Shortly after Britain’s Olympic trials came to a close, Steve Parry was quoted as rating Britain’s women as third best in the world, just behind the US and Australia. That seemed a reasonable claim, although China may also be challenging for the third spot, but there was a nagging doubt that perhaps GB was closer to overtaking Australia than it seemed.
Not being ones to let sleeping dogs lie, we thought we’d test the hypothesis and pit GB’s women against their Antipodean counterparts in a virtual dual meet across the Olympic programme. While it’s a bit of fun, the aim was to see whether Australia’s undoubted depth could counter the areas that Britain clearly had some stronger individuals, such as fly and freestyle.
The format was simple; a duel meet using the top two swimmers in each event from the respective Olympic trials. Trials results only were used rather than rankings so that the results were as close together as possible in time. Relay squads were picked using the top 4 in the 100m and 200m freestyle events and the fastest individual swimmers for the form events. A takeover tolerance of 0.5s per takeover was adopted. Results were scored 4-3-2-1 in the individual events and 7-0 in the relays.
The results were as follows:
|50 Freestyle||Francesca Halsall||24.13||Cate Campbell||24.44||Bronte Campbell||24.61||Amy Smith||24.80|
|100 Freestyle||Francesca Halsall||53.57||Melanie Schlanger||53.85||Cate Campbell
|200 Freestyle||Bronte Barratt||01:55.99||Kylie Palmer||01:56.04||Rebecca Turner||01:57.65||Caitlin McClatchey||01:58.07|
|400 Freestyle||Rebecca Adlington||04:02.35||Kylie Palmer||04:03.40||Bronte Barratt||04:05.74||Joanne Jackson||04:06.47|
|800 Freestyle||Rebecca Adlington||08:18.54||Kylie Palmer||08:26.60||Eleanor Faulkner||08:27.11||Jessica Ashwood||08:27.97|
|100 Butterfly||Ellen Gandy||57.25||Francesca Halsall||57.56||Alicia Coutts||57.59||Jessica Schipper||57.88|
|200 Butterfly||Ellen Gandy||02:06.01||Jemma Lowe||02:06.37||Jessica Schipper||02:06.93||Samatha Hamill||02:08.92|
|100 Backstroke||Emily Seebohm||59.28||Belinda Hocking||59.41||Gemma Spofforth||01:00.19||Georgia Davies||01:00.21|
|200 Backstroke||Belinda Hocking||02:06.68||Megan Nay||02:07.83||Elizabeth Simmonds||02:08.67||Stephanie Proud||02:09.94|
|100 Breaststroke||Leiston Pickett||01:06.88||Leisel Jones||01:07.64||Kate Haywood||01:08.07||Stacey Tadd||01:08.96|
|200 Breaststroke||Tessa Wallace||02:26.31||Sally Foster||02:26.51||Stacey Tadd||02:26.63||Molly Renshaw||02:26.81|
|200 IM||Stephanie Rice||02:09.38||Alicia Coutts||02:09.83||Hannah Miley||02:10.77||Sophie Allen||02:11.71|
|400 IM||Hannah Miley||04:32.67||Stephanie Rice||04:33.45||Aimee Willmott||04:37.48||Blair Evans||04:37.80|
|4 x 100 Free||Melanie Schlanger
|4 x 200 free||Bronte Barratt
|4 x 100 medley||Emily Seebohm
So perhaps an unsurprising result, in that it’s a win for Australia but when the influence of the clean sweep of relays is discounted, the margin narrows to 70.5 to 59.5. Indeed it would not be beyond the realms of possibility for Gemma Spofforth and Lizzie Simmonds to have taken the two backstroke events which would have made it very tight indeed. Similarly if we considered only the top performer in each individual event, then Britain beats Australia by 7 wins to 6.
But it was the depth of the Aussie crew that told in the end, not only in the dominant relay wins, but also in the individual events; when an event was won by an Australian, the second placed swimmer was also from Down Under. Conversely when an event was won by a GB swimmer, with the exception of the two fly events, it was an Australian who was second and in several cases third as well.
None of which is to play down the GB performance, in what is at best a highly theoretical scenario. Almost certainly the gap would have been bigger leading into Beijing, but the fact remains that while Britain’s top ladies are amongst the best in the world, there is a noticeable drop off behind them by comparison with Australia. It is coming, but it’s this depth of talent that will need to develop over the next Olympic cycle for Britain to cement its status at the top table of world swimming.