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Commonwealth Games 2010: Home nations impress in pool

(Clockwise from left) Goddard, Renwick and Halsall provided highlights for the home nations
Goddard, Renwick and Halsall provided highlights for the home nations

By Steve Parry
BBC Radio 5 live swimming commentator in Delhi

Three months ago there were stories coming out of Delhi's Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Swimming Complex that the pool would not be ready in time to host a major event.

In reality, when I saw it for the first time I was very impressed with the facility and how it was presented.

Just ask James Goddard if there was anything wrong with the pool and he'll put you straight. He became the first person to break a Commonwealth record - post shiny, go-faster suits - in the 200m backstroke.

For me, he was the stand-out performance of the meet, run close by the Canadian Brent Hayden, who swam sub-48 seconds in the 100m freestyle to finish the season on top of the world rankings.

I expect Halsall to rival Adlington in 2012 as the GB women's team's Most Valuable Player

Goddard has transformed his attitude and gone from being an incredibly talented but inconsistent trainer to a consummate professional.

At 27, he realises there have been too many missed opportunities and, along with Liam Tancock, he will lead the British men's charge into battle at the London 2012 Olympics.

England finished the week with their most successful ever haul at an overseas Commonwealth Games of 34 medals.

Scotland did not perform to their lofty standard of six golds from Melbourne four years ago but unearthed some fantastic new talent, while Wales's group of youngsters over-performed relative to pre-Games expectations, picking up four medals.

Along with Goddard, two other English swimmers picked up two gold medals each.

Rebecca Adlington is known as the golden girl of British swimming and she didn't disappoint here. There was much talk in the media of her not coping with the pressure of being so well known and having to carry a nation's hopes in the pool.

Rebecca Adlington
Adlington ends the season with European and Commonwealth golds

The pressure grew when the world record-holder finished seventh in her favoured 800m freestyle at the European Championships in August.

But Delhi provided the perfect opportunity to slay her demons of doubt and silence the critics - an opportunity she took - and since the 2008 Olympics she has now won a European gold in the 400m free, two Commonwealth titles and two World Championship bronzes.

Tancock looked unbeatable in the 50m backstroke and dominated in the 100m event as well. For years Liam has been the engine room of the men's team, producing medals at all levels.

Hannah Miley and Fran Halsall each picked up gold, which was incredible considering the health problems they suffered.

Halsall collapsed by the side of the pool after her 100m butterfly swim on Tuesday, such were the effects of 'Delhi Belly', and subsequently struggled with energy levels all week.

Over the last two months she has picked up five European medals and five Commonweatlth gongs, including golds at both championships. Many top swimmers would hope for a similar haul from an entire career.

To steal an American term, I expect Halsall to rival Adlington in 2012 as the women's team's Most Valuable Player.

European champion Miley also showed she was made of tough stuff on her way to victory in the 400m individual medley. She had been on a course of antibiotics earlier in the week to shift her sickness and understandably didn't perform to expectations in the 200 IM.

But Scotland had already had cause to celebrate with a scintillating swim in the 200m freestyle from the likeable Robbie Renwick, who was born, bred and raised in Scotland.

Even as an Englishman, I'd say that his medal ceremony was the one I enjoyed the most. It was clear how much the victory over Kenrick Monk - by two hundredths of a second - meant to him, and as Flower of Scotland rang out around the pool he struggled to hold back the tears.

Another impressive Scotsman was Michael Jamieson, who would have won the 200m breaststroke but for an unfortunate finish.

Meanwhile, Australia won half the gold medals on offer - 22 out of 44. That is a lot but it's no surprise that a country where swimmers are admired like Premier League footballers is an aquatic superpower.

To put that in perspective, though, the Aussies won 27 of 42 titles at the 2002 Commonwealths in Manchester.

I'm sure Britain's swimmers, young and old, are looking forward to having Australia come to visit again in 2012.



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