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Swimming - 22. March 2008.


A new quartet of Jo Jackson, Mel Marshall, Ellen Gandy and Caitlin McClatchey took nearly five seconds off Britain's previous best time, set in Melbourne last year, and came so close to overhauling eventual winners France in the process.

The French team of Manaudou, Balmy, Lazare and Popchanka touched in 7:52.09, Britain were close second in 7:52.36 and Italians Carpenese, Pellegrini, Filippi and Spagnolo took the bronze in 7:55.69.

Anchoring for Britain, McClatchey was down to fourth at one stage but produced the fastest ever split by a British athlete, 1:56.19, to haul in the field and nearly steal the gold at the touch.

But McClatchey wasn't alone with her impressive time, Jackson lead off in 1:59.10, Marshall followed in 1:57.81 and Gandy went 1:59.26. All will be aiming to go even quicker at the British Championships in 10 days' time as they compete, rested, for Olympic qualification.

"We're all so proud of what we've achieved," said Jackson. "We're still in training but we all went out there to do our best and we did a fantastic job to take the silver in such a fast time.

"That was something special and I'm so happy to have played my part. You never want to let the team down and we all delivered tonight."

McClatchey's time came as a shock to the Loughborough swimmer.

"We worked very hard and put ourselves right up there on the podium. Sometimes we haven't fulfilled our potential but we certainly did that today," said McClatchey.

"I tried so hard to claw back at the French and it nearly paid off but that's a great place to be at this stage of the season while we're not properly rested to race."

Day four in Eindhoven also saw European Champion Kirsty Balfour ease into the final of the Women's 200m Breaststroke with a confident semi-final performance despite the fact the City of Edinburgh swimmer isn't fully race prepared. She qualified fourth fastest in a time of 2:27.90.

With the British Championships beginning on 31st March in Sheffield, Balfour's priority at this stage in the season is to try to add the 100m event to her Olympic programme and will be looking to be at her best in another week's time.

City of Cardiff swimmer Dave Davies goes second fastest into tomorrow night's final of the Men's 1500m Freestyle after he swam 15:18.02 in the morning heats.

The LEN European Swimming Championships take place in Eindhoven, Holland from 18 to 24 March 2008. The British squad comprises:

Hannah Askew (Maxwell)
Kirsty Balfour (City of Edinburgh)
Lauren Collins (City of Birmingham)
Ellen Gandy (Beckenham)
Fransesca Halsall (City of Liverpool)
Kate Haywood (Loughborough University)
Joanne Jackson (Derwentside)
Jemma Lowe (Stockton SC)
Melanie Marshall (Loughborough University)
Caitlin McClatchey (Loughborough University)
Elizabeth Simmonds (Lincoln Vulcans)
Jenna Turner (Ealing )
Rebecca Turner (City of Sheffield)
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