Liam Tancock ready for backstroke final but says it is an 'open event'


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The Independent Online

Liam Tancock is fully prepared for tonight's 100m backstroke final but says that any of the eight swimmers could win the event.

Tancock finished second behind world champion Camille Lacourt, of France, in last night’s opening semi-final and qualified third fastest overall with American Matt Grevers setting the pace.

Despite putting himself in medal contention, Tancock, the 50metre backstroke world champion, insisted: “I’ve genuinely got no expectations at all. The 100m backstroke is such an open event, the winner could come from any of the eight lanes so I’m not going to make predictions.”

The semi-final, though, showed the progress the 27-year-old has made in the event. An explosive swimmer over the 50m, which is not an Olympic event, he has tended to tire in races and finish just out of medal contention.

He was sixth in the event at the last Olympics, a result he matched at last year’s World Championships but goes into the final as a strong medal ­candidate.

“I’m in a position now where anything can happen, it’s so tight,” added Tancock, who has been one of our Standard Bearer columnists. “So it’s not about me setting a medal target or saying what time I’ll do.”

Tancock’s heat was the first race after Rebecca Adlington won bronze in the 400m freestyle and he admitted he had been inspired by the Beijing double gold medallist.

Such sentiments were echoed by Gemma Spofforth, who will line up in the women’s 100m backstroke tonight with the sixth-fastest time from the semi-finals.

“I was so happy for Becky,” she said. “It lifted me up, it was such an inspiration — two golds for her and now a bronze.”

Spofforth, the world record holder and a former world champion in the event, has finetuned her preparations for the Olympics alongside Ryan Lochte, who narrowly missed out on another gold in the 4x100m freestyle but eased into tonight’s final of the 200m freestyle.

 “Ryan is such an amazing person and so passionate with it,” said Spofforth. “He’s an inspiration to train with.”

While Lochte is already among the swimming stars of these Games after a superb 2012, Spofforth has had a difficult year and, in the build-up to the Olympic trials, admitted she found it hard to retain her enthusiasm.

“I’ve struggled the whole year,” she said. “I had a lot of doubt and the confidence was knocked out of me. And as long as I enjoy it, I’ll be happy.”

Spofforth has struggled with her consistency in the past and, as a result refused to set any goals for herself going into the final.

“Tonight I’m just excited about what I do here,” said Spofforth, who finished fourth in Beijing, missing out on a medal by four one hundredths of a second. “I felt a lot better in the water and I can be back to where I was.

“It’s been quite a special journey for the last few years. The process and the journey are more important than the outcome. There were a lot of things that I corrected. I was overthinking the race and there’s still little bits to play with for the final.”

Britain’s other finalist on day three in the pool is Robbie Renwick, who takes part in the first of the evening’s finals, the men’s 200m freestyle.

He will be up against Lochte and China’s Sun Yang, both of whom already boast a gold medal to their name from these Games.

After missing out on a place in the 400m freestyle final, Renwick is determined to make amends tonight.

“I’m not happy to come last,” he said. “I want to get in there and win medals. So it’s fantastic to make this final. Once you’re in there, anything can ­happen. I’m really looking forward to it and another drop of a second is well within my ability.”

Tonight’s final of the women’s 100m breaststroke sees Australian Leisel Jones bidding to become the first swimmer to win medals at four consecutive Games. The defending champion was criticised in sections of the Australian media last week for arriving at the Games overweight.

“I’ve had my doubters,” said the 26-year-old. “Having the odds stacked against you is really tough but you have to believe in yourself under those circumstances is even harder.”

Watch Liam in tonight’s 100m backstroke final at 7.58pm (BBC1)