By Craig Lord
MANCHESTER, England, March 18. THE grimace on Loughborough coach Ben Titley's face spoke not only of the pain he felt after having crunched his fist into a wall as Melanie Marshall stopped the clock at 1:58.50 to retain her British 200m free title, but the frustration of a missed opportunity and qualification target.
Britain has called on its swimmers to race times equivalent to 10th
best in the world last year to book tickets to the World Championships in
Montreal. But the 200 metres freestyle being the quirky event it is, 10th
best would also have won the bronze medal in Athens, and while Marshall's
1:58.50 would have been good enough for fourth at the Olympic Games, it
left her 0.14sec shy of her target.
She must now try again at the second chance to qualify in June a month
before the World Championships. "I really don't want Mel chasing targets at
that stage," said Titley, though he took some comfort in such a solid
performance achieved on only two months of full training. Marshall had
taken a lengthy break and eased back into training slowly after the agonies
of travelling to Athens with a 1:57.51, finishing 16th in the semis and
still at the top of the world rankings at the close of the year.
"It's a good time on the work she's done," said Titley, "but it would
have been good to get selection behind us now." Marshall felt the same but
believed she would "easily" reach her target. There was also hope in the
prospect of her qualifying over 200 metres backstroke on Sunday, which
would allow her to be added to the 200 metres freestyle on the team without
the need to race below 1:58.36.
Of her freestyle, she said: "That's where I am, it's a good time. I raced through the stages too fast and got a little stressed last night but
it's a great marker to have. I'm happy with that. It was awful after the
Games but I've turned the corner and I'm building up slowly but surely. I'm
starting to feel the part again."
Marshall split the 100-metres in 56.29 on her way to 1:57.51 a year ago.
In Manchester she swam a much more controlled 57.54sec split for her lonely
Behind her were Loughborough teammates Caitlin McClatchey, in a
Scottish record of 1:59.53, and Julia Beckett, on 2:00.86, but Joanne
Jackson's fourth-place 2:01.84sec was not fast enough to gain qualification
for the 4x200m freestyle relay at the first time of asking.
The third day of trials brought no further qualifiers and Britain's team
for Montreal is just three-strong at this stage.
In the 100 metres butterfly final, Todd Cooper, coached by American
Chris Martin at Stirling, was in a class apart, turning on 24.57sec at the
half-way mark, before fading away from his own British record pace to win
in 53.53sec. That left him well shy of his 52.46sec record and the 52.50sec
qualifying time for Montreal.
Kristopher Gilchrist, of Edinburgh, took the 200m breaststroke crown
in 2mins 15.17sec, not bad for him but a poor reflection on Britain, the
time some 30 years behind world-class pace, Britain's David Wilkie having
broken the 2mins 16sec mark to win the 1976 Olympic title in Montreal.
The same depression was found in the 200 metres medley, won by Robin
Francis, of Bath University, in 2:03.34, poor even though the 24-year-old
has not rested for these trials.
Much better efforts were to be found in the 200 metres freestyle semis:
after Ross Davenport had clocked 1:48.68, David Carry, who also trains at
Loughborough University with coach Ian Turner, raced to a Scottish record
Hope among Britain's women rests in a future beyond Montreal: 17-year-old Gemma Spofforth, of Portsmouth Northsea, won the 50-metres backstroke in 29.53sec ahead of 14-year-old Elizabeth Simmonds, of Lincoln, on 30.17, while Jessica Dickons, 14, was fastest qualifier for the 200m butterfly final in 2mins 15.51.
Manchester: British Championships:
1 T Cooper (Stirling University) 53.53;
2 M Bowe (Loughborough University) 54.48;
3 M Edwards (Loughborough University) 54.70.
1 K Gilschrist (City of Edinburgh) 2:15.17;
2 J Gannon (City of Salford) 2:18.84;
3 C Watkinson (Loughborough University) 2:18.91.
1 R Francis (Bath University) 2:03.34;
2 J Roebuck (Loughborough University) 2:03.44;
3 E Dale (Loughborough University) 2:04.00.
200m freestyle: 1 M Marshall (Loughborough University) 1:58.50;
2 C McClatchey (Loughborough University) 1:59.53 (Scottish record);
3 J Beckett (Loughborough University) 2:00.86;
4 J Jackson (Durham University) 2:01.84.
1 G Spofforth (Portsmouth Northsea) 29.53;
2 E Simmonds (Lincoln Vulcans) 30.17;
3 L Beechey (Loughborough University) 30.35.