Palmer, the Olympic silver medallist who has not competed since last July because of muscle fatigue syndrome, had to settle for fourth place at the British Short Course Championships. The 24-year-old, who only returned to training in October and held no great expectations of success, was never in the victory hunt against tough opposition. Palmer produced a time of 1min 48.46sec as his University of Bath club-mate, Andrew Clayton, won with 1:47.44.
James Hickman, who won three golds and set a world record at last weekend's European Championship in Sheffield, was second in 1: 47.95, with Ed Sinclair of Millfield third in 1:48.16. Hickman had switched from his usual butterfly and medley disciplines to the freestyle, knowing his place in Britain's team for the World Short Course Championships in Hong Kong next April is secure.
Palmer's best chance is likely to come in the 400m, the discipline in which he won silver in Atlanta in 1996 and bronze in last January's World Championships in Australia.
Alison Sheppard smashed her Scottish 100m freestyle record for the second time yesterday as she qualified for today's final.
Sheppard took a massive 1.09sec off the record of 56.03 she set in the morning heats with victory in her semi-final in only 54.94.
An extra semi-final round has been reintroduced for the 50m and 100m events to give swimmers the chance to experience what they will face in Hong Kong.
Sheppard, who claimed the British 50m freestyle record last weekend only to see Sue Rolph break it the next day, had lowered her six-year-old Scottish mark by just over a tenth-of-a-second in the morning.