Flashback to Rio As British Swimming Releases Stiff Qualifying Times For Tokyo

In September we reported the British Swimming Selection Policy for the 2020 Olympic Games coaching staff, but now it’s the athletes’ turn to get a look at what it will take to book a ticket to the big show in Tokyo.

As in 2016, the qualification times set forth by British Swimming are tough, intended to bring only the truly medal-worthy individual swimmers and relay participants to represent the nation next summer.

British Swimming 2020 Olympic Games Selection Policy

The sole official selection meet is the 2020 British Swimming Championships slated for the London Aquatics Centre April 14th – April 19th. You can catch up on our analysis of the qualifying times to even get into that meet here.

As in 2016, British Swimming has set-up a tiered approach to qualification, with the top finisher in each individual event earning a roster spot as long as he/she meets or exceeds the stiff qualification time listed in the first table below in the Open Final of the aforementioned competition.

After that, a maximum of 8 additional nominations, up from 6 in 2016, may be made at the discretion of the National Performance Director and GB Head Coach, partly based on the outcome of times achieved in Table 2 below. An athlete meeting or exceeding the time listed in Table 2 from the Open Final at the British Swimming Championships may be considered for nomination, but selection is not guaranteed. A maximum of 30 athletes may comprise the roster.

The selection process reads as fairly straightforward, that is until you take a look at the tough times required. The 1st Place Finishers time table carries times ranging from 1.3-2.0% faster than the FINA ‘A’ standard, with several marks sitting inside of the British National Record. Those specific QTs are as follows:

Men’s QTs Sitting Inside National Record:

  • Men’s 100 free QT of 47.87 = NR of 47.87
  • Men’s 800 free QT of 7:43.03 is faster than NR of 7:44.32
  • Men’s 200 fly QT of 1:54.39 is faster than NR of 1:54.58

Women’s QTs Sitting Inside National Record:

  • Women’s 200 free QT of 1:55.43 is faster than NR of 1:55.54
  • Women’s 100 breast QT of 1:06.34 = National Record
  • Women’s 100 fly QT of 57.04 is faster than NR of 57.25

Although not beating the British Record, several additional times come extremely close to that, including the men’s 200m back, whose QT is 1:55.79 with the NR sitting at 1:55.58. The same holds true for the men’s 200m IM, whose QT is 1:56..78, just .14 off of the 1:56.64 NR.

For the women, the 200m back QT of 2:06.82 is within a hair of the 2:06.66 NR, for example.

As far as relay selection goes, the following British relay squads earned automatic berths to the Olympic Games at least so far as having finished in the top 10 at this summer’s World Championships: Women’s 4x100m medley, Men’s 4x100m free, Men’s 4x200m free, Men’s 4x100m medley, Mixed Medley.

However, the British Swimming 2020 Olympic Games Selection Policy contains stipulations regarding the relays. For instance, the top 4 finishers in each of the Opoen Final of the individual 100m and 200m freestyle events at the British Swimming Championships will be ranked as a relay team with a collective time ranked against the ‘Table 2’ QT below. If the collective effort doesn’t qualify, the National Performance Director may use splits from the 2019 World Championships.


For reference, here were the British Swimming qualification times for the 2019 World Championships. In most cases the ‘1st place finisher qualifying standard’ matched the time held by the 5th-7th position within the world rankings, depending on the event.

For the ‘consideration times’, the female events were aligned with the 11th-13th position within the world rankings, depending on the event, whereas the men’s fell anywhere from 1oth to 24th based on the event.

Of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games qualification times, National Performance Director Chris Spice states,“We are now into the home straight as we head towards another Olympic Games and whilst we are in a good place, there is still much work to be done. The World Championships in July saw us win a number of medals, with some of our emerging talent stepping up and performing well on the big stage. We need to keep this momentum going throughout the next 10 months, with the 2020 British Swimming Championships the key stepping stone along the way.

“As usual our selection policy is geared around winning medals when it matters most, with qualifying times reflecting the level of global swimming at present. Winning medals at Tokyo 2020 will be much harder than this year’s World’s, but we’ll be doing everything we can to ensure our swimmers are as ready as they can be. Already we have seen an ‘Olympic-shift’ in our major centres as we narrow our focus this year, which is a great sign. The minute you stand still is the minute you will be overtaken, so we are looking forward to working with our key coaches and support staff in finding those small margins that may be so crucial in Tokyo.  And, of course, we will be working hard to ensure our athletes and staff can enjoy the journey together – it will be an exciting ten months ahead. ”

Great Britain finished 6th in the overall swimming medal table at the 2016 Olympic Games, a finish representing their best in decades. The nation collected a total of 6 medals, including 1 gold, courtesy of Adam Peaty‘s then-World Record-setting 100m breaststroke victory.

Additional individual medals came from now-retired Jazz Carlin who took silver in both the women’s 400m and 800m free, while Siobhan-Marie O’Connor claimed silver in the 200m IM event.

In This Story

Leave a Reply

Notify of
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
1 year ago

These ridiculously fast automatic qualification times have always been about keeping the coaches in control of who goes to stroke their egos. Anything faster than FINA A times is just folly.

1 year ago

is there any benefit for a highly competitive nation swimming-wise like GB to not have a full team? (assuming they would have potential qualifiers in every event)

1 year ago

Absurd, but an effective way to engineer who ends up on the team, so BS will continue this tactic.

People I think have a realistic chance of getting the 1st place selection times.

50 free – Proud & Hopkin
100 free – Scott, Anderson & Hopkin
200 free – Scott & Guy
400 free – None
800 free – None
1500 free – Jervis
100 back – None
200 back – Greenbank & Williams
100 breast – Peaty, Wilby, Van Der Merwe
200 breast – Wilby
100 fly – Guy
200 fly – Thomas
200 im – O’Connor, Litchfield, Scott
400 im – Litchfield, Willmott… Read more »

Reply to  Dee
1 year ago

I think Greenbank has a chance to dip under 53.50 in the 1 back

The Unoriginal Tim
Reply to  DBSwims
1 year ago

Probably, but in theory he needs to do 52.9 to qualify on his own “merit”. Obviously with the medley relay being important he knows he just has to win the 100 to get in but people swimming non-relay events whose face doesn’t fit better be preparing to get the shaft again.

Reply to  Dee
1 year ago

Charlotte Atkinson has been inside the 200 Fly time and provided she can come back from being passed over for Worlds (unfairly in my opinion) then think she could put herself on the plane along with Thomas. Would also give options for Female & Mixed Medley relay as not much in their 100 PBs.

About Retta Race

Retta Race

After 16 years at a Fortune 1000 financial company, long-time swimmer Retta Race decided to change lanes and pursue her sporting passion. She currently is Coach for the Northern KY Swordfish Masters, a team she started up in December 2013, while also offering private coaching. Retta is also an MBA …

Read More »