GLASGOW, June 23. WIN an Olympic medal and it does something for you – though not necessarily for the good.
That is the predicament British distance freestyler Grame Smith has found himself in since winning the bronze in the 1500 free at Atlanta five long years ago.
Smith went a national-record 15:02.48 in Georgia, still his pr and No. 17 on the all-time performers' list (ninth among active competitors). Since then the Scottish star has done little and his career had taken a major nosedive until this year.
Perhaps it was the start of a new millennium or just a rededication to the sport he had put so much into for so many years. In any event, at the British Grand Prix in Manchester the first weekend of this month, Smith went an outstanding 15:03.15, less than a second off his pr-NR, then came back and went a 7:58+ 800 free for another pr-NR.
Not content with resting on his laurels until Fukuoka, Smith broke his 800 free standard with a 7:57.83 here this evening on the second day of the Scottish Championships, the final qualifying meet for the British team to Fukuoka.
Smith thus broke his old mark by 1.01 seconds, not bad for a guy still in heavy training. The 25-year-old Scotsman had help from an overflowing and wildly enthusiastic home crowd, who cheered his every stroke.
"I'd like to forget the last four or five years," Smith told swimming correspondent Anita Lonsbrough, herself an Olympic breaststroke gold medalist back in 1960. "I want to thank all my family and friends for being so supportive during my 'lean' years and I'm
really looking forward to the World Championships with renewed vigor."
Smith stepped up his record-breaking pace with 200 meters left and sprinted the final 50 for his second pr in less than three weeks.
Countrywoman Sarah Price knocked .02 off her NR in the 50 back with a 29.33 win and now ranks 11th globally.
In the 200 back 18-year-old Joanna Fargus, who had swum a pr 2:11.81 (second in the world) last April in Manchester at the British World Championship Trials, cut that time to 2:11.04 here last night.
The time erases the old British record of 2:11.25 by Helen Don-Duncan from the Olympic Trials last year, and enables Fargus to retain her No. 2 global ranking. No. 1 belongs to Japan's Reiko Nakamura with a 2:10.99 from the East Asian Championships last month.
Fargus was ninth at Sydney, just missing the finals by .18. Katy Sexton (pr 2:11.65) was next and 100 back record-holder Sarah Price (2:11.90) third.
In the men's 400 free,James Salter, a Sydney Olympian in the 200 free, showed he's a good 400 man too as he won in 3:50.47 to 3:50.53 for Edward Sinclair. Paul Palmer, Atlanta silver medalist, finished out of the money in third.
However, the venerable Brit is still on the team in the 200 free and will also be a member of the 800 free relay.
Sprinter Mark Foster, who went a British record 22.13 50 in a special time trial earlier this month, couldn't meet the required time here and thus will
not be in Japan.
British National coach Bill Sweetenham, a crusty Australian veteran hired to bring Britain back to world-class standards, has declined to accept Foster's time for qualification purposes as it was not in regular competition.
Similarly, defending Commonwealth Games 200 fly champ James Hickman, British record-holder in the 100 fly and the IMs, missed his chance for a trip to Japan with 54.14-1:58.53 fly clockings — outside the requisite standards.
Teammate Stephan Parry, a former Florida State star who went 1:56.34 at the U.S. Nationals in Federal Way last March – then the world's No. 1 time and a
Commonwealth record — also failed to achieve the standard in the longer fly race and won't be seeing Japan, save perhaps as a tourist.
The Commonwealth record Parry held lasted only until Sydney, when the home team's Justin Norris went 1:56.17 in the finals.
– Bill Bell
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