Karen grabs games place

SWIMMING: Ipswich swimming star Karen Pickering has effectively sealed her place in the line-up for Britain's Commonwealth Games team. In a sensational performance on the first day of the British Long Course Championships, the 30-year-old produced a glorious triumph in the 200 metre freestyle final.

By Debbie Watson

IPSWICH swimming star Karen Pickering has effectively sealed her place in the line-up for Britain's Commonwealth Games team.

In a sensational performance on the first day of the British Long Course Championships, the 30-year-old

produced a glorious triumph in the 200 metre freestyle final.

Racing at Manchester in an event which doubles up as the Commonwealth trials, Pickering again confirmed her superior talent in the pool, stealing victory in the closing stages of the dramatic event.

The impressive performance, which narrowly missed Pickering's personal best for the event, is now essentially all it takes to confirm her part in this summer's Commonwealth Games.

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Pickering said today: "I'm absolutely ecstatic. Basically I've done all that is required of me to make the team for the Games, and it's just a matter of ratification.

"The criterion is essentially to win the race or make the qualifying time to get your place – I've done both already, so all being well, I'm on my way.

She added: "It feels good to have secured that result so early in the event, even though my work isn't completely over here yet. The celebrations are on hold for a while longer."

Pickering – originally from Brighton – and coach Dave Champion, were both thrilled with her performance in yesterday's final.

In a time of 1.59.94, it fell just three tenths below her personal best and came only hours after a win in the morning heat.

Pickering added: "I had hoped I would swim it slightly faster and break my time, but I'm still really pleased with the swim, and I know that I can go even faster.

"The last part of the race was clearly what clinched the win for me. I was second with 50 to go, but I was

swimming my own race and knew I had the strength to get it."

Having concentrated on the Commonwealth Games goal for so long, Pickering had been reasonably confident of her chances.

"I've been swimming well and felt really focused so I knew it was possible. I just couldn't take anything for granted," she said.

"However confident you feel, you can't take your mind off the goal – but it feels like I've done what I needed to."

The biggest surprise of the final was the absence of British record holder, Nicola Jackson, who had failed to qualify – proof that even the most talented swimmers can fall short of their best on the day.

Pickering, who has already taken part in three Commonwealth Games, was today continuing her British Championship agenda in the 100 metre freestyle. The Suffolk star is still well known as the former Commonwealth champion in that event.

The British team is expected to be officially announced on Monday.

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