British Swimming has released their Olympic Trials Qualifying times for the first of two selection meets, which will be the 2012 British Gas Swimming Championships at the newly-built London Aquatics Centre from March 3rd-10th. The full list of qualifying times can be seen below.
The governing body of elite swimming in the UK continues to show more innovative thinking in the development of their swimming plans than their counterparts in the United States. The twist in these qualifying times is that they’ve developed different time standards for swimmers of different ages. This allows the organization to give the “Olympic Trials” experience to the younger developmental athletes without overwhelming the meet with 150 swimmers in each event. One of the big complaints of the 2008 US Olympic Trials was the lack of space anywhere – on deck, in the warmdown pools, etc. – caused by huge numbers of entries.
As of now, USA Swimming has multiple events where more than 150 swimmers have achieved the Trials qualifying mark. Given that only two (or 6 in the case of free relay events) can qualify for the Olympics in each event, the only perceived benefit of that many qualifiers is from a developmental standpoint, and I think that British Swimming has found a way to include the top-level developmental swimmers without overwhelming the main purpose of the meet.
Remember that this meet has been mandated by the Olympic Games Organizing Committee to be open to foreign athletes as an official “test event” for the Olympics.