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Swimming: Murdoch wins battle to deliver boost ahead of Commonwealth Games trials

There were a lot of sodden folk in Auld Reekie yesterday, but they weren't all glumly trudging around with faces like bereaved codfish.

Ross Murdoch races to victory in the men's 100m breaststroke in Edinburgh               Photograph: Steve Cox
Ross Murdoch races to victory in the men's 100m breaststroke in Edinburgh Photograph: Steve Cox

The deluge outside may have caused overwhelming misery in the capital but inside Edinburgh's Royal Commonwealth Pool, those who revel in being drookit on a regular basis were in their element.

Not all the dookers were in fine fettle at the Scottish Gas National Short Course Championships, mind you. Caitlin McClatchey, the double Commonwealth Games gold medallist, was forced to withdraw from the women's 400 metre freestyle because of illness, although she did emerge in the evening for the 4 x 50 metre relay.

By that stage, those in poolside attendance on day two of the three-day meet had been treated to some keenly-contested affairs.The men's 100m breaststroke, and the mouth-watering prospect of a showdown between Craig Benson and Ross Murdoch, had been billed as a watery version of the O K Corral as two of Scotland's brightest talents went diving in with all guns blazing.

Well, that was supposed to be the script. In the end, Scottish champion Murdoch, fresh from a triple whammy of wins in Amsterdam last weekend, blew away the rest, racing to a split of 27.47, before easing home in a time of 58.70, with Benson having to settle for fourth.

"Coming off last season's racing, I felt an immense amount of pressure," said Murdoch, after leaving his rivals treading water. "You never get an easy day at the office and with the Commonwealth trials coming up this was a great opportunity to compete with the guys that I'll be up against. In short course, there's no room for error and you have to be really on it."

Murdoch, one of the Sunday Herald's Six to Follow in the build up to the Commonwealth Games, detailed how the British Swimming chiefs have put their athletes on a monitoring system where they evaluate strengths and weaknesses with an elaborate "traffic light system".

On the evidence of last night's performance, it must be green for go as far as the impressive 19-year-old is concerned. Due to a technical hitch - no, they hadn't forgotten to fill the pool - the opening event of the evening session, the men's 1500m freestyle, was delayed and to crank up the tension, the resident DJ decided to play that nail-biting soundtrack The Birdie Song.

When the action finally started, it was City of Sheffield's Nicholas Grainger who showed his water wings. In the build-up, much of the attention had been focused on emerging Perth youngster Stephen Milne and Loughborough's Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Daniel Fogg, but it was Grainger who took command and swept to victory with a personal best of 14.44.30, some 16 seconds quicker than his qualifying entry time. Milne took third with his own PB of 14.52.12

On an eventful programme, Olympian Lizzie Simmonds picked up her second medal of the weekend when she won the women's 200m backstroke, while Edinburgh University's Kathryn Johnstone also claimed a double triumph and added the 50m breaststroke title to the 100m crown she plundered on Friday.

In a titanic tussle for the men's 200m butterfly honours, Tom Laxton just staved off his Loughborough University colleague Roberto Pavoni in what had developed into an engaging four-man fight.

Dumbarton's Rory Lamont enjoyed success in the men's 50m backstroke, but City of Glasgow's Robbie Renwick, who secured the 400m freestyle title on Friday and next weekend will be in action action at Tollcross as Europe's finest will go head-to-head with the USA in the "Duel in the Pool", could only muster a fourth-place finish over 100m.

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