“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” say the French. “The more it changes, the more it’s the same thing”. (Well in swimming at the moment they’re saying something else, if this book is anything to go by, but that’s a different story).
Back in 2003, we wrote about difficulties in picking a team for the World Championships, following a trials process and policy that left the squad much smaller than expected. Sound familiar? In that instance the selectors surprised us all but picking a much larger team than expected and finding ways to get some of the most promising swimmers on the plane to Barcelona. Undoubtedly similar conversations have been had by the selectors this year as they seek to finalise the team they will take to Russia for this year’s world championships.
There are eight swimmers guaranteed to go, being Adam Peaty, Jazz Carlin, Hannah Miley, Roberto Pavoni, Chris Walker-Hebborn, Siobhan-Marie O’Connor, Lizzie Simmonds and James Guy.
Beyond that we’re into the percentages game and selectorial whim. It seems unthinkable that Ross Murdoch won’t get picked given his run at the 100m breaststroke behind Peaty’s world record, and if the policy is applied directly as written then we should expect to see him joined by another five swimmers. Andrew Willis, Aimee Willmott, Nick Grainger, Francesca Halsall and Stephen Milne were the top ranked swimmers inside the 2% cut off mooted for selection.
But then there is the relay complication. The big unknown in all this is whether Bill Furniss wants to take the full complement of relays, given that qualification for Rio is available in Kazan, or if he intends only to select those he thinks can win medals. All six quartets were within 2% of the consideration times given in the selection policy so all can justifiably be taken. But if medals are the criteria applied then selection is likely to prioritise the two medley and 4×200 squads, with the 4×100 freestyle teams left behind this time. How would that affect Olympic qualification? Well that again depends on how serious British Swimming are about taking a full complement to Rio. 12 spaces are allocated this year and the remaining 4 are made up from teams who post the next 4 fastest times. A home European Championships in London next spring would be an ideal opportunity to post one of those if the teams are not qualified in 2015.
Let’s assume that all relays are selected, adding another potential 10 names to the team. We’re then left with up to 6 discretionary picks, if the maximum team size of 30 is taken; fewer if the team is smaller as has been reported in some quarters. It would seem churlish not to select Dan Wallace, whose 400IM is the only individual swim under 2% not otherwise picked (Robbie Renwick also achieved that distinction, but makes it in as part of the relay contingent), which could mean 5 additional wild cards.
Who these could go to is not clear. Does Adam Barrett get a look in based on his potential in the medley relay despite only being 3rd in London? Might Molly Renshaw get a reprieve in the 200m breaststroke or might some up and coming talent get a chance to gain some valuable international experience? Perhaps Katie Matts or Sarah Vasey, who were both runners up at trials, in the breaststroke events?
Without knowing the selectors’ priorities we can’t hope to second guess how these will go but there are some intriguing questions to be answered when the team is revealed on 24th April.