British Swimming has released their qualifying procedures for the 2016 Summer Games, and the initial reaction has been one of shock over the difficulty.
Specifically, the organization has revealed a set of “automatic qualifying standards” that will apply only to the winner of each open final in an Olympic event at the British Championships, which will be held from April 12th-17th at the Tollcross International Swimming Centre in Scotland. Those automatic qualifying times are here:
Based on 2015 season best times from British swimmers, only a small handful will be able to hit those standards without dramatic improvement. Those swimmers are:
- James Guy – 200 free, 400 free
- Chris Walker-Hebborn – 100 back
- Adam Peaty – 100 breast, 200 breast
- Ross Murdoch – 100 breast
- Andrew Willis – 200 breast
- Fran Halsall – 50 free
- Jazz Carlin – 400 free, 800 free
- Siobhan-Marie O’Connor – 200 IM
- Hannah Miley – 200 IM, 400 IM
- Aimee Willmott – 400 IM
This would be a far cry from the 45 swimmers that Great Britain sent to the 2012 Olympic Games.
Up to 6 additional athletes may be made at the discretion of the National Performance Director and Great Britain head coach. The criteria for those 6 selections are not given in any specific detail, though all of Britain’s 2016 material has been centered upon the potential to win Olympic medals.
There is another, faster, set of time standards that British Swimming will use for further coaches’ discretionary picks after the 6 above. This time, they are more closely bound to the closest, in terms of percentage, to those times. While these are still up to the discretion of the coaching staff, outside of the 6 above, the implication is that they wouldn’t be able to the athlete 4th-closest to one of the below time standards in Table 2 than the 3rd-closest athlete.
Times swum in the finals only will be considered (unless in cases of tie).
Regarding relay selections, the winners of the 100 back, breast, fly, and free will have their times combined and compared to table 2, as will the top 4 finishers in the 100 and 200 freestyles. Those relay times will be treated like an individuals time would in the second selection step above. The selection criteria make it clear that athletes and relays more than 2% away from the Table 2 selection criteria will only be chosen in extreme circumstances. Specifically for relays, though, the coaching staff will consider splits from the World Championships if the times are more than 2% from the above-listed times.
In short, swimmers must win and be under the times in Table 1 to qualify. Aside from that, the National coaching staff will have a lot of flexibility and discretion on who, and how many, athletes to assign to the team. This leaves a big shroud of uncertainty around Olympic qualifying, which will likely lead athletes to use full tapers on the qualifying meet in order to convince the coaches of their medal potential.