By Craig Lord
MANCHESTER, England, April 15. GRAEME Smith, the Scot coached by Dave Calleja at the Manchester Aquatics
Centre where the Commonwealth Games will be staged this summer, retained his 1,500m freestyle in style to bring the British national championships to a close tonight.
The Scot, who put the low road of failing to make the 2000 Olympic Games behind him last year to take the high road to the silver medal at the World Championships in Japan and become the first Briton to race inside 15 minutes, retained the British crown in 15mins 14.34sec.
Behind him was Nottingham's Adam Faulkner, on 15:19.64, the closest he has come to the 15:17.64 in which he beat Smith for his Olympic place in 2000 and well inside the time needed to represent England in the summer.
Smith, who was pre-selected for Scotland after his efforts in Japan, had intended to target the European record of Germany's Jorg Hoffmann over 1,500m and Paul Palmer's British record over 400m. However, just as illness had kept Australian rival Grant Hackett well shy of his world record target at the world short-course championships in Moscow this month, so too did
illness intervene in Smith's plans.
"I spent 48 hours ill in bed three weeks ago," said Smith, 26. "I'd been hoping for more here and I'm a long way short of where I want to be." Asked about Hackett, the world record holder, Smith said: "Of course, he will be favourite this summer but I have a lot more confidence now, and when you get on the blocks everyone has two arms and two legs. It would
mean a lot to me to come here to my home pool and do a great job for myself and all those who have supported me."
Mark Foster, 31, will defend his Commonwealth 50m freestyle crown after retaining his national title in 22.51 seconds, in a race that saw his domestic dominance challenged for the first time in more years than he perhaps care to remember. Foster, a supreme sprinter, usually finishes almost his 6ft 6in bodylength ahead over 50m but Matthew Kidd, 22, was at his shoulder this time and finished on 22.77sec.
Foster welcomed the challenge, praised Kidd's performance but noted: "No one has caught me yet." His main challengers this summer will be Roland Schoeman, the South African who holds the Commonwealth record at 22.04, and Ashley Callus, world short-course champion over 100m freestyle this month.
Georgina Lee, who trains in the US, retained her 200m butterfly title in 2:10.59, 0.38sec shy of her British record. In second was Margaretha Pedder, who at 2:12.15 was just outside the qualification standard
required to take her to the Games in July.
The 200m breaststroke was won by Scot Ian Edmond, in 2:14.23, ahead of England's Robin Francis and Adam Whitehead, both outside qualification time. Also outside the qualification time was Holly Fox, who
retained the 400m medley title in 4:50.34.
The nominations for the England team for the Commonwealth Games will be announced today. About 30 swimmers are expected to be named, well inside the 41 places available. The championships witnessed two European, four Commonwealth and nine British records. Comparing results of the trials in Britain, Australia and Canada, England would win seven titles, to 20 for
Australia. Bill Sweetenham, the Australian at the helm of British swimming, said England would need to "fight like hell" to stay in the ring come the summer. "This will be the toughest summer for British swimmers – we're up against the top swimming nation in the world at the height of their powers. There's no room for wobbly knees."