The women’s backstroke events are to of the most intriguing to take place at trials, mainly because they seem to be the ones in which the established order will be challenged the strongest – particularly in the 200m event. Clearly there are favourites but the outcome is far from certain.
In the 100m event, the 2012 rankings are led by Swansea’s Georgia Davies who posted 1:00.75 in Austin early in the year. She is just ahead of Lizzie Simmonds who was Britain’s number 1 in 2011. All indications are that these two will head the charge for Olympic spots, being the only swimmers under 60 seconds last year, but it’s impossible to count out World Record holder Gemma Spofforth from the selection battle.
Spofforth has not been seen competitively very much in 2012, indeed she has not swum a ranked 100m backstroke long course all year and is limited to a 200m backstroke in heavy training in Austin, it’s impossible for onlookers to predict how her form will hold up following her much publicised motivational troubles in Shanghai. If her mind is right however, Spofforth is a formidable competitor and would be expected to make the team – she certainly has the talent and the experience.
Behind those three sit Loughborough’s Rachel Lefley and two exciting youngsters in the shape of Lauren Quigley and Jessica Fullalove. All three have set untapered personal bests this year and any one could take the next step at trials, although they would need to drop their times by a further second to get close to the British qualifying standard of 1:00.33. Any slip ups by the established big three could open the door for one of these swimmers to make their full international debut.
For a wildcard chance the prospect of 2003 world 200m champion Katy Sexton making an international return would capture the imagination. Sexton has been back training and focussing on these trials but has had several years in the wilderness – indeed she hasn’t swum under 1:02 since 2009 – but there’s always an outside chance for a swimmer of her pedigree; after all she is still ranked 4th all time for Great Britain in the event. Sexton has some unfinished business after her Olympic disappointment in 2004, and it would certainly be some story if she were able to force her way into the team.
In the 200m event it’s not the veterans but the exciting youngsters who are making the event interesting. Specifically the form of Georgia Hohmann so far in 2012 has made people take notice as the young Nova swimmer recorded a lifetime best by 1.5 seconds in Flanders earlier this year and sits second in the GB rankings with 2:09.71 – well under the FINA A qualifying time. Simmonds heads those rankings with a very impressive 2:07.92 and would appear to be nailed on to retain her place and perhaps make amends for her illness hampered showing in Shanghai, but behind her the race is very close.
Hohmann leads the chasing pack, while Davies has shown she might challenge over 200m despite being better known as a sprinter, with a time of 2:11.10 in Austin. Lefley and Quigley look a bit off the pace in the longer event, but Karley Mann could be a challenger and the incumbent in the team Stephanie Proud, who joined Simmonds in Shanghai will also be in the hunt. We’ve not seen much from her in 2012 but she has proven she is capable of meeting the selection times.
It promises to be an intriguing battle over four laps of the Olympic pool; it’s certainly one of the most likely events to throw up a new face in the GB squad, but whoever does qualify will need to be swimming around the 2:06 mark to challenge for the podium. So far this year only Simmonds has shown that quality but the selection door that remains ajar behind her offers ample incentive for another swimmer to make the step up to that level.