2016 British Olympic Trials Meet Preview

2016 British National Championships/Olympic Trials

The 2016 British National Championships, which serve as the Olympic Trials, are scheduled to take place at the Tollcross International Swimming Center April 12th – 17th with the nation’s most elite athletes racing their way to potential spots on the Rio roster. Spots for the European Championships in May will also determined based on performances during the competition.

“It’s going to be an interesting and exciting week in Scotland,” said British Swimming Head Coach Bill Furniss. “Several of the races will be very difficult to call because we have such good depth across some of the events in Great Britain – the men’s breaststroke being a great example of this.”

Furniss also says, “I’m certainly looking forward to some strong performances but from my point of view, and the athletes, the British Championships are simply a means to an end. They are just the next phase of a long and detailed preparation to perform on the day in Rio. This event is not an end itself.”

“Our Championships will be a pressure event and I believe that’s a good thing. We want our athletes to experience pressure, to handle pressure and to welcome pressure as this is a pre-requisite to success.”

Competition Notes

The schedule of events will feature three finals – a senior final targeted at the Rio Olympics and European Championships in London, a Target Tokyo Final for potential additions to the European Championship in London and a Junior Final for those looking to qualify for the European Junior Championships in Hungary.

As with the French Olympic Trials, GBR’s Rio qualification procedures aren’t as straight forward as America’s.  Strictly talking about Olympic qualification here, the GB selection policy states that the ‘first place finisher in the open final of each individual Olympic event will be selected, subject to the athlete recording a time that equals or betters the qualifying time list.’ The list is included within the GB selection policy linked with this post.

Worth noting, is that GBR’s selection criteria does carry a caveat of sorts, where as the National Performance Director and Head Coach may collaborate using rankings, described below, and other ‘considerations’ to exercise discretion in enabling additions to the roster, up to a maximum of 6 athletes.

Consideration for selection of additional athletes will be given to swimmers ranked inside or closest to (in percentage terms) times listed as ‘consideration’ marks. The procedures clearly stat that the NPD and Head Coach shall have the option of selection further athletes, but are not obliged to do so.

There is some additional language as to how things will be handled in the event of a tie, where 2 or more swimmers carry the same % difference to the ‘consideration’ standards, but the bottom line is that the qualification process is tough. Very tough.

Event Highlights

Whether you’re for or against strict qualification procedures over and above the FINA automatic qualification times, the competition will no doubt be fierce among the men and women descending upon Glasgow. Below are just a handful of the key races to watch.

Men’s 100 Breaststroke

We all remember what happened at this meet last year when now-World Champion Adam Peaty took the pool. The City of Derby swimmer crushed a shiny new World Record, throwing down an incredible 57.92 to write his name into the record books. Since then, Peaty has been ‘Mr. Consistent’ in this event, registering sub-minute marks no less than 15 times in meets scattered across the world from Berlin to Kazan to Dubai.

Peaty won in a razor-thin margin over South African rival Cameron Van der Burgh in Kazan, clocking 58.52 in finals after registering a new championship record of 58.18 in the semi-final. Taking the bronze in that race, however, is University of Stirling stand-out Ross Murdoch, who is up for the challenge of taking on Peaty, as is Murdoch’s teammate Craig Benson.

This meet will also serve as the ultimate test for Scottish swimmer Michael Jamieson, the 2012 Olympic silver medalist in the 200m breaststroke, who hasn’t found his stride since, struggling in both the 100m and 200m distances. The roaring home crowd and podium memories of 2012 may kick Jamieson’s body into gear to come out as a possible threat at Trials. We’ll know after prelims.

Women’s 200 Butterfly

Among the 43 entered swimmers, there are just 4 women who hold sub-2:10 times headed into the meet. Bath University’s Jemma Lowe leads the initial field with a time of 2:08.61, a mark she clocked just last month while competing in Edinburgh.

Also with a 2:08 time is Garioch’s Hannah Miley. Traditionally a potent 400 IM weapon for GBR, she may just surprise the field and qualify in this longer fly event. Swansea’s Alys Thomas and London Aquatics’ Aimee Willmott hold incoming times of 2:09.59 and 2:09.66, respectively, so each will also be in the mix for the final in Glasgow.

However, the hump all entrants need to get over is the monster 2:06.51 British qualifying standard for the 1st place finisher. At last summer’s World Championships both Miley and Willmott contested this event, but the furthest they proceeded was Miley’s mark of 2:09.21 for 14th overall and Willmott’s 2:10.07 for 19th overall; times that sit well off the ambitious British standard.

Men’s 200 Freestyle

All eyes will be on 20-year-old James Guy in anticipation of what his World Championship follow-up performance will entail. Guy pulled off what some would call an upset over China’s Sun Yang in taking the gold in the event in Kazan, stopping the clock at 1:45.14.

As the reigning World Champion and National Record Holder, Guy is the man to beat. Already this season he’s checked in as the world’s 6th fastest swimmer in the event since Kazan, holding a time of 1:46.60 from the World Cup in Dubai. 1:45.91 is where the British Olympic standard resides so the 1st place finisher at Trials will need to dip into sub-1:46 territory to make their Rio dream happen.

Among those ready for the challenge, however, are a pair of University of Stirling swimmers in the form of Robbie Renwick and Duncan Scott. Both men were a part of the history-making British 800m freestyle relay that won gold in Kazan. Renwick raced in the final, with a 1:45.98 split to his credit, while Scott swam a 1:48.35 as anchor in the prelims.

Women’s Distance

Jazmin Carlin will be looking to break out of the shadow from not making the London Olympic team by attempting to qualify this time around in the 200m, 400m and 800m freestyle events. She’s the top seed in each, carrying times of 1:56.88, 4:03.51 and 8:18.15, respectively.

Carlin’s latter 2 credentials already sit lower than the stiff GBR Olympic standards of 4:04.66 (400m free) and 8:22.93 (800m free). Based on the gap between Carlin and the other competitors, if all goes according to her consistent performances throughout 2015, the events are hers for the taking.

But, in the 200m freestyle event, Carlin will need to drop about a second at the very least to make a move. A pair of Sheffield swimmers are ready to give Carlin a run for the title, as Eleanor Faulker and Rebecca Turner are seeded 2nd and 3rd and will push each other to make the final. 2nd seeded Georgina Boyle is also a sub-2:00 seed, rocking a 1:59.72 for the 4th seed headed into the meet.

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About Retta Race

Retta Race

Former Masters swimmer and coach Loretta (Retta) thrives on a non-stop but productive schedule. Nowadays, that includes having just earned her MBA while working full-time in IT while owning French 75 Boutique while also providing swimming insight for BBC.

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