Francis, Gibson Post Fast Times at Scottish Nationals -- June 23, 2003
GLASGOW, Scotland, June 22. BRITISH individual medley record holder Robin Francis assured himself of a place on the British swimming squad destined for next month's World championships in Barcelona when he won the 400m IM title at the Scottish Championships in Glasgow.
The University of Bath swimmer powered through the final leg to turn what looked like an ordinary swim into one of his fastest ever performances, just shy of his own record of 4:18.30 in fact, to join the squad destined for the World Championships in Barcelona.
His time of 4:18.68 was well inside the top 12 in the world selection time needed, 4:19.81, and brings to an end a difficult year for the promising talent which saw him miss the Commonwealth Games through illness.
"I'm really pleased with that although it did feel awful out there. I wasn't feeling particularly positive as the swim unfolded but as we turned for the breaststroke leg I just dug in and my final freestyle 100m was the quickest I've ever done," said Francis.
"My goal in Glasgow was to make it on to the national team and that is what I've done. It gives me the chance now to start racing the big guns once again and I'm up for that."
Another medley swimmer hoping to use the final selection opportunity in Glasgow to earn a place on the team is Stockport Metro's Adrian Turner.
A broken collarbone at the turn of the year meant Turner was unable to use the first qualifying meet, the British Championships in March, to target the time.
Turner, who was up on Francis for the first 300m, was unable to swim the time needed tonight and touched home in second place in 4:24.58. Michael Cole of Stirling was third in 4:28.42.
Turner will now have to wait until the third and final day's swimming at Tollcross to try to qualify through the 200m IM.
The men's 100m Breaststroke event saw a world class field compete but it was the inform James Gibson (Loughborough) who, once again, proved unbeatable when he stole the show to finish in 1:00.94 from Darren Mew (Bath) in 1:01.47 and Chris Cook (Newcastle) in 1:01.67.
Both Gibson and Mew, having already done enough to qualify in March, both ducked under the selection standard again but for Cook, ranked number three in the world over 50m, he will have to wait for another World Championships as he was unable to beat the two rivals in front of him to qualify for Barcelona.
"It was a great way to finish the week," said Gibson. "I've competed in Barcelona, Canet and now Glasgow and, with all of the travelling, that was a nice way to finish off.
"I can't speak highly enough of the guys I faced tonight. This has been the hardest test I've had all season and I've faced the rest in the world before tonight. This wasn't the best in Britain, these guys are some of the best in the world.
"It says something about the strength of male breastroke in this country when the thirds fastest guy in the world over 50m can't make it to the World Championships. It sends a clear message to the others and I can't wait for Barcelona."
Stockport Metro's Steve Parry dipped under the qualifying time once again to cement his place on the squad in the 200m Butterfly. His time of 1:57.09 was enough to win gold but his great rival, Leeds James Hickman, will be missing in Barcelona after he failed to achieve the time. He picked up silver in 1:58.87 and Mark Lewis of Stirling was third in 2:03.26.
A distraught Hickman vowed to return for next year's Olympics but will now go away to decide how he is going to prepare for the main event.
"I gave it everything tonight and that's why I'm so devastated. Obviously I've missed the Worlds but now I will turn my attention to the Olympics in Athens next year."
Other winners on day two of the Scottish Nationals included Rebecca Shaw (Leeds) in the 400m IM in 4:50.79, Georgina Lee (Camphill) in the 200m Butterfly in 2:11.33, Kate Haywood (Lincoln) in the 100m Breaststroke in 1:09.82, Liam Tancock (Exeter) won the 50m Backstroke in 26.50 while Sarah Price (Barnet Copthall) won the women's event in 29.43.
--Dave Richards, British Swimming