said he believed a repeat of his time of 2minutes 9.33seconds from the morning would be enough to make the final.
He said: “The key is to get to the final and then we’ll see.”