Swimming: Harris and Hardiman set marks to lift hearts

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MARTIN HARRIS and Marie Hardiman set British records on the final day of the ASA National Championships at Crystal Palace to give England's Commonwealth Games morale a welcome lift.

With the first three days of the championships producing few high-class swims and with leading medal hopes Nick Gillingham and Mark Foster both having injury problems, English pre-Games spirits were beginning to sag.

But Harris provided the first boost when he retained his men's 100 metres backstroke title in a new British record of 55.73sec. Harris's time cut 00.02sec off the mark he had set in winning the bronze medal at last year's European Championships and moved him more than a second clear of his nearest rival at the top of the Commonwealth rankings.

The 25-year-old from Waltham Forest said: 'It's going to take a good man to beat me at the Commonwealths. It's looking very good for Victoria.'

Hardiman moved into third place in the women's 200m breaststroke rankings in claiming Jean Hill's British record. Hardiman's time of 2min 30.63sec cut 00.88sec off Hill's seven-year-old mark. Harris and Hardiman had already been pre-selected for Victoria, but one of the biggest ovations of the championship came when Ian Wilson clinched his place in winning the 1500m freestyle.

The 1991 European silver medallist has had a year-long fight to overcome chronic fatigue syndrome, and the 23-year-old from Sunderland cruised home in yesterday's final 10 seconds inside the Commonwealth qualifying standard, in 15:19.70.

James Parrack, who has been training in California, edged into the Commonwealth Games team on Saturday. Parrack, who won a silver medal in Auckland four years ago, won the 100m breaststroke in 1min 3.38sec - only 0.16sec inside the Commonwealth qualifying standard.