Relays the big question for Britain in Budapest

Britain’s swimmers begin their European Championships campaign in Budapest this week in a sort of grey area. For the 28 swimmers already nominated for the Olympic Games, this is a staging post to the main event, a meet to swim through and hone racing skills, while not being overly concerned at the outcomes. The Europeans in Olympic year are ever thus; recall if you will James Guy stepping onto the blocks for the 400 freestyle heats at London 2016 clad in a pair of training briefs.

There will probably be a more serious approach this week, but there are nonetheless some big questions to be settled this week in Hungary.

What of the Women’s sprint relays?

Neither the Women’s 4×100 or 4×200 freestyle teams are qualified as yet for the Olympics. The 4×1 has no ranked time and no place, while the longer relay has a wild card spot at present courtesy of the 2019 European Juniors squad, but that remains in danger until the final teams qualified are confirmed at the end of May.

That means both squads need to post decent times this week if they are to convince Bill Furniss and Chris Spice to take them to Tokyo and the selection certainly suggests that the door is at least ajar for them to do so.

For the 4×1 Lucy Hope, Evie Davis and Emma Russell joining the already qualified Freya Anderson and Anna Hopkin in the mix. The inclusion of Russell who was 5th at Trials suggests that Hopkin or Anderson will sit out the heats and should a final berth be secured by the remaining 4, they will drop in for the evening.

The 4×200 free is likely to be made up from Anderson, Abbie Wood and Hope joined by Tamryn Van Selm and Holly Hibbott. That suggests another plan to rest someone for the heats, but a quartet drawn form that pool should be well capable of securing a final spot and the wild card spot that’s needed.

What’s less clear is how the selection policy will apply to those teams. Neither qualified of right in London and there is no new provision for the later selection of teams in the document – after all you can’t get 4 swims in the final to add together. Hopefully common sense prevails and if the two squads can beat the consideration time they will get the nod. That certainly looks feasible as the combined times missed only by 0.13 and 0.29s.

Can anyone else add themselves to the Olympic equation?

The team includes several of those who narrowly missed getting themselves a flight to Japan at the first time of asking and who will want to get a time secured now rather than having to wait until Glasgow in June.

Alys Thomas has her 200 fly place, but three swimmers will be vying to join her on the plane to Tokyo Pic: pullbuoy/Simone Castrovillari

Laura Stephens need only find 0.06 seconds in the 100 fly, while she along with Emily Large and Keanna MacInnes will all be eyeing up the 200 fly consideration time of 2:08.32 and a chance to join Alys Thomas in Tokyo. Only two of that foursome can make it through the heats so the morning swim could be crucial.

As well as the relay, Holly Hibbott will want to secure her individual place in the 400 freestyle and having swum solo at Trials will welcome some company as she seeks to find the time needed.

On the men’s side Brodie Williams is already qualified in the 400IM, but might be able to add the 200m backstroke if he can return to his best form, but he will have to face off Elliott Clogg who was second at trials. In the 200 fly Jay Lelliott didn’t make the cut but Ed Mildred third at trials, has his chance. He’ll need a sizable drop to put himself int eh selection equation however and with Lelliott possibly having another go in Glasgow he’ll need to make a compelling case this week.

Those would seem to be the most likely candidates this week, but maybe someone else can put their hand up for selection.  Regardless of the Olympic connotations though it promises to be an exciting week of racing in the Duna Arena.

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