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Goddard Practices The Kick In Ryan's Punch

Mar 9, 2011  - Craig Lord

Manchester - British Gas Championships, day 5 finals:

Men's 200m medley

James Goddard, Commonwealth champion, and the man who took silver behind him, Joe Roebuck, produced a thrilling battle for the crown at the Manchester Aquatics Centre, the results status quo between the two maintained by just 0.06sec, the end, the title Goddard's in 1:58.22.  

Roebuck, silver medallist when he booked his first ticket to Shanghai in the 200m butterfly behind Goddard's Stockport Metro teammate Michael Rock yesterday, turned first in 25.27 before facing his weakest link and Goddard's strongest. At the half-way mark, Goddard had edged into the lead on 54.70 but Roebuck had fought hard to stay closer than ever, on 55.06. Goddard kept up the pressure on breaststroke, drawing Loughborough's Roebuck with him, the duel at 1:29.22 to 1:29.80 going into freestyle. 

Down the last length, Roebuck, European Championship bronze medallist last year in Budapest while Goddard was back home with 'flu, not only refused to give in but stretched out as he sensed Goddard tightening a touch. But coach Sean Kelly's charge was not to be denied by coach Ian Armiger's charge and the clock left Roebuck looking to another day as Goddard sped to the warm-down pool in readiness for the 200m backstroke semi-final later in the session. The bronze medal went to Ieuan Lloyd in a Welsh record of 2:01.68.

Where the title was won:

  • Goddard: 25.66;54.70; 1:29.22; 1:58.22
  • Roebuck: 25.27;55.06; 1:29.80; 1:58.28

Goddard, after the backstroke semi, paid plaudits to Roebuck's progress, noted the difficulty of the two-race mission that he faces in Shanghai and the choice he may have to make come London 2012 (200m back and medley on the same day) and revealed a specific and critical aspect of work he and Kelly's other heroes at Stockport Metro, including Kerri-Anne Payne, a podium placer over 200m 400m and 1,500m (champion in a British record) already this week, are enduring right now.

"Stockport as a whole group have been really working hard on the turns," said Goddard, who turns 28 at the end of the month. "Look at Kerri-Anne Payne whose done fantastically well this week and look at her off the walls - she's improved massively. So's the whole squad because we are going to have to do that next year. The Americans have been killing us underwater, absolutely murdering us underwater. That's somewhere, especially with Ryan Lochte, there are massive improvements to be made and that's what we've been working on." 

"We compared my backstroke to Ryan Lochte's backstroke. The swimming speed was exactly the same. He just took 1.3 or 1.4 out of me on the turns alone. So that's a massive wake-up call and that's what we've been working on all year." 

The issue dates back to the 2007 world championships, when the then Britain performance director Bill Sweetenham said this: "The world has been delivered a huge lesson in skills by the Americans like we've never seen before. The dolphin kick we're seeing here has to be considered the fifth stroke now. I think swimming has moved to a new era, a new level. It will challenge all coaches and swimmers around the world. The world will respond, including us ... we will go back to the drawing board. We're seeing things we would not normally expect to see."

Asked if the work was indeed now being done, the current director, Dennis Pursley, told SwimNews last week: "Coaches are doing things that need to be done, they are bringing it to the attention of swimmers but in some cases  think we are trying to do too many things at once." After listing some of those things, he said the next step was pure focus in which "15 or 20 minutes or whatever is set aside and the single focus will be to make adjustments needed to be competitive on turns".

Britain is soon to appoint a leading name to focus purely on that aspect of performance in the year ahead. "The bottom line is that we've given it lots of lip service but I don't know that we've got past that. This year and next we've got to get past the lip service and really drill down on it."

Kelly and his charges appear to have already paid the issue more than lip service. "We've done a fair bit of analysis on my butterfly kick underwater," said Goddard, "and compared it with Lizzie Simmonds, who is fantastic off the wall [the best in Britain, in fact]. There are big differences, big differences that I've been really trying to work on. My fly kicking has become a lot stronger."

Another challenge was 200m medley and backstroke in the same session. "It's hard, really really difficult. Obviously Ryan Lochte does it, Michael Phelps did it eight times in Beijing," said Goddard, a hint of laughter in his voice, not mocking but with respect for the unworldly nature of what most world-class swimmers would not contemplate let alone manage. "It's something i want to do. I look forward to events and don't want to miss out on one. Backstroke's my main stroke and always has been," said the man who swam in second place behind Aaron Peirsol for 198m of the Olympic 200m backstroke final but had to settle for fourth. 

"But I really enjoy the medley and I have the same rank in the world in both and feel I can win a medal in both. Right now I'm just focussing on qualifying … I am aiming to do back-to-back events."

Asked in the mixed zone if it was out of the question doing both at London 2012 with the final of the two events scheduled for the same session, Goddard said: "It's not out of the question. It will be my last one [Olympic Games] so maybe I will have to throw all my eggs into one basket so to speak and give it a real bash. I'm not really thinking that far ahead." He noted that in Beijing he had pulled out of the backstroke to focus on the medley final. 

A visiting Italian journalist (the London 2012 magnet pulls ever stronger) asked Goddard if he felt that the home London 2012 squad would be the most successful Britain team ever. Goddard replied: "Yes, it will, absolutely. We had a massive disappointment in Sydney. We came away with no medals. Athens we came away with two in the pool and we got better this last time with the girls [five of the six medals with David Davies completing the picture with silver in the inaugural marathon] so yes I think we will be the greatest team [from Britain ever] in London with home support … it is every British athletes dream to race at a home Games and I'm sure we will all rise to the occasion."

Back to the race today he noted: "It was a real battle. Joe's obviously really moved on from working hard. 1:58 is okay but it's not really where I want to be. It needs to be more towards 1:56, 1:55 on the medley. I tried to practice backing up on backstroke tonight, tried to put a  really good solid swim in. 2mins is fairly solid but on the international stage it'll have to be quicker … but I'm fairly pleased with tonight."

Roebuck, two best times behind him this week and looking stronger with every passing season, has the 400m medley left this week and aims to have three targets in Shanghai this summer. He said: "I really enjoyed that. It would have been good to just get that finish and I aim to do that in the summer at the world championships."

Had he deliberately breathed to the right away from Goddard down the last length? "No," he laughed. "I can only breath to the right on freestyle, I can't breath to the left." He noted that backstroke was his weak leg: "We've been doing a lot of work on that and I think I proved that there. he's a phenomenal backstroker and he didn't do as much damage to me there as he usually does. I'll be speaking to my coach [Armiger] when I get back to see what he has to say."

How they measure up:

  • Best of Britain, spring 2007: 2:01.40
  • GBR championships top 3 2009: 1:57.99; 2:01.05; 2:01.48
  • GBR best 2010: 1:57.76 James Goddard
  • 2011 podium: 1:58.22; 1:58.28; 2:01.68
  • GBR record all suits: 1:57.12 James Goddard 2009
  • GBR textile best: 1:57.76 James Goddard 2010

Best GBR podium result at world titles: bronze, 1973, David Wilkie, behind Olympic champion of 1972 Gunnar Larsson (SWE) and Stan Carper (USA).