With Bill Sweetenham’s new look calendar for British swimming, these short course championships, previously always held in December, now take on an added significance. The timing firmly signals Sweetenham aim that our top swimmers swim all year round, coming as they do only 6 weeks after the end of the commonwealth games. Thus swimmers wanting to make the trip to Riesa in Germany for the European short course will have had little chance for time off between Manchester and now if they are to make the tough selection criteria and book their team slot.
These championships double as trials for the GB squad to travel to Germany and there seems no doubt that the top swimmers are taking the event seriously, with 8 of Britain’s 9 commonwealth gold medallists entered and all but a handful of the home nation medalists due to compete. the notable absence is Zoe Baker, who set that superb world record in the 50m breastroke at Manchester. Despite being an obvious medal chance for the Europeans, she again she falls victim to the emphasis placed on Olympic events upon which selection is based. Baker misses this one then, but for the rest of the swimmers this is a chance for us to see how they have moved on form their experiences in Manchester and to cats an eye over the up can coming talent. As with last year’s selection policy, an even greater emphasis has been placed on getting youth into the team, with 17/18 year old boys and 15/16 girls being given their own qualifying standards which will guarantee them a team place. That’s jot to say that the times are easy, they are still very tough, but this should provide an added incentive to those juniors competing here.
In the seniors, the current golden girl of british swimming, Sarah Price will have her eyes set on qualification in the backstroke events as she aims to defend her 200m crown form Antwerp. It would rank as a major shock if she didn’t make the required standard – she is after all a former world record holder over the longer distance and will probably want to make a concerted effort to take that record back in Riesa. Elsewhere all of the commonwealth team will have their eyes on selection, but the form of world short course silver medallist Alison Sheppard will be interesting – she will probably have the chance to get her revenge on Therese Alshammer come December, provide she delivers here. Of the male sprinters, Mark Foster will particularly want to improve on his performances from Manchester and James Gibson might just have his eye on the European record in the 50 breastroke for Riesa – a spot on the team surely awaits them both.
The junior contingent is harder to predict. Kate Haywood has a double shot at selection and will be expecting to qualify, which she should do with ease if she can regain her form the European Junior championship semis. Kathryn Wyld of Leatherhead has a chance among the girls freestylers, whilst Ross Davenport of Bath, who was particularly impressive at the ASA Youth Championships in August may come through the men’s free. Leeds’ Julia Preston has a good chance of making the times as well in the 400IM and David Davies, coming back of a superb 1500m performance long course in Manchester will surely dip under the required time of 15:28.11
An intriguing 4 days of swimming is in prospect, and you can follow all of the action here on pullbuoy.