Susan Rolph, the double Commonwealth champion, is determined that 1999 is a year that the rest of the world sits up and takes notice of her as a serious threat for medals at next year's Olympic Games in Sydney. At the recent Speedo Super Grand Prix final, the first major long-course meet of the British summer season, she took another step nearer to that aim by lowering her own 50 freestyle record.
Rolph, the 21 year-old World and European short course medallist, had not tapered or shaved for the meet and was therefore “really surprised” when she sped to her record of 25.54. When the field for the 100 freestyle includes the likes of Karen Pickering, the former Commonwealth champion and record holder, Rolph knows that she must always be ready to swim hard and fast. But Rolph was not in the mood to be beaten - her time of 55.78 was 0.37 seconds ahead of Pickering, who also looked sharp for so early in the season.
Rolph's strength has improved as she has matured, but her improvement can also be explained in part by her new land training. Here she is under the guidance of Carl Johnson, who helped steer Jonathan Edwards, the triple jump world record holder, in his early days.
Nicola Jackson, the 15 year-old who was unknown this time last year, raced to a British junior record time in the 100 butterfly. Her time of 1:02.06 was 0.27 seconds faster than she recorded in Canada two weeks earlier. Prior to her swim in Canada, the 100 fly junior record had stood for over nineteen years, held by Olympic team silver medallist Ann Osgerby.
For Jackson, who recorded the second-fastest relay split at the World Short Course Championships as a member of the British quartet that took silver, it was her sixteenth national record in just over six months.
Another butterfly swimmer in winning form was Liverpudlian Stephen Parry. Parry, the European and Commonwealth bronze medallist, had just returned from the United States, where he has been studying and training for the last four years. Now that his studies are over, he has joined the Stockport Metro squad where he is coached by Dave Calleja, James Hickman's former coach, to train with swimmers of his own ability and in a 50-m pool. In Sheffield, Parry won the 100 and 200 fly distances with times of 55.44 seconds and 2:02.51.