Head to head: GB’s ladies take on Australia

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:

Event 1st 2nd 3rd 4th
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
Amy Smith
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
Cate Campbell
Brittany Elmslie
Yolane Kukla
03:34.64 Francesca Halsall
Amy Smith
Rebecca Turner
Jessica Lloyd
4 x 200 free Bronte Barratt
Kylie Palmer
Melanie Schlanger
Brittany Elmslie
07:44.50 Rebecca Turner
Caitlin McClatchey
Eleanor Faulkner
Joanne Jackson
4 x 100 medley Emily Seebohm
Leiston Pickett
Alicia Coutts
Melanie Schlanger
03:56.10 Gemma Spofforth
Kate Haywood
Ellen Gandy
Francesca Halsall
Final Scores: Australia    91.5     :     59.5     Great Britain

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.