By Craig Lord
SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND, July 25. PAUL Palmer, Olympic silver medal winner over 400m in Atlanta behind New Zealand's Danyon Loader, cruised to victory at the British Olympic trials in Sheffield, his
3mins 49.61sec less revealing than the way he executed his race.
Palmer, 25, contributed to James Salter, 24, making the team, but the race was all his. Out of the turn with 150m to go, the former European champion from the University of Bath put in a turn of pace that seemed to
stun those either side of him, his thunderous kick suggesting that he might be sprinting away from a Great White, or perhaps trying to keep up with
Australia's Ian Thorpe.
Of his fast last 150m split of 1min 23sec, Palmer, for whom Sydney will be his third Olympic Games, said: "That's what Thorpe does and we all have to get used to it." His delight was justified; he has never before swum inside 3mins 50sec while still in training and unrested. Behind him were Salter, on 3:53.09, and Graeme Smith, the 1996 Olympic bronze medal winner
over 1,500m for whom the 400m is of remote importance, third in 3:53.83 and right to be content with his form; he has not looked so good since 1996.
Alison Sheppard, a Scot who trains in Canada, looks much better than she did four years ago. In the morning heats she lowered the Commonwealth record over 50m freestyle to 25.19sec and improved on that yet
again in the semi-finals last night with a 25.12sec record that lifted her to fifth in the world this year.
"I was shocked," said Sheppard, 28, of her heats time. "That sort of put pressure on me for tonight and I'm disappointed not to have gone better." She will attempt to go under 25sec in the final tomorrow.
The first and only other final of the first of six days of trials ended in disappointment for Rachel Corner, of Wigan Wasps. She had raced the last half of the 400m medley against the clock rather than her trailing rivals, the lonely struggle leaving her shy of the Olympic qualifying standard.
Meanwhile, Palmer, Sheppard, Salter and Smith, among many others, wore assorted bodysuits. It is still uncertain, however, whether, in addition to
the offcial-kit adidas Bodysuit, the Speedo FastSkin or Arena PowerSkin suits will be permitted in Sydney by the British Olympic Association. The
Amateur Swimming Federation of Great Britain, has sought to speed up the decision-making process by calling a meeting of all parties, including, for
the first time, ironically, those who count most; the swimmers.