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Page last updated at 13:35 GMT, Wednesday, 2 April 2008 14:35 UK

Still flying at 37

Steve Parry
By Steve Parry, Olympic bronze medallist
BBC Sport in Sheffield

The quality of swimming at the British Olympic trials has been so good that I don't know where to start with the day's action, so I have decided it is only fair to go in order of seniority.

MARK FOSTER (AGE: 37 YEARS, 10 MONTHS)

Mark Foster
Foster is set for his fifth Olympics after missing Athens
Olympic medals are very much the pinnacle of a sportsman's career, but often the proudest moment of an athlete's life is the day they are called up to don the beautiful colours of the GB tracksuit.

My first senior trip was as part of the World Cup tour, which has athletes racing in some of the finest short course pools all over the world.

In the 1990's, cities hosting these short course glamour events included Rio de Janeiro, New York, Paris, Berlin, Shanghai, Melbourne and Cape Town.

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For a lad from Liverpool, the prospect of getting on the plane in Manchester and flying out to Germany was awe-inspiring.

I broke the ice with double Olympic medallist Nick Gillingham after finding his horrendous peaked cap, which was apparently cool!

But it was Foster I was super keen to get to know.

I thought the guy was awesome and really enjoyed his banter.

As a 17-year-old and eight years his junior, I remember telling him that he was an 'Old Fart'!

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He responded by telling me I would retire well before him and that he'd already seen off a couple of generations of swimmers.

Of course I never believed him, but last year the big man hung up his trunks and he had outlasted me by 12 months.

It's an astonishing achievement that a man can come out of retirement at nearly 38, training in the water only three times a week when the rest of the country's swimmers are doing 10, and make his fifth Olympic team after controversially missing the Games in Athens.

He has often done things his way, but on making the plane to Beijing we must salute his amazing achievements.

CHRIS COOK (28 YEARS, 11 MONTHS)

Chris Cook
One of the most likeable men you will ever meet and, frustratingly, someone my girlfriend refers to as 'eye candy'.

The Geordie rocket became only the sixth man in history to go under 60 seconds for the 100m breaststroke.

Like a fine wine, this guy just gets better with age. Interestingly, he managed to go faster in the difficult morning final than the qualifying time he established last night.

As a two-time Commonwealth champion, he will be one to watch in Beijing.

JAMES GODDARD (25 YEARS)

James Goddard
After training with this guy for four years, I have no doubt that he is one of the most talented swimmers in the world.

He always had the ability to take weeks out of the water due to illness, lack of motivation or just because he needed a break.

After narrowly missing out in Athens, due to race strategy more than anything else, it was fantastic to see him chase down Liam Tancock's 12-hour-old Commonwealth record to win the 200m individual medley.

There is very little to choose between these fantastic athletes, and for me this was the race of the morning.

Worrying for the rest of the world, these guys actually prefer the backstroke events, Tancock the 100m and Goddard the 200m.

GEMMA SPOFFORTH (21 YEARS, 5 MONTHS)

Gemma Spofforth
Fresh off the back of winning the prestigious National Collegiate Championships for Florida University, Gemma showed her true racing class by transferring to the harder endurance distance long course.

She broke the record, not only on the 100m but also on the 50m distance on the way through.

She will be joined by one of our most successful ever European Junior champions, Lizzie Simmonds.

REBECCA ADLINGTON (19 YEARS, 1 MONTH)

Rebecca Adlington
This young lady has knocked a phenomenal five seconds off her best time in winning the 400m freestyle, and propelled herself into medal contention for the Olympic Games.

She is completely unassuming about her success and a lively, likeable young lady.

It is truly scary the time that she can achieve on her preferred 800m if she can translate this form.

Jo Jackson went a little slower this morning, but her experience will come into play in Beijing.

OK, so it is only day two of the Olympic trials, but the rest of the world have to be sitting up and taking note of the eight British records and five Commonwealth records produced mainly in uncomfortable morning territory.

It is at times like these I wish I was standing behind the blocks getting ready to race, and not sweating under the hot poolside lights writing about it.

Go GB, go!



see also
Foster through to fifth Olympics
02 Apr 08 |  Swimming
Foster appeal fails
30 May 04 |  Other sport...
Mix-up hits Marshall Games plans
01 Apr 08 |  Swimming
McClatchey sets new British mark
31 Mar 08 |  Swimming
Team GB for Beijing
29 Nov 07 |  Team GB
Swimming on the BBC
02 Oct 07 |  Swimming


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