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  Sunday, 29 July, 2001, 15:04 GMT 16:04 UK
British swimming makes a splash
Graeme Smith returned to form with two medals
Graeme Smith returned to form with two medals
BBC Sport's Bob Ballard reports on the eighth day of the World Swimming Championships in Fukuoka.

A week ago if someone had predicted that Britain would collect seven medals at the World Swimming Championships in Japan then their sanity would, most definitely, have been called into question.

Remember, just 10 months ago British swimming, if not quite a laughing stock, would have raised more than a chortle when raised in polite conversation.

One gold, two silvers and four bronze is some turn around since Sydney last September.

And although new national performance director Bill Sweetenham must take the lion's share of the credit, the swimmers and their coaches have also shown a willingness to learn, adapt and change where necessary.

Britain's gold came in the women's 4x200m freestyle relay
Britain's gold came in the women's 4x200m freestyle relay
There have been bonuses certainly, such as the women's 4x200m freestyle relay team winning a gold after disqualifications for the Australians and Americans.

And the return to form at the right time of Graeme Smith, whose displays in 2000 didn't indicate a bronze in the 800m and a silver in the 1500m.

But this is now a stable foundation on which to build.

The Commonwealth Games next year, for the most part, will be the Home Nations against the Aussies, with Canada playing a supporting role.

But the fierce heat of battle with the rest of Europe and America joining in will be in the next World Championships in Barcelona two years from now.

Consolidation and growth

Then the British public will expect not just seven medals, but double figures.

They'll anticipate that bronze medals will become silvers and second-place finishes will turn into winning ones.

That is not an unreasonable expectation, but consolidation and growth in Athens, at the 2004 Olympics, may be more to the point.

Nicola Jackson will get better and better in the 200m freestyle, as will Joanna Fargus in the 200m backstroke.

Joanna Fargus will be even better next time round
Joanna Fargus will be even better next time round
Mark Foster could become a fully-fledged butterfly swimmer by then, and the likes of Stockport's James Goddard, who just set a new British record in the 400m individual medley, will be coming on stream.

I for one leave Fukuoka in much better heart than I departed from Sydney.

Then it was all gloom, doom and despondency, and British swimming didn't seem to have a future at all.

But now, its onwards and upwards and I can't wait for Manchester 2002, and beyond that to when all the big nations meet again in Spain in two years time.


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28 Jul 01 | Other Sports
Links to more World Swimming Championships stories are at the foot of the page.


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