By Craig Lord
MANCHESTER, April 12. JAMES Gibson, of Loughborough University, established a Commonwealth record of 1:00.69 in the 100m breaststroke at the British Championships at Manchester Aquatics Centre, scene of the Commonwealth Games in July.
His speed helped to draw English rival Darren Mew, of University of Bath, inside the British record time of 1:01.20 that Mew had established in his semifinal on Thursday to confine Nick Gillingham's 10-year-old national mark of 1:01.33 – the world's fastest time in
1992 – to history.
The standard raised, Gibson, 22, laid down the gauntlet to Mew, also 22, in the final when he touched at half-way in 28.41 seconds, 8-hundredths of a second inside world record pace, the man from Bath a touch behind on 28.81. Was the pattern of the semifinal, in which Mew passed Gibson in the final 5 metres, about to repeat itself? The answer was an emphatic "no way."
Hanging on for dear life, Gibson stopped the clock 0.26 seconds inside the Commonwealth record that had been held by Canada's Morgan Knabe for less than a month. Mew was second in 1:01.14, with Adam Whitehead,
the 200m specialist from City of Coventry, racing inside 1 minute 2 seconds for the first time to take the bronze medal 1:01.72.
Gibson said: "I've been swimming superbly in training. I've been trying to perfect my stroke…getting to the Commonwealth games will fulfil a lifetime's ambition."
Like Gibson, Sarah Price, of Barnet, is a favourite to win at the Games in the summer, after retaining her British title over 100m backstroke in 1:01.51, just 0.19 seconds outside her own Commonwealth record.
"I wanted to go under 61 seconds," she said. "But I didn't go to bed until 11:30pm last night and I had a bad virus last week, so it's not bad. I still have a few days before the 200m, which is my main event." Price set the world short course record over 200 meters last year only to see it fall soon after to Natalie Coughlin, of the US.
The other British record of the third day of racing fell to US-trained Georgina Lee, 20, who clocked 1:00.35 in the semifinal of the 100m butterfly, 0.02 seconds inside her own mark.
Elsewhere, Gibson's teammate Marshall, known as "psycho" to her friends, and probably her enemies too, caused upset in the 100m freestyle when she beat former Commonwealth champion Karen Pickering by just 0.01 seconds to take her first senior long course crown in 55.78 seconds.
The presence of world champion and Olympic silver medal winner Therese Alshammar, of Sweden, at Loughborough this past season, can only have helped Marshall's preparations for taking on the best in Britain.
Pickering, 30, was second just ahead of Karen Legg, 23, on 55.99. The fastest in the Commonwealth this year is Sarah Ryan, of Australia, on 54.94, a time 0.09 seconds inside the British record set by current
Commonwealth champion Susan Rolph, of England, since 1999, when she became European champion ahead of Inge de Bruijn, the Dutchwoman who just six months later had metamorphosised into the world record holder more than a second quicker.
Gregor Tait, 22, promises to become the first Scot ever to win a medal in the 200m backstroke at the Commonwealth Games after shaving 0.16 seconds off
his own Scottish record to win the British title in 2:00.02, half a second outside the British record of 1:59.52 established by Adam Ruckwood in 1995, a year after he became Commonwealth champion in Victoria, Canada.
Tait said he was frustrated not to get under the 2 minutes mark. His aim is a medal at the Games. Among those who could stop him are the two Englishmen who followed closely behind last night, Simon Militis, whose British crown Tait took, in 2:00.59, with James Goddard, just 19, third in 2:00.69.
Between Tait and glory in Manchester this summer are two Australians, including Matt Welsh, world champion last year and Olympic bronze medal winner in Sydney. No Scot has ever won a medal over 200m backstroke, while Ruckwood remains the only English winner.
Mark Foster, of University of Bath, retained his 50m butterfly crown in 23.88 seconds. In Manchester in the summer he will rejoin battle with the two
Australians who beat him last week at the World Short Course championships in Moscow, Geoff Huegill and Adam Pine.
In the semifinal of the 100m freestyle for men, Matthew Kidd, another who trains overseas, became the first British swimmer ever to race inside 50 seconds in a British pool, in 49.99. Kidd clocked the first British sub-50 second swim last year in China, with a record 49.78. His progress is heartening but history provides the measure of how much further British
sprinting has to go: the first swimmer to go under 50 sec was Jim Montgomery, of the US, in 1976.