Discretion a Big Part of Slimmed Down Paris Policy

The waters of the London Aquatic Centre will soon be churned up by the waves of competition as Britain’s swimmers seek to book themselves a spot on TeamGB for the Paris Olympic Games. It promises to be an absorbing and exciting spectacle, but underpinning those selection hopes is a policy that governs who gets the nod and who doesn’t.

The first thing to note for this year’s selection policy is that it has only one set of times and the only way to get picked directly is to better them. The consequence of that move though is to hand more power to the selectors in finalising a team of up to 30 swimmers, with the ubiquitous discretion littered throughout. Here’s how the policy works and some thoughts on how it may be applied in practice, with the team due to be named by 11th April, just a few days after the British Championships conclude.

The easy way to get on the Eurostar

It’s all relative, of course, so while not actually easy, this is the one way that guarantees a spot on the team. Simply win your event and beat the nomination standard and you are done. No hanging about, no worry, just a nomination and a ticket to Paris secured.

In a slight departure from recent policy, if not practice, the winner of an event is also guaranteed a spot in that event, unlike anyone chosen from the other selection routes.

Now the times are not easy, but they are at the easier end of the scale that we have seen from Messrs. Spice and Furniss during their tenure. In part, that appears to be because there is simply that one set of times to be used for all selection purposes, with every single time slower than the equivalent for 2023 worlds. They are though a general step on from the last Olympic cycle, with only four men’s and six women’s times slower than the equivalent times from 2021. Only the women’s 100 butterfly, though, has a qualification time that is faster than the British record.

00:24.6550 Freestyle00:21.88
00:53.55100 Freestyle00:48.06
01:56.85200 Freestyle01:45.96
04:04.98400 Freestyle03:45.43
08:25.84800 Freestyle07:47.80
16:01.951500 Freestyle14:54.29
00:59.89100 Backstroke00:53.68
02:08.91200 Backstroke01:57.28
01:06.31100 Breaststroke00:59.45
02:23.04200 Breaststroke02:08.95
00:57.17100 Butterfly00:51.56
02:07.96200 Butterfly01:54.97
02:10.62200 Individual Medley01:57.49
04:37.84400 Individual Medley04:11.90
03:36.404 x 100 Freestyle03:13.04
07:51.894 x 200 Freestyle07:07.40
03:56.894 x 100 Medley03:33.15
4 x 100 Mixed Medley03:44.10
British Swimming Olympic Nomination Standards

Running the results of the 2023 British Championships through these times gives a team of 13 individual qualifiers across 15 events with 5 out of 7 relay teams also booking their slots as of right. That would leave 11 spots open for the later selection provisions. A further 5 runners up also met the qualification time, but more of what that means in a moment.

Get on a relay

Relays have been a mainstay of Britain’s success in global waters for many years, so it’s no surprise that they are the next priority for selection. The top four from the 100m and 200m freestyle events plus a quartet for the medley relays will get picked if, when combined, they better the nomination standards. Of course, once picked by this route, the opportunity opens up to fill in any vacant individual event spots that remain once the team is finalised.

Relays will be a big part of the selected team. Pic: ISL/Mike Lewis

The fingers crossed way

With the automatic picks and relays filled out, the discretion kicks in. There is no objectivity here, and picking the team is entirely down to the discretion of the selectors, who can give the nod to as many swimmers as they want, up to the maximum team size, at this point. There are no percentages in play, although the policy does note that “performance against times listed in Table 1” may be used as a guide to selection, so there is still a potential benefit in getting as close to them as possible.

Given later provisions, it seems this may be more of a safety net provision for illness and injury and a chance to drop in any missing relays or add additional relay alternates, than the source of most of the team, but that opinion will be tested in due course.

A second chance

There is still a second chance for the runners up individual events at trials – if not already selected under one of the first three routes, they can be picked under this one. But the clause doesn’t guarantee it – they will only be “considered for selection”

Pragmatically, a swimmer who finishes second inside the nomination standard would be highly unlikely not to get picked, and this clause basically says that they will go to Paris unless the team is full.

This is the only place where percentages kick in, and may be the reason for that mention of consideration. Results will be ranked by percentage inside the nomination time but as the clause implies, this will only apply to separating runners up who have made the nomination standard if the team is otherwise full. On that basis, it’s not clear that this will have a big bearing on selection.

The final, final chance

At this point, keep your fingers crossed and hope that the selectors will see fit to bestow any remaining spots on you. It’s not clear if this final discretion will be used, but it’s there and gives Chris Spice the right to add any further swimmers he sees fit. This might be another chance to flesh out the relay squads if not already done.

There are the usual Olympic year caveats in the policy that this only means swimmers will be considered for selection (British Swimming only nominating the team to the British Olympic Association who formally selects them) but the chances of that having a material impact are slim, unless the selectors have gone really rogue with their discretionary picks.

As ever we’ll be tracking how selection progresses through the week in London and keeping a running total of how the team is coming together as competition rages in the London Aquatic Centre. It promises to be a fast meet, with Olympic year inevitably raising the bar, and after the issues faced at last year’s British Championships, the selectors will no doubt welcome a selection headache when events conclude.

Banner image by Luca Dugaro on Unsplash

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