By Kevin Francis
KAREN PICKERING is backing British swimmers to claim a record haul in the pool at the Olympics this summer.
Pickering competed in four successive Olympics and claimed a staggering 35 major championship medals before retiring six years ago.
She is convinced that Britain can now better their haul of six swimming medals at the Beijing Olympics, which included a double gold for Rebecca Adlington.
That was the best of British since 1908 when the nation claimed four golds in a total haul of seven. Now Pickering, 40, is hoping for an even better return.
Adlington’s triumph in the 400m freestyle was GB’s first Olympic swimming gold since Adrian Moorhouse struck in the 100m breaststroke way back at the 1988 Seoul Games.
Now Pickering believes that the current crop of hopefuls are going from strength to strength and said: “I think a record haul is possible based on what they’ve done at the previous Commonwealths, Worlds and the Europeans.
“It’s certainly on the cards. But the Olympic Games is a bit of an enigma because it’s once every four years, incredible things can happen and it doesn’t always tend to go by the script.
“It’s difficult to predict just what will happen but I’m confident because we have so many athletes that have the potential, meaning if a couple of races don’t go to plan there are so many others to back that up.
“In the past, the British team has perhaps relied on one or two.
“Now, though, we have so many of our swimmers who are going to be right up there fighting to be in the top three, we will have a good meet.
“You’ve also got to take into consideration that the Olympics will be at home so that will make a difference, especially on relays.
“The USA are always strong in numbers so even if they don’t win as many golds as normal, they have amazing depth. You just have to admire the way they compete at the top.
“The Australians haven’t been quite as strong as previous years but it is a massive sport for them so they are never short of having potential.
“The French team are doing really well at the moment so they could pick up quite a lot of medals.
“The Russians are now coming through again while the Chinese are very strong.
“So, although I’m not sure where we’ll be on the medal table, I do believe we’ll have a really successful Games.
“Everything is pointing to it.”
Pickering, who represented GB at senior level for two decades, added: “There’s a real buzz about our swimming prospects right now.
“There’s so many races where we’ve got medal potential and a few where we have got two athletes capable of medals.”
Karen Pickering is a Speedo Ambassador. For information, head to www.speedo.co.uk
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