Palmer set to go the distance

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The Independent Online
Swimming

At a time when British swimming is more aware than normal that an accident or illness could blow plans for the Olympics, news from Georgia was timely if a little foreboding. Two 10,000lb girders collapsed into the pool that will be used for the Games in Atlanta yesterday, halting work on the venue.

No one was hurt as the 176ft-long lumps of steel crashed to the ground, but it served as a shuddering reminder of the fickleness of fate. The four days of the Olympic trials starting this morning at Pond's Forge in Sheffield might go, well, swimmingly; then again, they might not.

Having been restricted to a maximum of two participants per event, the winner and runner-up at Sheffield will go to Atlanta this summer providing they make the qualifying time. There is no pre-selection and the only safety net to guard against an off day is that those who have already set the Olympic standard will be given consideration by the selectors.

Today we could see the first example of three into two won't go, in the 1500 metres. Paul Palmer, a double European champion, is the nearest thing to a certainty to qualify for the 200 and 400m freestyle, but a medal might be easier to acquire in the longest event of them all in July, and the City of Lincoln 21-year-old has decided to try to earn selection in the 1500m.

This, unfortunately, has him pulling strokes against two other British potential medallists, Ian Wilson and Graeme Smith. Wilson was ranked second in the world in the international rankings last year, while Smith was only eight-tenths of a second from winning the gold at the European Championships in Vienna last August.

The heats of what should be the most competitive races of the trials begin today, which means Palmer, who missed most of 1994 through illness and injury, will also expect to race in the heats and final of the 200m freestyle.

The final of the 1500m is tomorrow, by which time the form should be known of Nick Gillingham, who competes in the 100m today with his stronger event, the 200m, on Saturday.

In the women's events, most attention will fall on Karen Pickering, who took four bronze medals back to Ipswich from the European Championships last year. She competes in the 100m freestyle today.

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