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Can GB's swimmers outdo the Australians at London 2012?

Australia win 4x200 gold

Aussies beat Adlington quartet into bronze (UK only)

With three days of competition complete in the Delhi pool, Australian swimmers have a commanding lead.

They have amassed 27 medals, 10 of them gold. England have three golds and 12 in total, Scottish swimmers have one medal of each colour, while Wales can boast Jazz Carlin's silver.

That means, overall, British swimmers have won 11 fewer medals - and six fewer golds.

Is that a sign of things to come in the pool at London 2012? Can British swimmers ever match their Australian rivals?

Britain's Mark Foster, a former world short-course and Commonwealth champion, and Australian five-time Olympic champion Ian Thorpe argue their corners.

DO COMMONWEALTHS SO FAR REFLECT A REAL DIVIDE?
Australian swimmers Kylie Palmer, Blair Evans and Bronte Barratt
Australian trio Kylie Palmer, Blair Evans and Bronte Barratt celebrate their 4x200m freestyle relay win in Delhi

Mark Foster

Mark Foster: There could and should have been a couple of other races that went the way of the home nations.

Had Fran Halsall not been sick, she would have been more than half a second faster than the time that won the 100m freestyle, so she should have won it. She got bronze. Gemma Spofforth, the world record holder and world champion, will be gutted with her 100m backstroke time. She got silver.

Had those gone the other way, the medal table would have been eight golds to Australia and six to the various British swimmers.

When one of your key swimmers goes down - and Fran had the opportunity for six medals - it's big. Had it been someone else we may not have noticed, but we do notice when we lose the likes of Fran or Rebecca Adlington.

Ian Thorpe

Ian Thorpe: I'm proud of the Australian men, they did a fantastic job to win the 4x200m freestyle relay by the distance they did.

That's what Australians do - they win medals. We have consistently won gold medals for I-don't-know-how long. If you can compete against Australia, you can compete against the rest of the world, so if you're beating us then you're doing well.

Equally, some of our athletes now need to beat Britons to be successful. There is a transition going on.

It's not that British swimming has ever been terrible, there has always been good talent there. There is just a bit more consistency now.

HOW DO THE TEAMS COMPARE?
Women's 100m backstroke final

Backstroke silver for disappointing Spofforth (UK only)

Mark Foster

Mark Foster: The Olympics is not Britain versus Australia by any stretch, but the British women are the second or third best in the world now.

We still have six or seven women who can be on the podium. Jo Jackson's been off form but we know what she can do. Then there's Fran Halsall, Jazz Carlin, Becky Adlington, Ellen Gandy, Jemma Lowe, Gemma Spofforth, Lizzie Simmonds and Hannah Miley. Yes, we're weak on breaststroke but we always have been.

There's some good depth there - and that's exciting. Stephanie Rice is not here for Australia but they have Emily Seebohm, Alicia Coutts, Leisel Jones and Jessicah Schipper. I'd say we compare favourably with Australia.

Ian Thorpe

Ian Thorpe: When we add Steph Rice to the mix in the 200m freestyle, whatever the home nations may gain from combining countries for 2012 is probably lost.

Seebohm has had a lot of hype but she has won a lot of medals and now has her first gold. I like her.

The one thing about her is she's very tall and is not using her height to her advantage at the moment. But she is very, very young.

She hasn't been as successful as other people had predicted but she has two years to train before 2012 and she needs to pick her events.

Everyone makes assumptions about Australia - that we have amazing programmes to develop talent and create amazing athletes. But we don't. Occasionally, a good athlete pops out and so does a coach.

England's James Goddard

Goddard wins gold for England (UK only)

Mark Foster

Mark Foster: On the men's side, we're not that strong but to be fair neither are Australia. Even when they were at their best, two men dominated - Thorpe and Grant Hackett.

They've no guaranteed medals now like they had with those two. We don't have an Ian Thorpe, but neither do they.

The men are Australia's weakness. Even Eamon Sullivan is doing times here that wouldn't win him a medal at an Olympic Games or World Championships. I'm not going to pin any medals on them.

America's men are unbelievably strong and their women's team is the best in the world. But it's us, America and Australia - and that is awesome. I could never have said that before.

Ian Thorpe

Ian Thorpe: To say "there's no Ian Thorpe" is not a fair assessment. More than one athlete makes a team.

Our men are struggling but they were so strong for such a long time - from 1998 to 2004. Even then, the women were quite strong, too. Now the women have made that gap up - and then some.

Eamon Sullivan
Can Eamon Sullivan fill Ian Thorpe's shoes in 2012?

I would be mildly surprised if Britain beat Australia in the 2012 swimming medal table. But, here and now, I think we will outdo the British.

But I don't say that in an arrogant way. We may be surprised a little bit - results are so close that they can go either way. We realise that. I don't think it will happen but there's a small possibility it may.

Our team is as good as it's ever been. Everyone else has just got better.

WILL HOME ADVANTAGE HELP GB IN 2012?
London 2012 aquatics venue
London 2012's aquatics venue is taking shape

Mark Foster

Mark Foster: Home advantage will make a big difference, with swimmers having familiarity with their surroundings. The British team will be comfortable in the pool and unbelievably excited.

I saw it with Australia in Sydney and when our swimmers performed in front of a home crowd at Manchester 2002. That was awesome.

It might be one medal's difference, it might be two, I can't say. Some swimmers who are third, fourth or fifth in the world could turn fifth into a medal, or third into gold.

Ian Thorpe

Ian Thorpe: But for all the advantages you get, there are equal disadvantages, especially for high-profile athletes.

I didn't admit it back then but I found that.

I didn't read newspapers or see myself on TV, but you'd go to the supermarket and people would say, 'I can't wait to see you win gold'. You realise everyone feels this way. It's a double-edged sword.


Mark Foster and Ian Thorpe were speaking to BBC Sport's Ollie Williams.



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see also
Commonwealth Games 2010: Form guide - swimming
29 Sep 10 |  Commonwealth Games
Goddard reclaims backstroke gold
06 Oct 10 |  Commonwealth Games
Britain's search for male swim stars
06 Oct 10 |  Commonwealth Games
Thorpedo on the H-Bomb
05 Oct 10 |  Commonwealth Games
England and Scotland strike gold
05 Oct 10 |  Commonwealth Games


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