The British selectors unveiled a team of 40 swimmers who will travel to China for the World Championships in July of this year, and while the bulk of the team is as expected from results at the British Championships in Manchester and the ASA Nationals in Sheffield, there was still room for a couple of surprise inclusions. Both of those came in the Women’s squad where Georgia Davies and perhaps more surprisingly Kate Haywood were given their tickets to the far east, despite neither having met the written selection criteria.
The selection of Welsh backstroker Davies for the non-olympic 50m backstroke event is almost certainly a response to the sizzling 100m backstroke time trial of 59.60 that she posted in the 200m final. Conspiracy theorists take note that had that time been in the 100m final, she would have denied Lizzie Simmonds a place in that event; Davies withdrew from that race. Having shown her capability to be competitive in the longer event (that swim would rank her 5th in the world so far this year) the opportunity to give Davies greater international experience ahead of an Olympic year was always likely to be taken. Added to that fact, she represents a credible medal hope in the 50m backstroke, where she is currently ranked 3rd.
Haywood’s inclusion is the more intriguing. She was well below par at the March trials where she lost out to Stacey Tadd in the 100m, and hasn’t met the FINA A time. Haywood has revealed via twitter that she’ll be swimming the 50m breaststroke, an event she didn’t even contest at trials, but it’s likely that her selection is as much to do with providing depth to the medley relay squad as anything else, given the fact that Olympic qualification is available in Shanghai. Having Haywood as an alternate to the much less experienced Tadd can be seen as adding strength to that squad. It also suggests Tadd will get to swim the individual 100m event, despite not making the FINA A time, as Britain can enter one swimmer with the FINA B time – something both Tadd and Haywood have achieved this season.
All that said, the presence of both Davies and Haywood in the Shanghai squad, while understandable and welcome, does rather make a mockery of the published British Swimming selection policy, under which neither could have been selected. In a similar vein it’s hard to see how Kerri-Anne Payne could be included if the letter of the policy was applied, being 7th ranked in the 200m free across both trials and champion in a non-olympic event. It seems likely, however, that Payne will be able to contest the 1500m free in Shanghai and will have a strong podium chance. While all three are justifiable selections, it’s unclear why British Swimming doesn’t simply write in an element of discretion to be used when spaces remain on a team to avoid backing themselves into corners.
Looking elsewhere the selectors have been able to fill the two available spots in most events from results across the two trials meets, but from the exceptions there are two notable cases.
The men’s 100m freestyle currently can only have one British entrant, with only Simon Burnett making the FINA A qualifying time. Grant Turner narrowly missed out in Sheffield by just 0.07s, while British Champion Adam Brown has a final chance this coming weekend to secure his individual place. Regardless of the British team’s wishes, Brown can’t swim the 100 free without that time. Secondly, only Daniel Fogg will contest the 1500m freestyle after the unfortunate withdrawal of David Davies, Richard Charlesworth being unable to meet the FINA A time when winning in Sheffield.
British National Performance director Michael Scott believes that this group is “one of the most competitive British teams ever assembled” adding that he was “very optimistic about our performances in Shanghai”
The hierarchy may have been damping down expectations at trials, but it’s clear that there are numerous medal hopes in the 40 selected swimmers as well as a great opportunity for others to gain valuable international experience ahead of one of the most important sporting years of their careers.
Selected swimmers, and their anticipated events in Shanghai, are shown below: