Questions asked as Team GB's swimmers fail to impress


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The Independent Online

The swimming programme came to an end last night with national performance director Michael Scott admitting Team GB's performance at the Aquatics Centre had fallen short of expectation.

Coming into the Games, optimism was high the host nation would have a successful campaign, building on the gains made in Beijing and at subsequent World Championships in Rome and Shanghai.

There were six British medals in 2008 - three in the pool and three in the open water - and the base target in London is five.

Given world 10 kilometre champion Keri-anne Payne and Daniel Fogg are both competing in the open water, it is still possible that target can be reached.

While the medal tally of three is the same as in Beijing, then it comprised two golds and one bronze medal courtesy of two individuals, Rebecca Adlington and Jo Jackson.

Again Adlington - whose importance to the British team is immeasurable - clinched two medals, this time two bronzes in the 400 metres and 800m freestyle, while Michael Jamieson produced a series of superb swims that was capped by silver in the 200m breaststroke.

There were fourth-place finishes for Lizzie Simmonds in the 200m backstroke and the men's medley relay but ultimately it is medals that count.

Undoubtedly some of the expectation surrounding the swimmers was unrealistic and uninformed.

Australian great Ian Thorpe warned the British press and public on the eve of the Games to "manage your expectations" and remember the best in the world were travelling to London.

Fran Halsall, Ellen Gandy and Hannah Miley were all spoken of as potential medal contenders but came away with nothing.

Scott said last night: "I'm very proud of the way the swimmers kept on fighting and never gave up until the last race.

"But at the end of the day we are judged on medals. We have three medals in the pool - which matches Beijing but it is below what we expected."

There may well be funding ramifications with swimming the fourth best-funded sport in Britain behind athletics, cycling and rowing, all of which have claimed multiple medals, with three golds for British athletes last night alone.

There were some high points, especially with the men's breaststroke.

As well as Jamieson, his Bath ITC team-mate Andrew Willis and young Scot Craig Benson all swam new bests.

Jamieson, who just missed out on the 100m breaststroke final, lowered his own best by 2.41 seconds in his three races over four lengths with his effort in the final the fourth fastest 200m in history.

The Glasgow-born swimmer - 24 today - said: "Overall we had a great week. I think we are not going to beat about the bush, we are a little bit disappointed we haven't had many medals.

"Becky (Adlington) was amazing. She has raced in four Olympic finals and has had four medals. It's a pretty spectacular record.

"That has been my favourite moment of the Games so far, the crowd chanting her name. She got pretty emotional after that because she is proud of what she has done and rightly so."

Nick Gillingham won silver and bronze in Jamieson's event in 1988 and 1992 and he believes the Scot can go on to dominate, describing his performance as "incredible, awesome".

Neither does Gillingham believe the attention Jamieson will now receive will affect him, nor the fact he has succeeded where others have faltered.

Gillingham told Press Association Sport: "He has demonstrated he can handle it.

"The pressure is much the same going into the Olympics.

"Now he is going to be the one that is gunned for but it (mentally) is not an area of weakness, it's an area of strength."

However, the 45-year-old questioned much of the team's performance although for the Briton it is a concern, rather than a criticism given his huge support for them.

He said: "Questions will need to be asked, they have not performed.

"They've got to step up not step back.

"The rowers were devastated when they didn't get what they wanted, the cyclists were in tears when they were disqualified but the swimmers come up smiling saying what an honour it is to be there.

"Is it about competing at the Olympics or making the team?"