CAMBRIDGE, England, Sept. 15. STEVE Parry maintained his domination of the British National Short Course Championships in Cambridge, winning his fifth gold medal today and equalling the English national record in the 100m backstroke in a time of 53.15.
Yet again, the Florida State University-trained butterfly specialist proved how strong a backstroker he is, overpowering the British record-holder and defending champion, Gregor Tait of Scotland, who earned second place in 53.82.
Parry looked pleased with his golden pile. "It's a nice finish to the championships. To get five golds is really nice and I never in my wildest dreams thought I would come here and get two English records only six weeks after the Commonwealth Games. I was beaten in my best butterfly event by James Hickman, so maybe I should take the hint!"
Four British swimmers picked up three national titles in Cambridge. Sarah Price, Alison Sheppard, Rebecca Cooke and James Hickman. Sarah Price dutifully won the 200m backstroke in a time of 2:07.59 and will now set off on a well earned holiday after her double gold medal success at the Commonwealth Games. In many ways what was impressive was not the expected ease and style with which Price won the event, but the fact that fourteen year-old Stephanie Proud from Durham Aqua took the silver in 2:10.88, holding off the likes of Katy Sexton the Commonwealth bronze medallist and fellow Olympian, Helen Don-Duncan. Proud's time would have gained her senior selection for the European Short Course Championships in Germany in December, but she's too young to be included for the senior international event.
Rebecca Cooke won her third in the 400m Individual Medley in 4:45.04, just outside her personal best time. Thea Evanson took the silver in 4:46.54. She held off Cooke right through the butterfly, backstroke and breaststroke legs, but Cooke ensured she was always right on her tail so when the freestyle final leg was reached, she easily took the lead in her favoured stroke. Cooke's time gains her selection to the European Short Course Championships but Cooke has chosen to stay in her Glasgow base for winter training.
The Commonwealth 50m freestyle gold medallist, Alison Sheppard, took the Short Course title for the seventh time tonight in 24.53 to add to her 100m freestyle and 100m IM successes earlier in the week.
Without the presence of Mark Foster in one of his favourite events, James Hickman easily took the 50m butterfly gold in 24.18 to achieve all three butterfly titles.
"The race was obviously much easier by Mark Foster not being there. It's always great to win, especially three titles."
Adrian Turner from Salford came away from the Commonwealth Games with two well-earned medals and this afternoon he did the double at the National Short Course Championships, winning both the 100m Individual Medley and the 200m breaststroke. The breaststroke was always going to be a battle against the 200m specialist, Ian Edmond. Turner turned first into the final 50m and held Edmond off to the wall winning in 2:12.07 to Edmond's 2:12.19.
Just fifteen minutes later, the two men were in battle again for the 100m IM. Turner is an IM specialist and showed no signs of fatigue, beating Edmond again in 56.52 with the Scot touching in 56.92 Today's success finishes off a superb summer of competition for Turner.
"This week has been brilliant. It's been a good finish to a really nice summer. This is the nicest time I've had in swimming, but I've still got more to do. I'm delighted."
The women's 200m freestyle is always a great event to watch with so much strength and depth between the two Karens (Pickering and Legg), Janine Belton and now Melanie Marshall from Loughborough as well. Marshall discovered her ability at this longer distance while competing at the Greek National Championships just after the Commonwealth Games, and now surely must consider herself as an integral part of Britain's pool of 200m freestyle talent. Pickering, the Commonwealth Champion and four times British short course champion took the lead from lane two with Legg and Marshall never far away, but after 100 metres, Pickering stretched out and in a time of 1:57.56 the gold medal could never be denied her. Marshall earned the silver in 1:58.39 and Legg the bronze.
Jamie Salter proved there's still plenty of fire left in the tank when the twenty-six year-old won the 200m freestyle in a close race in 1:48.01, earning him selection to the European Championships in December. Simon Burnett of Wycombe, the ASA National Champion was tied for second in 1:48.50 with Gavin Meadows of Leeds, also in a good enough time to compete in Germany in December.
Loughborough's Ros Brett joined the ranks of double title winners here in Cambridge when she added the gold in the 100m butterfly in 1.00.30 to her earlier success in the 50m butterfly. And fifteen year old Kate Haywood, the youngest English competitor in the Commonwealth pool, confirmed her place in the senior ranks by winning the 100m breaststroke in 1.10.23, ahead of Kirsty Balfour of Edinburgh a fraction behind her in 1.10.27
Nevertheless the 2002 National Short Course Championships did not impress the British National Performance Director Bill Sweetenham, who felt there were only a tiny handful of senior swimmers such as Alison Sheppard, Karen Pickering and James Hickman that have performed well, although clearly the run away win by seventeen year-old David Davies in the 1500m freestyle not only was welcomed by Sweetenham but was voted the best performance of the four day competition. Sweetenham now has his eye on using the FINA World Cup series, starting later this year, to progress Britain's swimming talent into the world championships in 2003, the year before the Athens Olympics. Considering Britain's prospects for Athens, Sweetenham chooses his words carefully.
"We will win medals in 2004. It will take an almighty effort, but it will happen."