UK Olympic Standards Are Beastly, Leave Lots of Room for ‘Discretion’

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:

British 2016 Olympic Standards

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.

British 2016 Olympic Standards Table 2

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.

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8 years ago

As a point of reference, these are Swimming Australia’s QTs:

50m Freestyle M: 22.02 F: 24.52
100m Freestyle M:48.49 F: 53.92
200m Freestyle M: 1:46.45 F: 1:56.95
400m Freestyle M: 3:47.19 F: 4:07.58
1500m Freestyle M: 14:57.82 800m Freestyle F: 8:26.96
100m Backstroke M: 53.39 F: 59.71
200m Backstroke M: 1:57.12 F: 2:09.16
100m Breaststroke M: 59.75 F: 1:07.11
200m Breaststroke M: 2:09.64 F: 2:23.06
100m Butterfly M:51.51 F:58.05
200m Butterfly M:1:55.75 F: 2:07.69
200 IM M:1:58.54 F:2:11.39
400 IM M:4:15.47 F:4:38.20
4 x 100m Freestyle M:3:16.26 F:3:39.14 (aggregate of fastest 4 times)
4 x 200m Freestyle M:7:11.70 F:7:55.81 ” ”
4 x 100m Medley… Read more »

8 years ago

Well based on the times of 200 im if all countries had this standard we would have 4 swimmers on the race maybe 5 with seto. Absurd times.

8 years ago

Honestly after the disappointing medal haul in London I’m not too surprised that British Swimming has raised its standards – they obviously want results and perhaps don’t see the point in bringing swimmers who, with slower times, are unlikely to win medals. It’s no great secret that British Swimming has had funding cut, however I really can’t see the benefits in having times like these. Most of these times (especially the women’s) are still unlikely to win medals. If this is an approach to get medals (and not send swimmers at all if they don’t have a chance), why not go all the way and look at the medal winning times of the World Champs we’ve just had and be… Read more »

8 years ago

Well, at least they want peaty to go for the world record again, and also when is the last time Britain had a 1:54 200 flyer, because Im pretty sure the answer is never.

Olympic dream
8 years ago

The coaches will have to plan their tapers wisely.

8 years ago

The sports funding situation HAS tightened considerably in the UK post London. As to whether that is the prime motivation for these standards is, however, debateable.

The fact is that, despite their impressive medal haul in Kazan, GBR’s talent spread is NOT particularly wide with their individual medals coming from only 6 swimmers in 5 events. Even their spread of finallists is not a great deal wider and there were a number who even failed to make semis.

Their line is probably “we are NOT going to try and send a ‘full team’ to Rio with a lot of ‘tourists’ just making up the numbers”. They also saw a significant “drop off” in performances by a number of swimmers from… Read more »

8 years ago

1:54 200 Fly!!!!!!! Unbelievable!
2:22 200 Breast!!!!!!!! Crazy.

8 years ago

This seems to be an international trend. Canada? But what’s the point? Are federations just really out of money? Or is this in some way a strategic move? If it is, seems half-baked.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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