sport

Foster: Glasgow great practice

Mark Foster believes the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow will offer GB's swimmers the perfect competition to prepare for the Olympics.

The 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow will offer Great Britain swimmers the perfect competition environment to be a springboard for the next Olympics, according to two-time former champion Mark Foster.

Siobhan-Marie O'Connor - who was the youngest member of Team GB's swimming squad in London aged just 16 - won the 200m individual medley and 200m individual freestyle at the British Championships and is part of a 39-strong England squad which also includes Fran Halsall, who won five medals at the Delhi Commonwealth Games four years and Liam Tancock, world record holder in the 50m backstroke.

Meanwhile, leading Welsh freestyler Jaz Carlin will also be among those Home Nation swimmers looking to contest medals in Glasgow.

Foster, talking ahead of the opening of the 19m Everyone Active Acton Centre, www.everyoneactive.com, believes this summer's competition can provide the platform for future success at the highest level.

"The Commonwealth Games is a great opportunity because we can enter three Scots, three Welsh, the English - that is nine people there, whereas in a major championship, we would only get two," Foster told Press Association Sport.

"So the ones who would not normally make the team will do and sometimes that experience of standing on the blocks at a major championships can flick a switch, they say 'you know what, I want more of this, I will train harder because this is where I want to see myself'.

"It will be interesting to see how people respond when they are put under pressure and we have people who can do that.

"Siobhan-Marie O'Connor will be really exciting to watch, and Elie Faulkner has a couple of races and it will be interesting to see how she gets on, Jaz Carlin has had some good results this year already and has been the one said to be taking over from Beccy (Adlington), which are really big shoes to fill.

"Fran Halsall is only 24, but has been there and done it before. She has had a new coach and with every Olympic cycle which goes by people either grow or shrink, so it will be interesting to see how she gets on.

"The on the men's side a young lad recently broke my British record Ben Proud, who is only 19 and is going to be up against some big Australians and South Africans."

Foster - who won 50m freestyle Commonwealth Games gold in 1994 and 1998, also competed at five Olympics and was world champion six times - believes this summer offers an invaluable learning opportunity.

"For some of these young guys, when they go to championships, they normally just swim the heats and might make the semi-finals," the 43-year-old said.

"Now at the Commonwealths, they will get the opportunity not to just make the semis, but they can probably get to the final, where anything can happen.

"It is all about gaining the experience and some of our guys will win medals who would not normally win a medal at a World Championships, but it is all about progression and this is a good opportunity for all of these swimmers to do that."

Everyone Active is one of the UK's largest providers of swimming lessons.

"There are so many reasons to learn to swim - first and foremost for all of us, it can save your life, and there are also the enjoyment reasons," Foster said.

"Days like this here at the Everyone Active Acton Centre show how you can do activities in the pool with your family, friends or even colleagues, it just ticks so many boxes, with people getting the social and health benefits.

"It is also the gateway to so many other sports - take triathlon, which is really on the up, a lot of people can cycle and run, but they cant actually swim, so it is important for lots of different reasons."