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|August 28, 2000||
British swimmers confident of medalsMitch Phillips in the Gold Coast
The near 50-strong British swimming squad arrived to join their Olympic teammates on the Gold Coast on Monday, insisting they were out to do more than merely watch Australians sweep medals.
Many of the swimmers raced in Melbourne over the weekend with encouraging results and performance director Deryk Snelling said there was a real chance of four or five medals.
"We've improved enormously over the past few years and there are some really strong medal shots in this team," he said.
"Paul Palmer is a very tough competitor, James Hickman is powerful, Stephen Parry will be up there...who knows what might happen."
"There are obviously some strong swimmers ranked in front of them but they are not worried by the statistics."
Palmer, who won silver in the 400 metres freestyle in Atlanta, faces the formidable challenge of Australian Ian Thorpe, who he followed home in the 200 metres freestyle in Melbourne on Sunday.
"Thorpe is a long way clear of the rest and an odds-on favourite but it's up to us to wrestle the gold medal away from him," said Palmer.
"It will take something special, probably a world record, but once you're in the final with a lane you have a chance."
The Briton, who plans to race the 200 metres, 400 metres and 1500 metres freestyle might take some inspiration from Atlanta when world record holder Kieren Perkins failed to qualify and pre-Games favourite Tom Dolan of the United States failed to make the final.
British butterfly hope James Hickman also faces formidable Australian opposition in the form of Michael Klim and Geoff Huegill but puts his faith in the theory that anything can happen on the day.
"It's all about racing, dealing with the pressure," he said. "Nobody's got a medal round their neck yet."
"I'm going to concentrate on my own race plan, not worry about anyone else and if I perform to my best, then who knows?"
It is a similar tale with the women where veteran Karen Pickering, former world short course champion over 200 metres freestyle, must overcome Susie O'Neill.
"Susie's definitely the person to beat but I had a good trials and know there's still some improvement there," said Pickering.
The British squad welcomed an expected announcement that EPO blood testing would be used for the first time at the Games.
Snelling said it would be "absolutely fantastic" if the new tests were in place for Sydney.
"I'm certain there are still cheats out there," he said. "It's a long, drawn-out battle but this should be the best testing ever and as far as the British team is concerned, that's great news."
Mail Sports Editor
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