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Jackson and Adlington will push each other to glory

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Steve Parry | 12:08 UK time, Monday, 27 July 2009

I used to love watching Seb Coe and Steve Ovett in the Olympic Games. No matter who you supported, their battles captured the imagination of the whole nation and inspired middle-distance athletes all over the world.

After watching our girls win two of the medals in the 400m freestyle final on Sunday night at the Foro Italico, I believe we are witnessing the emergence of a dominant aquatic duo, the like of which British swimming has never seen before.

I watched with pride and confidence last night as Rebecca Adlington produced a gutsy swim from the dreaded lane eight, a position she found herself in due to an under-par performance in the morning heats.

She showed the grit and determination which won her two golds in Beijing last year. Her time of 400.79 was nearly three seconds quicker than at the Olympics, and although frighteningly fast was only good enough for bronze.

Jackson and Adlington are good friends as well as rivals

Such is Adlington's competitive spirit that I believe had she been in the middle of the pool with the big guns, her time would have been even better and she may have made a convincing assault on the title.

It was Jackson who had the good lane placing going next to Federica Pellegrini, the Italian home favourite. The hairs stood on the back of my neck as Pellegrini was introduced to the 17,000 capacity crowd. The noise the Italians made when 'FEDE' was introduced was similar to the rapturous applause Ian Thorpe received at the Sydney Olympics.

Jackson later joked she thought the applause was for her and it got her excited to race. There is no doubt Adlington and Jackson have superior endurance and when they both turned within touching distance of the Italian with only 100m to go I believed we were going to see a repeat of the Olympic final with Adlington and Jackson flying past the Italian to take the honours.

However, the 200m world record holder has learned her lessons well and she had saved her final gear for the last lap, moving away from the Brits in emphatic fashion whilst also destroying the rest of the field.

It's hard to pick a swim of the evening for reasons I'll get onto, but until 12 months ago I did not think it would be possible for a woman to go under four minutes on a 400m freestyle. Some may think I'm exaggerating but I believe it to be an equal achievement to Roger Bannister's four-minute mile. These three swimmers have turned this event into a sprint, and in so doing have broadened the horizons of the rest of the field.

The Foro Italico played a big part in Pellegrini's victory and I believe Adlington and Jackson will push each other onto even greater things. Jo and Becky will continue to bring great success to British Swimming, and unlike Coe and Ovett these champions might just pull it off without dividing the opinion of the sporting public. Hold onto your hats for the 800m freestyle, as there is another two medals there for GB as well.

As for the other events it's hard to know where to start. Paul Biedermann erased a guy called Ian Thorpe from the record books with a world record by 1/100th of a second in the 400m freestyle. By his own admission, he said the suit helped a lot, but he has been training hard.

The 200m individual medley world record was ripped to shreds by Ariana Kukors of the USA going an astonishing 2.07.03. GB's Hannah Miley broke the British record in the same race and stands a great chance of winning a medal in the final.

The Swedish ranks have been bolstered by 15-year-old Sarah Sjostrom, who broke the100m fly world record that had been standing for nine years. She is a huge teenager and I believe she can be competitive in a number of events including 100m and 200m freestyle.

Finally, there were two more world records in the ladies 4x100m freestyle relay with Olympic champion Britta Steffen breaking her own world record with a blistering 52.22. This wasn't enough to secure them the crown as the Dutch team came home in 3.31.72, smashing the world record in the process.

Its fair to say if this is the benchmark of performances for the next week we're all in for a treat!


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