The British Olympic team put their best foot forward today at national championships, even before they took the plunge in Liverpool's new 50m pool at Wavertree: the team bonding exercise, led by retired Olympic bronze medallist Stephen Parry, tested the team's ballroom-dancing skills.
I'm not at liberty to tell you how many left-feet there were in the room or why David Davies's partner looked particularly well-built and wasn't wearing a frock. It was fun but suffice it to say that, mercifully, everybody looked a fair bit smoother in the water in evening heats.
Davies progressed at the helm of the 400m free in 3:52.16, with David Carry on 3:52.47. Joanne Jackson was way ahead in the heats of the 200m free, on 1:58.93, followed by a 2:00.82 from Olympic champion Camelia Potec (ROU), visiting the home town of The Beatles with French coach Philippe Lucas. Potec was back later in the 1,500m freestyle, winning a heat-declared winner in 16mins 12.30, a best time by almost 12secs. That previous best was set in February this year. In 2004, when she became Olympic champion in the 200m, her best was 16:41.30. Lucas looked on and smiled: as Potec takes on his former charge, Laure Manaudou, among others, in the 400m freestyle in Beijing, watch for more surprises. The 800m will be interesting too.
Hannah Miley swam into tomorrow morning's final of the 200m freestyle and then clocked a 2:14.03 heat in the 200m medley.
Jemma Lowe led Alena Popchanka (FRA and Edinburgh) in the 100m butterfly, 59.33 to 59.98, Chris Cook looked sharp as he led qualifiers in the 50m breaststroke, on 28.62, and Georgia Davies was ahead in the 50m backstroke on 29.19.
Simon Burnett had a terrible trials back in April and is heading to Beijing as a relay swimmer. Pity. In heats of the 50m freestyle, he clocked a smooth 22.54 before France's Fabien Gilot swam 22.52, with Jonathon Newton, visiting Aussie from the New South Wales Institute of Sport, third through in 22.89. Backstroke ace Liam Tancock continued to play his best cards close to his chest, racing outside his specialist target, with a 23.08 50m freestyle, and avoiding the 100m backstroke. Lane four of that final will be occupied by Marco Loughran, on 55.84 in heats. Michael Rock led the 200m 'fly in 2:00.48.
Kirsty Balfour led the way in the 200m breaststroke heats in 2:31.76. Her coach Fred Vergnoux, Popchanka's husband, will leave for Racing Club de France in Paris after the Beijing Games in September. Watch for good results to emerge from there.
Michael Scott, head of performance in Britain, called on his charges to assess what they had done between trials and the eve of leaving for the Olympic holding camp in Osaka. 'There are 30 days to go before the start of swimming,' he told the team. 'This is the time when you need to look at every aspect of what you're doing ... and work out strategies for coping with anything that comes [your way] so that you keep your focus in all circumstances.'