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Romford-born Roberto Pavoni likes to use a quote he spotted at a gym in Singapore for extra motivation.

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“Don’t lose hope, for when darkness falls, the stars come out” it reads – and the biggest star in swimming came out for Pavoni’s Olympic debut.

The 21-year-old from Brentwood, a former pupil at St Helens Primary and St Martin’s in Hutton, was drawn in heat four of the men’s 400m individual medley at the Aquatics Centre this morning, alongside defending Olympic champion and world record holder Michael Phelps.

Another realistic medal hope, Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh, separated Pavoni from American Phelps, the 14-time Olympic champion who is chasing his third successive gold in this particular event.

Phelps’ battle with countryman Ryan Lochte is one of the most hotly anticipated in the pool. But first came the qualifiers, with Pavoni drawn in lane six, two down from Phelps in four.

The three-time British champion – who had stated his Olympic aim was to reach the final of this event – made a solid enough start on the opening butterfly leg, reaching the first turn in fifth place after 18 rotations of his arms.

Pavoni, coached at Loughborough University by Kevin Renshaw, was still fifth heading into the backstroke, but had slipped down one place by the midway mark of the race, before an excellent first breaststroke leg saw him claw his way back up to fourth.

After a further 21 strokes on that particular discipline, Pavoni went into the freestyle leg in fifth place once again, but he produced a stirring burst in the final few metres, cheered by the home fans, to touch in fourth in 4mins 15.56secs.

Phelps pipped Cseh to win in 4:13.33, but that was only just good enough for the eighth and final qualifying spot for this evening’s medal race, highlighting the strength in depth in this field.

Pavoni, meanwhile, was ranked an unlucky 13th and will return for the 200m butterfly on Monday, hoping to extend his Olympic experience a little further next time.

Bromley-born Ellen Gandy followed Pavoni into the Olympic pool in the women’s 100m butterfly, where a total of 42 swimmers were chasing 16 semi-final places.

The former Langley Park Girls School pupil was spotted by former British Swimming chief Bill Sweetenham aged 13 and moved to Australia in 2007 after her dad gained employment in Melbourne.

After a hugely successful junior career, Gandy has won three British titles over 100m and is in her second Olympics, having competed at the Beijing Games in her favoured 200m event.

Gandy, who turns 21 next month, finished 15th in China, but won World Championship silver last year, after a Commonwealth Games silver in the shorter race.

And she did enough to secure her progression today, producing a strong second 50m after turning in third place, to snatch second place behind Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom.

Gandy’s time of 58.25secs was the ninth fastest, just two-hundredths of a second behind her Team GB teammate Francesca Halsall.

American Dana Vollmer was the fastest of all, clocking a new Olympic record of 56.25 and all 16 will be back this evening to fight for a place in tomorrow’s final, with Gandy also chasing 200m butterfly glory on Tuesday.

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