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Tancock Settles Fight With 1:57.79 C'Wealth IM Record

Apr 1, 2008  - Craig Lord

Never seen this before: three heats of a 200m medley at British nationals and Olympic trials, and three British records in succession, the last two also Commonwealth records.

First up was Gregor Tait, Commonwealth champion for Scotland in 2006, in 1:59.15, then came James Goddard, former Commonwealth backstroke champion and 4th in the 200m at Athens 2004, with a 1:58.43, and last but most, Liam Tancock settled the argument with a 1:57.79. That equals Thiago Pereira (BRA) at fourth fastest ever. Yes, Tancock was wearing that suit, the one with the NASA panels.

Ahead of him on the all-time rankings are: Rocket man himself, Michael Phelps on 1:54.98; Ryan Lochte on 1:56.11; and Laszlo Cseh, on 1:56.92.

If Tait and Goddard looked great, Tancock, coached by Ben Titley at Loughborough, was awesome. All four strokes looked technically solid, some technically excellent, and Tancock held stroke throughout. His splits: 24.65; 53.89; 1:27.84 and 1:57.79.

His previous best, the British record, had been 1:59.19. The Commonwealth standard had stood at 1:58.80 to George Bovell (TRI) since Athens 2004. Goddard's best had been 2:00.13 (he was in the racer), and Tait's 2:00.73. He was in a different new suit, for those counting.

'I have never seen a record lowered three times in three races before. It was so exciting and I am really happy to be a part of that,' Tancock said. 'I was looking to add another event to my Olympic programme and I thought the 200m IM would be a good one to add and would benefit my 100m backstroke. Medley racing for me is a lot of fun coming up through the junior ranks I did practically all the events and it is good to combine that in one quick race.'

Asked about the 200m backstroke he said: 'That's not the same. For me the 200m is four sprint races.'

Evening heats also saw Rebecca Adlington, coached by Bill Furniss in Nottingham, join the sub-4:05 crew with a 4:04.91 in the 400m freestyle. The time missed the Commonwealth record set by Linda McKenzie in Australia last week by 0.12sec but was a chunk inside the 4:07.02 previous British record of Caitlin McClatchey. In the heat after Adlington, Joanne Jackson clocked 4:05.38.

'I felt really good,' said Adlington, who looked stronger and smoother in the water than she ever has. 'To get a five second PB and the record is just amazing. It hasn't sunk in yet to get the Olympic time but I still have to get the top two spots in the final. My 400m usually follows the 800m, so normally I feel quite tired swimming this event but I felt fresh tonight and I am excited about the rest of the week.' And in her wake came McClatchey: a fine 200m, a good 300m and it looked like another comfortable sub 4:10. But the Commonwealth champion eased off too much and missed the qualification time, in 4:11.66.

It is not all over yet. Stick with me: selection runs as follows: you must do the qualifying time in heats and then finish top two in finals. So, if McClatchey wins the final in the morning, then the third woman home is off the team. McClatchey does not automatically get the berth BUT there is a discretionary clause that says that any swimmer already on the team can be added to an event where a place is available. So, hope for McClatchey yet. And I hope you're with me.

All of that said, Titley told SwimNews: 'Her [McClatchey] heart is not in it. She had no energy at the end. She made a miustake but she also had no energy. She has been a little sick and she hasn't been doing the volume to get down to the 4:04s. It's more important that she does an honest 400 here and concentrates on her strength. Off the back of the 100m (54.31), a woman weighing in at 54kg with that speed - she came back in 27.92, which is world-class - she has a great 200m in her and that and the 4x200m are more important. Wearing my women's coach hat, I have to say that the fact the girls went 4:04 and 4:05 in there we know that the event is in good hands.' Indeed it is.

So is the 100m backstroke: Florida-based Gemma Spofforth became the 9th woman inside the minute and 8th best all-time with a British record of 59.89 in the heats. The world record stands to Natalie Coughlin (USA) at 59.21 at the helm of a dam fit to burst. NCAA champion in the US college hothouse, Spofforth has clearly benefitted from her time in the US. There'll be more from her in the morning. 'I have just come off the back of the NCAAs, where things went very well for me so to keep it going in that direction here is amazing,' said Spofforth. 'I've been working very hard and I was really looking forward to coming back to Britain and doing something pretty special. It's really suited me out there. It's been great fun.'

And a blast from the past. Mark Foster, 37, missed selection for the 2004 Olympic Games by 0.01sec. Tonight he raced 0.06sec inside the required time to take him to Beijing 2008, by which time he will be a 38-year-old at his fifth Games, that tally a record for a British man in the pool. But he is not there just yet. Tomorrow morning he will wake at 6am, watch a film in bed - 'I don't like getting up in the morning' - and then make his way to a 50m freestyle final in which the average age of his seven rivals is 22.5 years. Foster has to finish in the top two for his ticket to China. Closest to his 22.29sec blast in heats were Simon Burnett, British record holder at 22.12, on 22.39 and 0.04sec shy of the required time, and Matthew Tutty, on 22.43, the time which kept Foster out of Athens four years ago.

But the short-course king is not yet sure whether to accept nomination to the Games if he succeeds today. 'I would be stupid to say 'no' but I only want to go if I can be competitive.' As Foster noted, that will not be easy: sobering new sprint standards have been set by a new generation of speedsters of late, the world record having been axed down to 21.28sec, a massive 1.01sec faster that Foster achieved last night, by Eamon Sullivan, of Australia.

Foster's main aim is to end a fabulous career in the 25m pool on a high at the world short-course championships next week when Manchester hosts the first global swimming event to be staged in Britain since the 1948 Olympic Games in London. When the Games first came to London in 1908, the tower and pool were designed by William Henry, who was 47 when he raced to a bronze medal for Britain at the 1906 Intercalated Olympics as a member of the Britain 4x250m relay. The first British swimmer to make five Olympic Games was Alison Sheppard, of Scotland, in 2004. Foster will be the first man.

His presence in Beijing would set a modern record in the age stakes. His remarkable longevity is highlighted by the time he set last night: 22.29 equals his fourth best time ever, a time he swam eight years ago, and compares to his best of 22.13, from 2001. 'I'm really pleased,' said Foster. 'When I look at the start lists and see swimmers born in the 1980s and 1990s, then it [his age] hits home but I'm still a big kid at heart.'

He wore the futuristic Speedo LZR Racer. 'It makes a difference, clearly. But it's not going to take me down to the times that those guys [Sullivan] are doing,' said Foster smiling.

Three men dipped under the qualifying time in the 100m breaststroke: Chris Cook clocked a smooth 1:00.54, then James Gibson looked strong on a 1:00.39 and Kris Gilchrist, 200m specialist put in a sharp 1:01.40.