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Page last updated at 03:53 GMT, Wednesday, 6 October 2010 04:53 UK

Commonwealth Games: The search for male swimming stars

Liam Tancock

Tancock claims 50m backstroke gold (UK only)

Liam Tancock cemented his status as Britain's leading male swimmer with a comfortable victory, in English colours, in the men's 50m backstroke in Delhi on Tuesday.

But, looking behind Tancock, who else is flying the flag for British swimming, and what can we learn by watching the Commonwealth Games? Former Commonwealth gold medallist Mark Foster delivers his verdict.

Mark Foster
By Mark Foster
Former World and Commonwealth swimming champion

I'm trying to pick out names in men's swimming in Britain - but I don't have to on the women's side.

I can reel off the names of at least eight top-class women. Fifteen years ago, there was one - Sarah Hardcastle.

Now, there are no British males other than Liam Tancock picking up World Championship medals, and he was the only European Championship medallist. He's the only one performing at that level at the moment.

So how do we make the British men go faster?

I believe they need to change the way they train. The body adapts very quickly to the way you train, so you have to change your training as your body gets used to it. Tweak what you do.

Mark Foster
Foster won two Commonwealth golds and six short-course world titles

It's the only way to improve - you can't change your physique, but you can change what you do in the pool. And I don't mean wholesale changes, after all if it's working, then don't fix it. Do what you are doing, but in a different way.

More broadly, things will change. What has already changed is the system British swimming now has in place.

When I was younger - and when I was good - you were lucky if you were with the right coach. There was no system. Today, if you're good, you get put in a club with a good coach, and if you're good good, you go off to an intensive training centre.

There are now systems in place, such as regional development centres, which improve your chances of becoming successful. And that is of crucial importance.

The reason? You think of a guy who wants to do sport for a living. They are not going to choose swimming first. On the men's side, you're going to go for football - more opportunities to earn money, more money in it - then cricket, rugby, golf or tennis.

However, in swimming terms, you can only really earn a good living from the sport if you become an Olympic champion.

For women, there is no football, rugby or cricket to the same degree and extent, whereas in swimming women are afforded an equal opportunity. This is one reason why our women are so much better than our men.

We have to get male swimmers engaged enough, early enough. Keep them in a sport which, ultimately, does not pay unless you are the best in the world. In football, you can be an average player and earn good money from the sport, but in swimming you have got to be the best.

Watch the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, and you will see some of the other changes that need to be made in Britain. I would like to see our guys doing a lot more strength work.

Scotland's Robbie Renwick

Renwick dedicates gold to late coach (UK only)

When you put our guys on a podium next to the Aussies, our guys are small. Robbie Renwick, who won 200m freestyle gold, is an example.

Yes, he won the gold, and his stature is not the largest. But with Robbie and others, you look at their physique, and you look at the Australians, and you think: "They are going to beat him."

You could get to your late 20s, dedicate your life to the sport, walk away and say, I didn't earn a living.

Back to picking names out. Beyond Liam Tancock, who should you be watching in Delhi?

David Davies has brought back medals in the past, but I'm confused by him. He has gone from the pool to open water swimming, and I get that.

But I don't know why he's trying to go back to the pool now. He needs to concentrate on open water. He can win an Olympic gold medal there - he won't in the pool.

James Goddard came fourth at the Olympic Games in 2004. He didn't do anything in Beijing but he's a really good talent, he stands out when he gets thing right.

Sadly, though, he can't win. He's in medley races with Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte and I don't think he can beat them. But he's got a shout at a medal.

And Simon Burnett is a great talent. He has had a couple of bad years but he's getting there.

It's not his body, it's his head. With some good results, that'll translate into medals at major championships.


Mark Foster was talking to BBC Sport's Ollie Williams.



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see also
England and Scotland strike gold
05 Oct 10 |  Commonwealth Games
Tancock claims 50m backstroke gold
05 Oct 10 |  Commonwealth Games
Tancock enjoys 50m backstroke gold
05 Oct 10 |  Commonwealth Games
Halsall wins England's first gold in 50m butterfly
05 Oct 10 |  Commonwealth Games
Halsall celebrates butterfly gold
05 Oct 10 |  Commonwealth Games
50m breaststroke bronze for England's Haywood
05 Oct 10 |  Commonwealth Games
Renwick dedicates gold to late coach
05 Oct 10 |  Commonwealth Games
Renwick wins first Scottish gold in Delhi
05 Oct 10 |  Commonwealth Games
Carlin swims to first Welsh medal
04 Oct 10 |  Commonwealth Games


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