Could Anderson Absence Affect Olympic Relay Selection?

With a week to go before the Aquatics GB Championships, Freya Anderson revealed that she has been suffering from glandular fever since the start of the year and while she will be in London, it’s far from certain she will compete.

There are a few things that arise from this announcement, which put to bed all manner of rumours that had been circulating after she missed the world championships in Doha and did not go to the Bath National Centre camp on the Gold Coast thereafter.

Firstly, this is not the statement of someone who believes their season is over, a situation Jazz Carlin, for example, was forced to face at the Olympic trials of 2012. Evidently hope, and perhaps expectation, remain that she will be able to return to competitive form over the next few months. The Paris selection policy includes significant discretion for just such situations, so provided her health allows, it seems more likely than not that we will see Anderson at the Games later this year.

Secondly, it’s worth considering what her potential absence from London means for relays. The way the selection policy is written for teams, with the cumulative time of the top four finishers in the 100 and 200 freestyles compared to the nomination standard, means that the loss of Anderson’s likely times makes the job just that bit harder for those who do swim.

Now relay selection is absolutely not a reason that Freya should swim if she is not in a physical condition to do so, but it will undoubtedly be a factor in the selectors’ minds when they come to apply the discretion they have, and taking her as a relay-only swimmer is likely to be a option they will consider. Here’s how things stand as we head into trials.

4 x 200 Freestyle

As the swimmer with the fastest PB of the current crop of freestylers, this could have been a big loss, but the reality is that there is a lot of depth in this event for GB right now giving a fair amount of leeway. Based on 2023 rankings, those ranked 2nd to 5th are still well within the 7:51.89 nomination standard.

1Freya Anderson1:55.85
2Freya Colbert1:56.16
3Abbie Wood1:57.21
4Lucy Hope1:57.767:46.98
5Medi Harris1:58.597:49.72
4×200 Freestyle Relay standings based on 2023 rankings

With Jess Podger, now at Millfield, and Loughborough’s Mia Slevin, both sub-2 minutes in 2023, in 6th and 7th places also in the mix, it seems that this team should make the grade with or without Anderson.

Abbie Wood becomes an even more key component of the relay picture. Pic: European Aquatics

A follow up question here is whether an individual spot would remain in the 200 free for a discretionary pick. Assuming it runs to form, Colbert is well within the nomination standard and Wood seems capable of reaching the 1:56.85 required given her performances in Doha, so they could both put themselves in the frame for those swims. However, in Paris the 200 freestyle clashes directly with the 400IM in which Colbert won the world title a few months ago. That’s an unlikely double, given the quality of the international field in both events, so that spot could open up.

4 x 100 Freestyle

This one could be a tougher ask. Again based 2023 times, the top 4 only just squeak under the required nomination standard, while those ranked 2nd to 5th are some way outside the 3:36.40 needed. This only tells part of the story however.

1Freya Anderson53.48
2Anna Hopkin53.52
3Lucy Hope54.34
4Abbie Wood55.013:36.35
5Medi Harris55.09  3:37.96
4×100 Freestyle Relay standings based on 2023 rankings

Anna Hopkin has already been almost half a second quicker than she was last year with a 53.09 blast in Doha, while Eva Okaro is almost 0.8s quicker than she was in 2023 with a 54.64 lifetime best set in March of this year. Swapping in those two swims is almost enough upside, while it is also not unreasonable to expect Abbie Wood to break through the 55s barrier. The presence of Freya Colbert in the event also adds an unknown potential benefit.

It still seems likely that this team will go to Paris, and the selectors may opt to include a conservative passement of Anderson’s time to assist in that decision, but given Hopkin, Hope, Wood and Harris would all likely qualify in other events, there is little to be lost in terms of overall team size

So it appears both relays should be capable of making the grade in London. Anderson can hence make decisions on whether to compete on their own merits, and what is best for her. We will wait to see if she understandably opts to wait for the outcome of the selectors’ deliberations to learn her Olympic fate.