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Page last updated at 06:28 GMT, Tuesday, 7 July 2009 07:28 UK

Phelps' absence boosts Haffield

13th FINA WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
Date: 17 July - 2 August Venue: Foro Italico, Rome


Thomas Haffield
Haffield is the 400 metres individual medley Commonwealth record holder

Thomas Haffield hopes Michael Phelps' decision to quit the 400m individual medley gives the Welshman a greater chance of winning a major medal.

The American great broke his own world record as he claimed medley gold at the 2008 Olympics, the first of his historic eight pool wins in Beijing.

Haffield is "looking forward" to the the world championships in Rome and hoping to benefit from Phelps' absence.

"It is good as it gives the others, like me, a better chance," he said.

Phelps' eight Olympic victories in Beijing's Water Cube took his overall Olympic medal haul to 14 golds.

But the 6ft 4ins swimming superstar - whose four minutes 03.84 seconds swim won the medley crown in China - has insisted that he will not compete for eight crowns at the 2012 Olympics in London.

Haffield says Phelps leaving the 400m IM is a boost for him as the 21-year-old admits: "I don't think I, or anyone else for that matter, would come near Michael Phelps if he stayed in the medley.

"At the Olympic final in Beijing, Phelps finished something like three seconds ahead of everyone else.

"The world record is still his and that mark I'm sure will be there for some to time to come so he'll always be remembered.

Michael Phelps
I enjoyed racing Phelps and to say you competed directly against one the great sportsmen of all time is something I'll always treasure

British 400m Individual Medley champion Thomas Haffield

"But it gives the others a chance and makes the medley a little more competitive because no-one could get near him.

"Admittedly I've slight mixed emotions about Phelps not competing in the medley anymore because it's always great to test yourself against the very best.

"But it now gives everyone a chance."

Haffield was the world's fourth fastest 400 IM swimmer last year - therefore ranked in the top five swimmers going into the Olympics - and raced against the great Phelps in Beijing but finished seventh in his heat.

"I was ranked quite high in the world going into the Olympics so people who didn't know much about swimming thought I had a chance against Phelps in Beijing," he said.

"But I, along with everyone who knows swimming well, knew there was no chance so I felt there was quite a lot of pressure on me as the media built up me taking on Phelps.

"I enjoyed racing Phelps and to say you competed directly against one the great sportsmen of all time is something I'll always treasure.

"But as well as being my first major long-course championships, the Olympics was quite an eye-opener for me.

"It was a great experience and taught me a lot.

"I learned that I should always swim my own race as in the medley, the lead changes hand a lot depending on who is stronger in which discipline.

606: DEBATE

"So now going into the world championships, I don't feel the pressure I felt going into the Olympics."

Haffield is already the British 400m IM record holder and national champion and now believes he can compete for a final place at the world championships in Rome.

The Neath swimmer's time of 4:12.39 beat Lewis Smith into second place by almost two seconds at the national trials in Sheffield and the 2005 European junior long course bronze medallist insists he is in better shape now compared to March.

"I raced my personal best at the British trials and I was nowhere near the shape I'm in now, I was carrying a little bit of weight," he said.

"So winning in such a fast pace at the trials while not being at my best has given me a lot of confidence because in much better shape now.

"My realistic aim for the world championships is to qualify for the final and then see what happens.

"The two clear favourites will be last year's Olympic silver medallist, Hungary's Laszlo Cseh, and America's Ryan Lochte, who won bronze in Beijing.

"My hope is to swim under the 14 minutes, 10 second barrier."



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see also
Davies retains British swim title
20 Mar 09 |  Olympics
Brits disappointing in pool heats
09 Aug 08 |  Swimming
No eight golds in 2012 - Phelps
23 Jan 09 |  Olympics
Phelps wins historic eighth gold
17 Aug 08 |  Swimming
Phelps breaks Olympic gold record
13 Aug 08 |  Swimming
Phelps claims first Beijing gold
10 Aug 08 |  Swimming
Phelps opens with Olympic record
09 Aug 08 |  Swimming
Haffield ready to take on Phelps
26 Jun 08 |  Swimming
Haffield sets Commonwealth record
03 Apr 08 |  Swimming
Haffield excited by Olympics bow
06 Aug 08 |  Swimming
Swimming calendar
17 Oct 00 |  Swimming


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