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Stephen Parry's performance could yet be the restorer of performance director Bill Sweetenham's dented reputation, writes Pat Butcher.

The Australian's tough-love regime for British swimmers has been much lauded since he was installed after the embarrassment of no medals, for the first time in Olympic history, in Sydney four years ago. But after promising much, both by his charges' results in the intervening years and by his forecasts for Athens, Sweetenham may have set himself up for a fall.

In fairness, he has already achieved his initial goal here, of having more finalists than in Sydney. But when there are spectacular failures, like that of Melanie Marshall, it is a reminder that, ultimately, medals count. Marshall was one of the favourites for the 200m freestyle title after setting the world's leading time this year. But in her semi-final on Monday she began like a torpedo and ended like the target, blowing up and finishing four seconds outside her best time.

Her brief post-race appraisal, ending with a plaintive "it's embarrassing", could equally apply to Sweetenham and other of her team-mates. For there were equally disappointing performances in the men's 100m breaststroke final from James Gibson and Darren Mew, who finished sixth and seventh, and Adrian Turner and Joanne Jackson failed to progress beyond their heats when they were half a dozen seconds outside their best in their 400m medley and freestyle events. Only Sarah Price had a reasonable excuse in the 100m backstroke, having cut her foot in the warm-up pool on an underwater television track, while Ian Edmond was disqualified in the 200m breaststroke semi-final.

Many of these results suggest that the best performances have been left submerged in the training pool, with swimmers either over-worked there or given the wrong race tactics.

Dave Richards, a spokesman for Team GB, said: "It is disappointing, particularly in the women's 200m freestyle and the men's 100m breaststroke where we thought we had real chances. We need to look at our preparation, and what might have gone wrong. But the team remains positive, there's still a lot of swimmming to be done, and we want to build on Parry’s result and ride that wave."

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