It all appeared to be going so well for British Swimming in Sheffield. The decision to hold second trials, with the aim of maximising the number of selected swimmers, was vindicated with 9 of the 14 vacant places left over from the main Olympic Trials in March taken up. Five of these went to swimmers who did not swim the FINA A qualifying time at the first chance, and would therefore not be going to the games otherwise. There was also some impressive swimming to reinforce home nation hopes heading into the Games.
Of the 5 places that remained unfilled, 4 were in the men’s sprint freestyle as widely expected, but it’s the 5th vacant place, in the women’s 200m breaststroke, that has caused a sense of disgruntlement amongst coaches and observers of British Swimming alike.
That slot remains unfilled as 16-year-old Molly Renshaw from Derventio Excel failed to swim the FINA A time of 2:26.89 in Sheffield, ending her selection hopes. This is despite her having recorded a time of 2:26.81 in March, which would have seen her selected had she not been pipped to first place by Stacey Tadd. However, for reasons that are not clear, the selection policy disregards swims at trials unless a swimmer is already selected and that was the end of Renshaw’s Olympic campaign.
In a non-Olympic year, it’s altogether possible that British Swimming would simply have ignored the written policy and selected Renshaw anyway, but that’s not an option this year. For while the governing body nominates swimmers for selection, it is the BOA that is the final arbiter, and they have already ratified the selection policy. As we have learnt from the debacle at British Taewkondo, the BOA will only really seek to ensure that the policy has been applied as written, and are likely therefore to take a dim view on wildcard selections, however deserving.
There is no suggestion that British Swimming has acted incorrectly or against the terms of its published selection policy, meaning an appeal along the lines of those submitted by diver Tonia Couch or Paralympic Swimmer Dave Roberts is not possible. But there remains a sense of injustice that Renshaw will be sitting out a home Olympics.
It’s likely to be made all the more galling by the news, expected to be confirmed in due course, that Adam Brown will be offered a chance to swim the 50m freestyle despite missing the required qualifying time at both sets of trials. Brown is selected for the men’s 4 x 100m freestyle relay and swam the FINA A time at the Shanghai world championships last year, an event that fell within the FINA qualifying window. The policy therefore gives the head coach discretion to offer him that swim:
Entries in unfilled events may be offered to selected athletes if the GB Head Coach considers participation in these events will not detract from the swimmer’s performance in their primary event(s) and on condition they have met the minimum FINA qualifying standards
Speaking to the BBC, Renshaw’s coach Andi Manley was resigned to the fact that she would miss out, but failed to see the logic behind the policy. “It doesn’t make sense” he said. “I guess that’s because I have been affected by it. But in our case it has worked out horribly.”
Renshaw now heads instead to the European Junior Championships where she will attempt to prove the selectors wrong. Or as Manley put it “stick two fingers up to them.”