FIVE BRITISH RECORDS ESTABLISHED 28 SWIMMERS NAMED TO OLYMPIC TEAM
SHEFFIELD- Five national records were established at the British Olympic
Trials. Twenty-eight swimmers gained a place on the team for Atlanta, a
little larger than expected but with no major upsets or surprises.
The two events that caused the main interest were the men's 1500 freestyle
and 100 backstroke, with three swimmers bidding for the two places. And
as anyone knows, three will not go into two.
The 1500 freestyle race became three battles within one. Anyone forecasting
the pattern of the race would have said that Ian Wilson, the British record-holder,
Graeme Smith, the Scottish record-holder, and Paul Palmer would battle it
out for the sixty lengths. But nothing was further from the truth. Ian,
winner of a silver medal at the World Short Course Championships in Rio
de Janeiro, had been very outspoken, wondering why Paul was stepping up
in distance when the 200 m and 400 were his main events.
Once the race started to unfold, it was obvious that Graeme Smith was on
for something special. Paul Palmer looked settled in just to beat Ian Wilson
and achieve the necessary qualifying time, with the rest of the field challenging
for the minor placings. Graeme, 19 and from Stockport, passed the 800 mark
in 7:59.87, lowering both his own Scottish and Ian's British records. The
question became whether he could break the magical fifteen minute barrier.
The Anglo-Scot continued to plough his lonely furrow up and down the pool
to finish in another British and Scottish record of 15:03.43. Paul had no
difficulty keeping ahead of Ian to clinch the place for the Games.
The best results possible came in the backstroke events, with all three
of Britain's world-class swimmers qualifying. Neil Willey, silver medallist
at last December's World Short Course Championships, and Martin Harris,
the British record-holder, gained the two slots in the 100 backstroke. Martin
also clinched a place in the 200. He made Adam Ruckwood, the Commonwealth
champion, work hard for his victory in the 200.
Adam Ruckwood won the 200 back in 2:00.56. For larger 64k photo click on image. Photo © Marco Chiesa
Stockport had another swimmer with Olympic aspirations. This time it was
James Hickman who, during the winter months, had rewritten the short course
record book for the 100 and 200 butterfly. The twenty-year-old had already
booked his place by winning the 100 butterfly in 53.96 seconds. In the morning
heats he became the first British swimmer to break the two-minute barrier
in the 200. His time was 1:59.72. This erased the oldest record from the
book, a record that was set in 1981 by the Olympic silver-medallist, Philip
Hubble. Philip, now living in Limerick, Ireland, sent James a fax congratulating
him and adding "I would love to see you smash the record further."
James duly obliged with a time of 1:58.50.
Just as the oldest men's British record went from the books, so did the
oldest English women's record. Swimming in the 200 medley, Susan Rolph sped
to a 2:16.41. This was 0.9 seconds inside the British figures set in 1986
by Jean Hill and a full second faster than the English mark held since 1980
by Sharron Davies.
Although there were no real surprises, Janine Belton and Helen Slatter may
consider themselves very lucky to be going to Atlanta. Janine finished fifth
in the 200 freestyle but gained her place as the 4 x 200 freestyle relay
is on the same day as the 800 freestyle. It is hoped that Sarah Hardcastle,
who placed second in the 200, will be in the 800 final and will not wish
to swim the heats of the relay. The idea is that Janine will swim the heats
and Sarah will take over for the final, should the relay qualify.
Helen Slatter, the British women's captain, had given up all hope of selection
when she failed to win a place in the 400 medley and 200 butterfly. On the
final day she gave it her all to surprise everyone, including herself, by
winning the 100 backstroke.
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