By Craig Lord
MANCHESTER, England, March 21. Britain's swimmers and coaches gathered for an orientation camp at Loughborough University after five days of largely underwhelming racing in Manchester that produced just 10 qualifiers for the world championships.
It wasn't that the swims were that bad. Indeed there were a handful of worthy efforts from seniors and a constant flow of exceptionally encouraging performances from juniors. But targets equivalent to 10th in the world in an Olympic year in the March following a Games that did not deliver as many medals as an improved Britain had hoped for, left many with work still to do.
On a final day of a national championships that saw David Davies, the Olympic bronze medal winner in the 1,500 freestyle, barely scrape inside his target time to make the squad for Montreal, Melanie Marshall win two more crowns but fail by fractions to book a ticket to Canada and Mark Foster beaten for the first time in domestic waters in more than 15 years, five others met the grade.
The shaking of heads by Davies and his coach in Cardiff, Dave Haller, reflected anger as well as relief. After racing only 1.50 seconds inside his target to retain the British title over 1,500 meters in 15:07.24, more than 20 seconds down on his best and well shy of the 14:44.95 clocked by Olympic champion Grant Hackett in Australia over the weekend, the bronze medal winner from Athens said: "I'm really annoyed, not happy at all…we got the pattern of rest wrong. We have to go back to what worked in Athens."
His new Cardiff teammate, Gregor Tait, defeated fellow Olympic finalist James Goddard to win the 200 backstroke in 1:58.59 to add his name to the Montreal roster alongside Bath University's Darren Mew, winner of the 100 breaststroke in 1:01.28, and Loughborough teammates Caitlin McClatchey (4:09.65 in the 400 freestyle) and Kate Haywood (31.45 in the 50 breaststroke), both coached at the university by ben Titley. Goddard, fourth in Athens, had already qualified over 100 meters on day one of the trials.
McClatchey, who only stepped up as a 200-meter relay swimmer for Britain last year, has been working on the 400 meters with Titley to help her 200 stamina. Having set a Scottish record of 1:59.53 over 200 meters at the trials, she became the first Scot under 4:10 when she defeated Commonwealth champion and Olympic finalist Rebecca Cooke with a 4:09.65. Cooke was next home in 4:11.78, with former European short-course champion Joanne Jackson third in 4:11.90.
McClatchey, 19, said: "Everyone kept telling me I'd be a better 400 swimmer but I've just been using it to improve my 200. Since arriving at Loughborough I've stepped up my training from 50 kilometers a week to 65 to 70 and I'm training long-course all the time. It's made a big difference. There was a point when I thought I might tighten up but Ben just told me to keep my stroke long and relax. It felt great."
But if Loughborough coach Ben Titley was happy with their performances, frustration over Marshall's efforts may well keep him awake at night for a while. Having missed her target by .14 in the 200 freestyle earlier in the week, the 23-year-old who ended 2004 at the top of the world rankings despite disappointment in Athens, yesterday fell a stroke shy in the 100 freestyle, in 55.40 seconds, and by just .21 in the 200 backstroke, which she won in 2:12.38.
Meanwhile, a new star in the making is Bath University's Matthew Tutty, 20. Spotted by coach David Lyles two years ago, having only started serious swimming training at 16, he became the first Briton in more than 15 years to fell Foster in the 50 freestyle in 22.77, while Loughborough's Chris Cozens, in 22.88, was also ahead of the defending champion's 23.09.
"He's been a role model of mine for a long time, so this is a pretty special moment," said Tutty of Foster, who in turn predicted that his Bath teammate would one day break his British record of 22.13. To go to Montreal, Foster must get down to 22.18 by June. He had not intended to rest from a heavy period of work for these trials, considering them to be too early in his season. "That's where I thought I'd be. I'll be trying for the time in June."
Tutty is reading psychology at Nottingham University, but travels to Bath for some of his training. His aim is Beijing. "There's a long way to go," he said, while Foster believed he was "a man with a big future who could get under 22 – I don't doubt it."
1 M Tutty (Bath University) 22.77
2 C Cozens (Loughborough University) 22.88
3 M Foster (Bath University) 23.09
1 D Davies (City of Cardiff) 15:07.24
2 C Alderton (Durham Aquatics) 15:29.32
3 A Bircher (Bath University) 15:30.59
1 G Tait (City of Cardiff) 1:58.59
2 J Goddard (Stockport) 1:59.01
3 S Mellor (Stockport) 2:03.38
1 D Mew (Bath University) 1;01.28
2 J Gibson (Loughborough University) 1:01.61
3 C Cook (City of Newcastle) 1:01.63
1 M Edwards (Loughborough University) 1:59.75
2 M Lewis (StirlingSwim) 1:59.77
3 M Bowe (Loughborough University) 2:00.03
1 E Dale (Loughborough University) 4:22.73
2 J Roebuck (Loughborough University) 4:25.95
3 T Haffield (City of Cardiff) 4:28.00
1 M Marshall (Loughborough University) 55.40
2 Julia Beckett (Loughborough University) 56.87
3 F Halsall (City of Liverpool) 56.90
1 C McClatchey (Loughborough University) 4:09.65
2 R Cooke (City of Glasgow) 4:11.78
3 J Jackson (Durham Aquatics) 4:11.90
1 K Haywood (Loughborough University) 31.45
2 G Callaghan (City of Coventry) 32.98
3 R Wilson (Durham Aquatics) 33.50
1 R Brett (Loughborough University) 27.18
2 S Healey (Loughborough University) 27.83
S Hill (Nova Centurion) 27.90