Team GB's Fran Halsall has said that she can win gold medals in all of her individual events at London 2012.
Her first outing in the 100m butterfly proved a disappointment as she failed to make the final but tonight she has the first opportunity to make amends in the 100m freestyle.
The 22-year-old’s training group, under Ben Titley at Loughborough, is known for trying anything in their bid to improve in the pool, with activities ranging from ballet to kickboxing.
And in the sprint disciplines where the margin of victory is decided by the narrowest of touches, Halsall has taken the novel approach of growing her nails in a bid to improve her chances.
“It’s important that I get the touch on the wall first and I’ve been growing my nails to get there first,” she said. “I want to go out tonight and give it my best shot. I’ll be there or thereabouts gritting my teeth but I want the win. I’m in the final and that’s all that matters. Plus I’ve got more to give.”
Halsall admits that she has not found her best form at these Games, unlike the trials where she flourished, and said she had “felt horrible” during the earlier rounds.
But last night she looked more at ease in the pool as she clocked the fifth quickest qualifying time for the final. “I expected it to be all butterflies and rainbows but it’s not been,” she said of her Olympic experience to date. “I need to go fast to get it out of my system.”
Halsall, whose boyfriend Alastair Wilson was in action for the Great Britain hockey team in their 2-2 draw against South Africa yesterday, admitted she had been inspired in her heats by watching other Olympians in action.
“I watched the cycling on the telly and had a tweet from one of the rowers,” she said. “Watching Bradley Wiggins in the time trial, I was just like ‘oh my God, this is incredible’. It’s just so nice to be a part of something like this.”
Going into these Games, Halsall had been expected to contribute to the medal table while 200m breaststroke swimmer Michael Jamieson had not.
But the Scot, whose final was shown on the big screens at Celtic Park ahead of the club’s 2-1 Champions League qualifying victory over HJK Helsinki, took silver and narrowly missed out on gold and the world record behind Hungarian Daniel Gyurta.
It was a first British male medal in the pool for eight years and a first silver by the men since Paul Palmer in Atlanta in 1996.
“I know I have more to give,” said Jamieson, who will now target gold in Rio de Janiero in 2016. “I knew last night I was capable of winning it. But I’m just delighted I swum so close.”
Andrew Willis, despite strong swims in the heats and semi-finals, faded badly in the final to finish last but, like Jamieson, set his sights on Rio and the next Commonwealth Games.
Joining Halsall in tonight’s finals is fellow Briton James Goddard, who ran a measured race to qualify from his 200m individual medley semi-final behind American duo Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte.
A British medal looks unlikely in such a world-class field but Goddard said: “Anything can happen in an Olympic final and I’m in it to win it.”
The eight finalists:
1 A Herasimenia Belarus 53.78
2 J Ottesen Gray Denmark 53.77
3 M Franklin USA 53.59
4 R Kromowidjojo Neth’lands 53.05
5 M Schlanger Australia 53.38
6 Y Tang China 53.60
7 F Halsall Gt Britain 53.77
8 J Hardy USA 53.86
- Watch Fran Halsall in tonight’s final of the 100m freestyle at 8.37pm (BBC1)