relay torture for british quartet

The fifth night of finals produced the nearest of misses for the British team as the Women’s 4x200m freestyle relay finished fourth in their final, having held the bronze medal position for much of the race. There was little else to cheer for the British team either, as both Gregor Tait and James Goddard failed to progress from the semi finals of the 200m backstroke.
The relay squad had been favoured as a strong medal chance leading into these championships following a string of encouraging performances over the 200m freestyle distance in previous meets. However, the team was forced into a late change following a disappointing heat swim from Julia Beckett who could only manage a split of 2:03.48 in the morning. When Melanie Marshall was drafted back into the final team it was her Loughborough teammate, only in Montreal as part of this relay squad, who missed out, with Rebecca Cooke, Marshall’s deputy in the morning, retaining her place alongside Caitlin McClatchey and Jo Jackson. What was surprising however, was Cooke’s position on the anchor leg of the team, as the management decided to lead off with their fastest swimmers.
That strategy appeared to be paying dividends for much of the race; after a solid opening leg from Marshall which placed the team in 4th position, McClatchey produced a superb second leg of 1:58.26 to put the team firmly into third position ahead of the chasing Chinese foursome. That position was consolidated by another sub two-minute swim from Jackson, who posted 1:59.16 as she opened up a 3-second advantage over China at the final changeover. Unfortunately Cooke, better known as an 800 and 1500m swimmer, was unable to live with the pace of China’s Yu Yang on the anchor leg and was pushed back into fourth place as the British team came home in 7:59.04, just outside the British record. Worryingly for Cooke her finals split of 2:02.15 was almost a second slower than that she had recorded leading off the team in the morning.
Meanwhile in the middle of the pool, the USA team finally got the better of the Australian quartet, but not before Libby Lenton had set the 4th fastest all-time performance of 1:57.05 on the lead off leg. The time would have won the individual event by over 1.5 seconds and was a new Commonwealth Record.
Elsewhere, the backstroke duo of Goddard and Tait had both struggled in the heats but qualified for outside lanes in the semi-finals. Both were able to improve their times from the morning, but neither was in the kind of form they had shown last year and both failed to progress to tomorrow’s final. Tait was agonisingly close, finishing as he did in 9th place overall, just 0.06s away from the last finals spot in 1:58.97. Goddard’s time of 1:59.16 was only good enough for 11th place.