The 2020 British Swimming Championships were set to kick-off this week, with the meet representing the nation’s sole Olympic-qualifying competition. But, as with equivalent Olympic-qualifying meets everywhere, the prestigious affair was canceled due to the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
We now know that the Olympic Games themselves have been pushed to July 2021, giving athletes another year to prepare once they’ve come to terms with how quickly things have changed both in and out of the pool.
Before we turn towards the Olympic future, let’s first take stock of the present by reviewing the biggest storylines we had anticipated coming out of medal-contending nations had their trials taken place as scheduled. Catch up on the previous posts in the series below, then read on for the British Swimming Championships edition.
- Irish Open Swimming Championships edition
- Italian Championships edition
- Hungarian National Championships edition
- Japan Swim edition
As a refresher, the original qualifying times for the 2020 Olympic Games set by British Swimming were noticeably stiff, flashing back to when this was the case for the 2016 Olympic Games selection as well.
Most of the qualifying times for Tokyo were set 1.3-2.0% faster than the FINA ‘A’ standard, with several marks sitting inside of the British National Record in the respective event. Those included the men’s 100m free, 800m free and 200m fly, as well as the women’s 200m free, 100m breast and 100m fly.
When the announcement was brought forth by British Swimming that the Championships were indeed cancelled, the organization stated that the selection policy would be reviewed. They have since unveiled a new 2-phase qualification process, with the first phase including pre-selection for Tokyo based on performances at the 2019 World Championships in Gwangju. The 2nd phase will be the yet-to-be-finalized selection meet.
Peaty vs the Clock
Barring a false start or other disqualification, the men’s 100m breaststroke was set to be Adam Peaty‘s event to lose at the British Trials. The reigning world champion and Olympic champion held a season-best mark of 58.13 from January’s Edinburgh International, giving the Loughborough star well over a second advantage on his next-closest countryman of James Wilby.
Wilby notched a time of 59.48 at the same meet mentioned above and represents the only other British man besides Peaty to have slid under the 59-second barrier in this event over the course of their career. Wilby owns a lifetime best of 58.46 en route to World Championships silver last year. That’s an important marker to note, as the OLY-qualifying time set by British Swimming rests at 58.89.
The question for British Trials in this event would have been just how low would Peaty have gone pre-Olympics? The 25-year-old seemingly only has one speed, which is that of full throttle. So, would we have seen another 56? Or something more in the range of a 58-low to merely get the qualification job done?
We’ll have to wait another year to see just how many of Peaty’s cards he would have shown in his main event leading up to the Games.
Trio of Terror in Men’s 200 free
A mark of 1:45.46 was set by British Swimming as its ‘first-place finisher’ time standard for Tokyo in this men’s 2free race. That time in itself is something only 2 British swimmers have ever achieved. Duncan Scott owns the national record in 1:44.91 from the 2019 World Championships and James Guy has also been faster than the Tokyo standard with his 1:45.14 former national record from when he won gold at the 2015 World Championships.
Beyond Scott and Guy, only now-retired Robbie Renwick has been under the 1:46 barrier for Great Britain, representing the nation’s 3rd fastest performer of all time in 1:45.99 from 2009.
As such, we were anticipating that the immense freestyle talent domestically in this event would draw out potentially history-making performances with Olympic roster spots on the line.
19-year-old Bath athlete Tom Dean looked primed to potentially rain on one of the aforementioned’s parade, having busted out the fastest 200m free of his life just this past January. Dean hit a time of 1:46.03 at the Edinburgh International to establish himself as a bona fide contender to take a top-2 spot.
Any Woman’s 100m Breaststroke
23-year-old Molly Renshaw made it to the 2019 World Championships final in this event in Gwangju, posting a time of 1:06.96 to place 7th overall. Before that, the Loughborough ace took 200m breast bronze at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Renshaw is the only British breaststroker to have dipped under the 1:07 threshold in the past year, with the next closest competitor represented by up-and-comer Kayla Van Der Merwe of Winchester. The 16-year-old has been as quick as 1:07.06, the time it took her to claim bronze at last year’s World Junior Championships.
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor is also a potential Olympic roster spot contender as well, owning a season-best of 1:07.27 from last year’s British Championships. O’Connor is the reigning British national record holder in the short course version of this event but is talented enough to potentially do damage across several different events.
O’Connor is the reigning Olympic silver medalist in the 200m IM, but is also one of Great Britain’s top performers in the 100m free and 200m free, as well as the 100m fly.
Anderson vs Hopkin
British women’s sprint freestyle is seeing an exciting cat and mouse game between 19-year-old Freya Anderson and 23-year-old Anna Hopkin.
Both women appear among the top 5 all-time British performers in the 50m and 100m freestyle events, with Anderson ranked 5th in the former in 24.88 and 3rd in the latter in 53.31. Hopkin is ranked #2 all-time in both events, owning lifetime bests of 24.34 and 53.21, respectively.
Both women logged those marks within the last 12 months, gearing up for what would have been potentially history-making performances at the British Swimming Championships or beyond. Anderson has also been making major headway in the 200m free, clocking Britain’s 3rd fastest mark all-time this past January with 1:56.06.
The British qualifying times for Tokyo included a minimum first-place finish of 24.31 in the 50m and 53.03 in the 100m, both steep propositions for these women, but doable with Olympic spots on the line.
The real tragedy of the postponed British Swimming Championships is the fact that British Swimming announced that it would not be qualifying any additional relays for Tokyo 2020 other than the 5 relays that have pre-qualified.
The relays that have qualified for GBR for Tokyo include the men’s medley, women’s medley, mixed medley, men’s 4x100m free relay and men’s 4x200m free relay, meaning a women’s 4x100m free relay with a possible appearance by Anderson and Hopkin is off the table.