Olympic dream ends for Pickering

IPSWICH swimmer Karen Pickering was today reflecting on her broken Olympic dreams.The 32-year-old swam the final leg as the Great Britain 4x200metres freestyle relay team finished fifth in the final at Athens.

IPSWICH swimmer Karen Pickering was today reflecting on her broken Olympic dreams.

The 32-year-old swam the final leg as the Great Britain 4x200metres freestyle relay team finished fifth in the final at Athens.

Pickering, the only Ipswich-based competitor in the games currently taking place in Greece, is unlikely to be in the GP team when the next Olympics take place in China in 2008.

An Olympic medal has always been the goal for Pickering, who has swam in four games. She has won an array of medals - gold, silver and bronze - in World Cups and Commonwealth Games.

And yesterday she had one last chance to fulfil her dreams after 16 years of international swimming.

Pickering produced a brave effort and for a while on the first two lengths of the four she had to swim she looked as though she might pull back ground on the three swimmers who dived into the pool ahead of her.

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But in the last length she visibly tired and in the end had to settle for fifth place in an event where Great Britain were serious contenders for a medal.

Pickering is likely to discuss her future with her coach David Champion and her family before making any decisions.

She said: “My focus has been so single-minded on the Olympics that I haven't really thought beyond it. But I plan to get back to Suffolk and crack straight on with World Short Course trials.

“But who knows? I can't say that I've got another four years in me to carry on to the next Olympics, because I really don't know. I might have, I might not.”

A strong American quartet won gold with a new world record. China were second and Germany third. Australia finished just ahead of Great Britain.

The British swimmers, Melanie Marshall followed by Georgina Lee, Caitlin McClatchey and then Pickering had qualified second fastest after the morning semi-final.

There are world championships next year and Pickering may well decide to defend her Commonwealth title in 2006. The 2008 Olympics look beyond her although Pickering has confounded the experts before.

If she decides to hang up her goggles and get on with the rest of her life she will no longer have to get up at 5am for training, six days a week.