There was plenty to reflect on and admire from the British Olympic Trials in Sheffield and the performances at the World Short Course Championships in Manchester.

British records, Commonwealth records, a few European ones sprinkled in for good measure, and the World Long Course record of Liam Tancock (pictured below) in the 50 metres backstroke.

Don't, however, get the impression that Britain has become a swimming superpower. There is still a long way to go before we can be bracketed alongside the USA and the Australians. Inexorable progress is being made on that front and, bit by bit, we are closing in on the top nations in Europe, which is a big step in itself.


After a better than expected Olympic trials, all the talk among journalists and spectators alike was how Team GB would fare in Beijing.

Note the swimmers and coaches, and notably the new National Performance Director, Michael Scott, were not keen to crystal ball gaze. We've been down that road before, notably before Athens, when five was the target figure and the squad fell well short of that with two bronzes.

This time around there is a different feel about the almost 40-strong line-up. Sure, not everyone will perform to their optimum, that is too much to hope for, but I believe a large percentage of them will, and because of that more appearances in finals will follow.

Whether they convert top-eight places into top-three medals is one of the great imponderables, and events at the new "Water Cube" from 9-16 August will provide the answers.

In my heart of hearts, I don't think five medals is an outlandish expectation, but I may have to reappraise that after the American trials have taken place in late June.

This is a phrase you will hear me use a lot over the next three or so months - we are producing racers and not just swimmers. Competitors whose knees don't turn to jelly on the blocks when they are placed alongside the sport's more illustrious names. If anything it galvanises them to race with the best, and invariably produces fast times for the swimmer concerned.

I know there is a steely determination amongst people such as David Davies, Tancock, Hannah Miley, and now Rebecca Adlington, who want to be the very best and are not content to settle for second best.

And they are not the only four. I could mention Ross Davenport, Fran Halsall and so many more. Exciting, isn't it? I think is really is, and that they are changing the British mindset where to just compete is good enough.

These people want to be high achievers, and with the infrastructure in place now for them to do just that, we're on course for more special things happening in British swimming, but it won't all come to fruition in Beijing.

Bob Ballard is a BBC reporter and commentator focusing on swimming and diving. Our FAQs should answer any questions you have. If they don't, you can contact us.


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