LONDON, December 20. WHEN England released its selections on Tuesday for the 2006 Commonwealth Games, a pair of reigning champions highlighted the roster. Rebecca Cooke and James Gibson lead a balanced squad that features both experience and youth. The Commonwealth Games will be held in March in Melbourne, also the site of the 2007 World Championships.
Cooke is looking to defend championships she won in the 400 and 800 freestyle events during the 2002 edition of the competition. Meanwhile, James Gibson is the reigning champ in the 50 breaststroke, an event in which he is a former world champion. Also headlining the roster is Mark Foster, set to race in his sixth Commonwealth Games. He has won medals in his previous five Commonwealth Games.
The English unit can expect big performances from Simon Burnett, the University of Arizona standout who has emerged as the nation’s top freestyler over the 50, 100 and 200 distances. Meanwhile, Mel Marshall should carry the banner in the women’s 100 and 200 freestyle events, disciplines in which she is a world-ranked competitor.
Leading the way for the younger athletes on the English squad is Fran Halsall, the European Junior champ in the 100 freestyle. A 15-year-old, Halsall also won silver in the 50 free and bronze in the 800 free relay at the European Juniors. Team England will be coached by Ian Turner, who has set lofty goals for the nation come March.
“It's a smaller team than we had in 2002, but it is a team where the ultimate goal has to be for all selected to be able to make a final,” Turner said. “We'll definitely be going into the lion's den in March and will be facing a world-dominant Australian female squad, but the team selected has the ability to meet this challenge.”
Here are the members of Team England:
Julia Beckett (Loughborough University)
Matt Bowe (Loughborough University)
Ros Brett (Loughborough University)
Simon Burnett (Wycombe District)
Matt Clay (Swansea)
Chris Cook (City of Newcastle)
Rebecca Cooke (City of Glasgow)
Chris Cozens (Loughborough University)
Ross Davenport (University of Bath)
Terri Dunning (City of Birmingham)
Mark Foster (University of Bath)
James Gibson (Loughborough University)
Fran Halsall (City of Liverpool)
Kate Haywood (Loughborough)
Anthony Howard (Horwich)
Jo Jackson (Durham Aqua)
Melanie Marshall (Loughborough)
Darren Mew (University of Bath)
Dean Milwain (Loughborough University)
Kerri-anne Payne (Stockport Metro)
Kate Richardson (Kingston upon Hull)
Alex Scotcher (Loughborough University)
Katy Sexton (Portsmouth Northsea)
Amy Smith (Loughborough University)
Liam Tancock (Loughborough University)
Matt Walker (Marple SC)