By Martin Petty
SHEFFIELD, England, May 13. BRITAIN's Mark Foster shot to the top of the world rankings in the 50m freestyle today, under the strangest of circumstances.
Foster’s time of 22.13 seconds – a British national record – came in a time trial at the North Eastern Counties Championships at Ponds Forge in Sheffield – the venue for many of his world record-breaking performances. Having picked up his teammate’s goggles by accident, Foster mislaid his own racing pair and in the final wore a spare set, which subsequently fell off.
Foster holds the short course world record in the 50m freestyle (22.13), but failed to qualify for the event at the British World Championship Trials last month in Manchester. Along with a number of national team swimmers, the 31 year old was invited to take part in the event to achieve the strict qualifying standards set by British Swim Chief Bill Sweetenham, the former Australian Olympic team coach.
Having already qualified to swim in the 50m butterfly in Fukuoka, Foster this morning faced the arduous task of bettering the 22.41 standard set by Sweetenham, who insisted that times equating to twelfth place in the world at the end of last year had to be achieved in order to make the British team.
However, the circumstances under which Foster achieved the time may cast doubts upon his selection for the 50m freestyle. The University of Bath swimmer now faces an anguishing wait to see if tough-talking Sweetenham will give him the nod to prepare for Japan.
Foster said, "I hope Bill Sweetenham accepts the time because I want to get back into some hard training now. That is the sort of time that could well win the World Championships and I'm really pleased with it."