By Craig Lord
MANCHESTER, England, March 17. JAMES Gibson declared himself ready to defend his world title over 50 metres breaststroke in Montreal this July after retaining his British title in 28.02 seconds to become the first of three swimmers to book tickets to Canada at Trials here.
On a night when James Goddard and Kirsty Balfour respectively set new
British and Scottish standards to join Gibson on the Britain squad, the
25-year-old world sprint breaststroke champion from Loughborough University
summed up the mood of those who qualified on the first of two opportunities
to do so.
"That was a huge release of pressure – job done. I don't want to be a
former world champion and getting this out of the way now will allow me to
focus on preparing for the main event." Having travelled to Athens last
summer looking for Olympic glory but emerging from the 100 metres final
sixth, Gibson, coached by Ben Titley, was conscious that "the world has
stepped up…and I've got to move with them."
"I've had a rough time since Athens," he said, "but that will help to
lift me. I'm not going to Montreal just to take part." Behind him were
Darren Mew and Chris Cook, who must wait until June for a second chance to
qualify over 50 metres at the third of three test events in line for the
Britain squad and those who aspire to it in the build-up to Montreal.
Gibson spent February training at Auburn. The experience had been
"fantastic…they are very professional". In contrast to Britain, it was
less to do with the individual as the team in collegiate competition and
training. "I learnt a hell of a lot from that and realised I had not been
on the ball mentally."
Goddard, who finished fourth in the Olympic 200 metres backstroke
final in Athens, equalled Gregor Tait's British record and set an English
record of 54.90sec to take the 100 metres crown in Manchester. Tait, who
has moved to Dave Haller's Cardiff squad, was beaten into third by
Loughborough's Liam Tancock, 55.21 to 55.59.
"It's a great relief to get that out of the way," said Goddard, coached
by Sean Kelly at Stockport Metro. "It takes the pressure off the 200
metres. I'm really excited about this summer."
Since Goddard finished fourth in the 200 metres in Athens in a race
that saw him awarded the bronze and lose it again in the space of 20
minutes as American Aaron Peirsol was disqualified and then reinstated in a
farce over the ability to read the rulebook and then write down the proper
reason for deciding why the world record-holder ought to forfeit an Olympic
title, FINA, the world governing body, has moved to bar all over-60s from
The proposal could be ratified in Montreal and is designed not just for
swimming but all aquatic disciplines.
"I'm a bit dismayed to find that over-60s are being flogged on my
behalf," joked Goddard. "It's not them I beat up for not getting a medal in
Athens. It's myself I beat up. It's something I will never forget. Even
bronze would have been disappointing. I should have got the silver. I've
only got myself to blame." He looked forward to taking corrective measures
Balfour, of Edinburgh, clocked 1min 08.66sec over 100 metres
breaststroke to defeat a dismayed Kate Haywood, of Loughborough. Haywood,
17, must try for selection again in June after finishing on 1:09.27sec,
well shy of the British record of 1:08.14sec she set in the semi-final on
Elsewhere, the real story of British Swimming has started to bubble to
the surface in the form of a group of hugely talented teenegers. As Sarah
Price, the double Commonwealth champion of 2002, put it as she announced
her retirement after finished second in the 100 metres backstroke: "This is
the right moment to go. I have had a wondeful time. It's been a great buzz.
But while the will and passion are there, the body cannot do what it used
to do and there is a new generation ready to step up and capable of filling
First home ahead of her was 17-year-old Gemma Spofforth, of Portsmouth
Northsea, in 1:02.29, while in third, ahead of 200m world champion Katy
Sexton, was Elizabeth Simmonds, who celebrated he 14th birthday in January,
in 1:03.43. Later she clocked 29.99sec to qualify fastest for the final of
the 50 metres backstroke.
Simmonds, coached by Graham Bassi in Lincoln, is not alone. Another
14-year-old, Francesca Halsall, coached by Colin Stripe in Liverpool and
one of 13 teenager girls who spent a month being coached at altitude in
Mexico by Bill Sweetenham, the national performance director, took her
first senior national title in 26.23sec over 50 metres freestyle, while
Jessica Dickons, 13, clocked 1:01.59sec over 100m butterfly before racing
to another fifth place finish, over 400 metres medley in 4:55.93 half an
That race saw Rebecca Cooke, the distance freestyle Olympic finalist
coached by Stephen Hill in Glasgow, lower her own British record to
4:46.54, shy of the qualification target but encouraging for her freestyle
races to come.
In semi-finals, Melanie Marshall cruised to a comfortable 1min 59.20sec
over 200 metres freestyle, while Loughborough teammate Caitlin McClatchey
became the first Scot below 2 minutes, in 1:59.99.
1 C Cozens (Loughborough University) 50.01;
2 R Davenport (Loughborough University) 50.24;
3 C Gibbons (Maxwell) 50.84.
1 J Goddard (Stockport Metro) 54.90 (British record)
2 Liam Tancock (Loughborough University) 55.21;
3 Gregor Tait (City of Cardiff) 55.59
1 J Gibson (Loughborough University) 28.02;
2 D Mew (Bath University) 28.18;
3 C Cook (City of Newcastle) 28.32.
1 M Foster (Bath University) 24.72;
2 O Morgan (Kingston Royals) 24.81;
3 D Leith (City of Edinburgh) 24.89.
1 F Halsall (City of Liverpool) 26.23sec;
2 J Lyles (Bath University) 26.73;
3 A Ramm (Loughborough University)
1 G Spofforth (Portsmouth Northsea) 1:02.29;
2 S Price (Loughborough University);
3 E Simmonds (Lincoln) 1:03.43.
1 K Balfour (City of Edinburgh) 1:08.66 (Scottish record).
2 K Haywood 1:09.27
1 T Dunning (City of Birmingham) 1:00.48;
2 R Brett (Loughborough University) 1:00.73;
3 S Healey (Loughborough University) 1:00.93.
1 R Cooke (City of Glasgow) 4:46.54 (British record);
2 S Tadd (Bath University) 4:49.88;
3 H Miley (City of Glasgow) 4:51.21 (Scottish record).