If ever there was a case that three into two doesn’t go then surely it can not have been as difficult to predict as the selection battle set to rage for the ladies’ 100m fly at the Olympic trials. The trio of Ellen Gandy, Fran Halsall and Jemma Lowe have all fired their opening salvos in the race to London, leaving all three in the world top 5, and leaving commentators scratching their heads as to who will make the team.
What makes it doubly difficult to predict is the fact any permutation of two of the three would be legitimate medal contenders.
Lowe and Gandy were Britain’s representatives in the 100m in Shanghai where both made the final. In Lowe’s case that selection was down to a phenomenal performance at the ASA nationals where she touched out favourite Halsall by just one one-hundredth of a second in 57.43 to secure her place in a result few would have predicted. Gandy and Lowe went on to reach the final in Shanghai, finishing 5th and 7th respectively although only Gandy was able to improve on her trials performance.
At that time Halsall was still making her way back from ankle surgery but has already shown this year that she will be a force to be reckoned with, recording 2012’s fastest time in the world at the British Universities Championships, in 57.67. That reclaimed the top spot from Gandy, who only hours earlier at the NSW state championships in Australia had recorded 57.78. Lowe meanwhile sits 5th in the rankings on 58.02 but has not raced since that outing in Austin at the start of the year. What’s clear is that none of them will be concerned with the Olympic QT which sits at 58.56.
Whoever makes the team will have a shot at a medal but will need a time close to, if not under, 57 seconds. As the out-and-out sprinter of the trio Halsall would appear to be best placed to achieve that, with the others also adept at the 200m event and perhaps lacking in the raw speed needed, despite possessing stronger finishes. However as we saw in 2011 any of the six possible finishing orders for the three could occur; it promises to be one of the highlights of the trials.
By comparison, the 200m event seems easier to call, with the two spots looking to be destined for Lowe and Gandy. Indeed given the selection policy in place it seems highly unlikely that Gandy would not get the nod unless injured, thanks to her world silver last year. She already heads the 2012 world rankings in 2:05.95.
Both ladies were finalists in Shanghai, Lowe being the fastest qualifier but fading to 7th having spent much of the race in the medal hunt.
The top two are a decent distance ahead of their nearest challengers but don’t write off third ranked Jess Dickons entirely. Now based at Bath ITC she rediscovered her form late in 2011, after a difficult few years, winning the World University Games title in 2:07.68 and has already beaten Gandy this year at the Victorian State Championships. She’s likely to need to drop a couple of seconds from her 2011 best but could still be a contender.