Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Swimming: Britain Back in the Swim for Olympics

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Swimming: Britain Back in the Swim for Olympics

Article excerpt

Byline: By Mark Richards

It is a measure of how far British swimming has come since their Sydney Olympics nightmare that there was a tinge of disappointment in the squad when they left Barcelona yesterday.

Britain had their best ever result at a World Championships, with a haul of eight medals, and the omens are good for the Olympics next year.

Hark back to Sydney in 2000 and the British squad were in disarray, the joke element of the Olympic Village and subject to criticism from, of all people, triple-jumper Jonathan Edwards.

"The swimmers are awful," said Edwards.

"Ninety per cent of them can't win medals - they are there to have fun."

So the turnaround in fortunes is an achievement to be immensely proud of, with much of the credit sure to go to head coach Bill Sweetenham, an Australian who has worked the elite swimmers hard and introduced radical training schedules.

His treat-'em-mean approach had reaped great dividends in Barcelona, with Katy Sexton and James Gibson both winning golds, 28 years after Britain last had a world champion.

But there was still a feeling of anti-climax in the squad as they prepared to fly home, mainly because Zoe Baker was tipped to grab the team's third gold of the week and had to settle for bronze.

Baker has now been warned that her world record in the women's 50 metres breaststroke will soon be erased by fast-improving teenager Xuejuan Luo.

The Chinese 19-year-old claims she would have blitzed Baker's record if only her start had been marginally sharper in the final of the World Championships.

Baker trailed home in third place, almost two metres down on Luo in Sunday's race, and the new champion was just a tenth of a second shy of breaking the world record which looks increasingly vulnerable at 30.57 seconds.

Luo had come even closer in the semi-finals, clocking 30.64secs to set a new championship record.

The onus is now on the 27-year-old Baker to reproduce the form which saw her claim gold at last summer's Commonwealth Games, otherwise she is set to face more disappointment at next summer's Olympics.

Luo said: "I wanted to beat the world record. …

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