Price is Right, Cooke Cooks at British Super Grand Prix

GLASGOW,SCOTLAND, June 14. COMMONWEALTH Games medal hope and British record-holder Sarah Price showed great form in dominating the field in the 100 backstroke at the British Super Grand Prix hre last weekend.

The Barnet Copthall swimmer's winning time of 1:01.43 was just shy of her record 1:01.32 as she emphatically took gold from Laura Beechey of Milton Keynes in second (1:05.54) and Gemma Sutherland of Aberdeen in third (1:06.27). It is also the world's second-fastest time this year.

Price said: "My finish was all wrong. I should have taken another stroke. I think I would have broken the British record except for the finish. My coach and I have set standards I've never done before but as long as I can go faster in Coventry that will set me up nicely for the Commonwealth Games. That's where it all counts. It's just a waiting game until then."

Price's pr of 1:01.32 from last year's World Championship Trials in the Commonwealth Games Pool is also the Commonwealth Record, and she holds the British record in the 200 with her 2:10.78 from this April's CG Trials, also at Manchester — No. 2 on the all-time Commonwealth list to Australia's Nicole Livingstone's 2:10.20 from the Barcelona Olympics a decade ago.

In fact, the second day of the meet was predominantly about the women with a host of impressive performances on show. In the 800 freestyle Rebecca Cooke of Glasgow won in emphatic fashion with a personal best time — 8:34.75 — way ahead of the rest of the field. Southend's Nathalie Brown was second (8:50.50) and third was Caroline Saxby of Wear Valley in 8:51.94.

A delighted Cooke said: "That was really good. I'm just so pleased. I've been doing two-hour training sessions here this weekend at 5.30am before competing because my coach doesn't want me to rest for this competition. I feel pretty good and it's excellent for this stage of heavy training."

Another swimmer to impress at the Tollcross Pool meeting was Karen Legg of Ferndown Otters, who lead a quality 200 freestyle field home in with her winning 2.00.11. Her pr is a 2:00.07 from this meet a year ago. She was just in front of the chasing Nicola Jackson of Bath and Karen Pickering of Ipswich who finished in 2:01.34 and 2.01.73 respectively.

"I swam really well in the 50m event yesterday so that bode well for the 200m," said Legg. "My plans were to go out hard in the first 100m and hold on. They always pip me in the final 100 but not this time. I'm really

Jackson is the British record-holder off her 1:59.32 from last year's Scottish Nationals while Pickering's pr and No. 2 all-time British best is 1:59.65. They'll be chasing Aussie's Susie O'Neill's Commonwealth Record 1:57.47 from Sydney at Manchester — and that swim ranks the now-retired world record-holder sixth on the all-time performances' list (fifth-performer).

Lincoln Vulcans' Kate Haywood just missed out on her own British Junior Record in the 100 breaststroke final when she took gold in 1:10.90 — less than a half-a-second off her best time. Kirsty Balfour of Edinburgh was second in 1:11.76 and club colleague Lauren Greenshields was third in 1:12.78.

Haywood said: "I didn't know how best to start the race as I felt tired. I just went for it in the last 15. My coach kept telling me I could win it, but I didn't believe him, but then I won it."

With just seven weeks to go until the Commonwealth Games swimming gets under way July 25 and heavy training sessions taking their toll on the swimmers,
there were not going to be many records broken this weekend. Still rivalries have been intense and competition good.

Once such battle saw James Hickman of Leeds, quadruple World sc 200 fly champ, overtake Steve Parry (former Florida State star) in the final 50m of the 200 butterfly. "Master James" won in 2:00.11. Parry of Manchester had led the entire race until Hickman came past him with justa few meters remaining. He took silver in 2:01.27 while Adam Faulkner from Nova
Centurion was third in 2:02.86.

Pary is the British record-holder off his 1:56.34 from the spring U.S. Nationals in Federal Way two years ago. Hickman's pr is 1:57.13 from the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, a swim that earned him the gold medal.

"Nice as it is, it doesn't mean anything until the Commonwealth Games," said Hickman. "It's just another battle with Steve. We're both in heavy training so who knows? It's still there for the taking."

At Manchester they'll be facing Aussie Justin Norris, Commonwealth record-holder with his 1:56.17 from the Sydney finals.

Bath's Robin Francis blew the field away at the halfway stage of the 400 IM when, going into the breaststroke leg tied with two others, he sprinted away from his nearest rivals.

His time of 4:22.74 destroyed the chasing pack. Stockport's James Goddard was second in 4:30.09 and David Carry of Aberdeen was third in 4:32.68.

"That killed me," said Francis. "I felt okay in the first 100m and relaxed but I was tired at the end of the backstroke. I pushed through on the breaststroke but with the freestyle I could hardly move.

"I seized up and could hardly move off the last turn. I just glided. I'm glad its over. I'm in heavy training so I'm pleased with the time; it was better than I expected."

Francis holds the British record with his 4:18.30 from the Speedo Grand Prix meet in Bath last December.

Kathryn Evans and Joanne Mullins went head-to-head in the 200 IM, as they did at the Commonwealth Games trials in Manchester. And it was the same result with Evans just pipping Mullins to take gold.

Evans of Nova Centurian touched first in 2:19.42 with Mullins of Orpington in second in 2:19.88. Sarah Heyes of Manchester was third in 2:19.92.

Adam Ruckwood never looked in trouble as he blasted through the men's 50 backstroke to take gold in 26.95. The British record is 25.95 by Neil Willey from last year.

The Birmingham swimmer was always ahead of the rest although Coventry's Kevin Barter was swimming him down towards the end. Eventually the latter simply ran out of pool. Barter was second in 27.54 and Nathan Oxford of Nova Centurion was third in a time of 27.86.

Welsh athlete Karla Hancocks of Nofio Cymru took gold in the 50 butterfly to add to her selection to the Commonwealth Games squad. She finished in 28.35 just ahead of Loughborough's Ros Brett in 28.36 and Alexa White of Crawley was third in 28.44.

Hancocks said: "I've been working really hard on my butterfly. The aim was to maintain my stroke then in the last 25m pull through. It's the first time I've beaten Ros Brett in a final so that feels very good, in fact it feels awesome."

Loughborough's Chris Cozens was impressive in winning the 100 freestyle. He took gold with a good length to spare in 50.86. Edinburgh's Jamie Salter had to settle for second (51.63) and Anthony Howard of Horwich was third in 51.99.

Couzens said: "It was great for this time of the year as I've been taking exams and fitting in heavy training. To do that tonight has given me a lot of confidence for the Commonwealth Games. I was only point three off my personal best and I'm not rested."

The close encounter that was always going to be the 50 breaststroke final was just that. However, Coventry's Adam Whitehead took the honors from the fancied Darren Mew in second and James Gibson in third.

Gibson splashed to a Commonwealth-record and world-leading 27.51 at the British Trials in April with Mew going a 27.58 in the semis for No. 2 globally. America's Ed Moses holds the world-record with his 27.39 and Gibson's time makes him third-fastest all-time (performer-performance).

Whitehead said: "It's the first race I've won since the Olympic Trials in 2000. I haven't been too well recently and on medication but my sprint work has always gone well. The 200m is my main event so I'll see what happens in the Commonwealth Games and then I'll decide what I want to go for in the future."

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