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After the buzz of watching the British girls take gold and bronze in the 400m freestyle I came crashing down to earth with slightly more than a bump as the 4x200m freestyle relay team failed to qualify for the final despite being one of the favourites.

Rebecca Adlington and Caitlin McClatchey were rested to keep them fresh for the final and Jo Jackson, Mel Marshall, Hannah Miley and Fran Halsall could only stare at the scoreboard in disbelief as they missed the top eight by a tenth of a second.

National Performance Director Michael Scott came forward and took full responsibility for the decision which in itself was refreshing. I'm not sure his predecessor, Bill Sweetenham, would have done so.

In truth it's more likely that head women's coach Ben Titley picked the team and to his credit Ben was also prepared to be interviewed, but the British Swimming press officer felt Michael was more appropriate.

If I'm honest I would probably have made a similar decision to Ben.

Continue reading "British girls pay price for relay mistake - but I'd have made it too"

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Water Cube, Beijing

After the excitement in the pool on Magic Monday, we were hoping that British swimmers could keep the momentum going and provide us with more swims to cheer about.

Whilst there were no medals to add to the collection, there was still plenty for us to smile about - and three more world records.

I've got some theories on why so many are tumbling, which I'll come onto in a bit.

But first a bit more on today. The highlight for me was the 100m backstroke final, which saw Natalie Coughlin, the 2004 Olympic Champion, retain her title and relegate the world-record holder Kirsty Coventry into silver.

An emotional Coughlin collected her medal with her lip still bleeding where she had bitten it during the race to distract her from the pain she was feeling in her legs.

Whilst I had felt that Britain's Gemma Spofforth had an outside chance of a medal in this event, she herself had other ideas...

Continue reading "Why the Water Cube is so fast - and my tip for another GB gold"

Hi, I'm Karen Pickering and I'm in Beijing working for BBC Radio 5 Live.

I competed at four Olympic Games so it's interesting to be on the other side of the fence here with the media.

There are some great races to look forward to at the Water Cube, of course Michael Phelps and his quest for eight gold medals being a highlight, but I'm also excited to see the events I had my international success at; the 200m freestyle and the 4x200m freestyle relay.

I was never fortunate enough to win an Olympic medal (editor's note: But Karen did win eight World Championships medals (four gold) and 13 Commonwealth Games titles (four gold) and was awarded the MBE for services to swimming!) - I got fifth a couple of times but I never got it right on the day.

I won 35 medals in major championships - would I swap them all for one Olympic medal? You know what, I would consider it! At the opposite end of the spectrum is someone like my fellow swimming reporter and blogger Steve Parry - he never won a Commonwealth or World title - but he did win an Olympic bronze and he will always be known for that.

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