Don hails amazing Karen

COMMONWEALTH GAMES: As Ipswich star Karen Pickering swam to victory in last night's thrilling event, the 30-year-old gold-medallist was watched by her many supporters all over Suffolk – not least by those at her home club Crown Pools.

By Debbie Watson

COMMONWEALTH GAMES

AS IPSWICH star Karen Pickering swam to victory in last night's thrilling event, the 30-year-old gold-medallist was watched by her many supporters all over Suffolk – not least by those at her home club Crown Pools.

Crowding round a pocket television on pool-side, parents and coaches watched the event unfold during a routine training session.

Cheers rang out at the centre shortly after 7pm when the spectacular triumph was confirmed by Karen's impressive finishing sprint.

The achievements of the Suffolk star have always been respected and admired by her peers at the Ipswich home club, and by the hundreds of swimmers for whom she has become a sporting idol.

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Today senior members of the county's swimming world spoke highly of Karen's success, adding that she is likely to receive an honour from the county for last night's triumph.

"It really was an amazing performance," said honorary secretary for Suffolk County ASA, Don Neate.

"She gives everything to her racing and that was certainly in evidence last night. Suffolk is extremely proud of her for this, and we'll make sure she knows it."

He added: "I'll be writing a letter of congratulations to her for her to receive on her return, and I'm sure that when we have our county meeting in September we'll be proposing ways in which we can honour her properly."

Don believes Karen's achievement is particularly remarkable given her age.

At 30, it had been expected that she would be due for retirement from her career in swimming. However, last night's win certainly defied the critics.

"Not many years ago we looked upon swimmers as being beyond their best at just 21 or 22," said Don.

"Karen has pushed that age further and further, and she's still producing the most impressive times. It's a real inspiration to other swimmers."

Always considered as a great idol for swimmers at club level in Suffolk, Karen has spent a lot of time talking to sporting youngsters in recent times.

"She has been doing a lot of work locally with swimmers, and she's been representing Active Sport in Suffolk," commented Don.

"She's always terrific with the youngsters and puts her heart and soul into offering them advice and encouragement.

"It's great to watch her like that and to realise someone at her level is so willing to inject enthusiasm back into the young people."

Karen has an outstanding record in the 200m Freestyle in particular.

One of her greatest sporting moment belongs to that event in 1993 when she became the first British woman to win a World swimming title.

Her achievement in the pool last night was part of a spectacular day for the England swimmers.

Zoe Baker added to the evening by breaking the women's 50m Breaststroke World Record, while Steve Parry took the silver in the 200m Butterfly final and James Hickman took the bronze.

Today Karen is continuing a bid for Commonwealth glory in the 100m Freestyle.

She swims the heat this morning and her semi-final tonight.