Polishing the Crystal ball: Predicting Paris Programmes

With events in the pool in Paris imminent, we’ll soon know what events GB’s swimmers will be contesting across the 9 days of swimming action. Until then it’s time to polish the crystal ball and have a look at the various issues facing the selectors as they put together the event programmes for the 30 selected swimmers and speculate as to the direction they may take.

The selection policy is suitably vague and gives plenty of wiggle room to switch things up rather than slavishly following results from April’s trials in London. That said the one thing we know for sure is that the event winners who also swam the nomination standard will be swimming those events in Paris.

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Duncan Scott will contest the 200 free and IM but has indicated he will forgo his spot in the 100 free

What isn’t certain is what happens to those runners up who made the nomination standard. In theory, as written in the selection policy, that performance only qualified those swimmers to the team and didn’t guarantee them a swim in the race in question. Not letting those swimmers into those events would be a significant act of self-harm and it would be almost unthinkable that they won’t swim. The one immediate exception to that is Duncan Scott, who has indicated he will bypass the 100 freestyle to focus on the 200 freestyle and 200 IM, as well as the 4×200 relay which clashes directly with the 100.

With those two sets of swimmers inked in and filling 26 slots across 17 events, it still leaves a lot of spaces that could be filled by the 13 swimmers who were not selected directly from an individual event, either because they were in qualified relay squads or were added as discretionary picks.

The obvious place to start is Angharad Evans, picked as a discretionary selection ostensibly to complete the women’s medley team. It was always likely she would have been given the individual 100 breaststroke swim, but her recent form which has included a British Record of 1:05.54 in that event has made her a racing certainty to take to the blocks individually.

Angharad Evans is likely to get an individual berth given her sparkling form since trials

Beyond her though things are less clear cut. In making any selection decisions, the selectors will be considering the relay-only swimmer rule which states that any swimmer who is selected for relays only must swim, or the team will be disqualified. Undoubtedly Bill Furniss and Chris Spice will want more flexibility in their team selections than that allows, and hence may opt to draft swimmers into individual events that they are eligible for by having an Olympic Qualifying Time (OQT).  Its worth noting at this point that it seems extremely unlikely there will be many, if any, swimmers with an Olympic Consideration Time (OCT) being invited to compete so it’s not possible to rely on this qualification route.

Adding swimmers to other events they qualify for is exactly what Furniss and Spice did in 2016 when, having picked 7 men for the 4×200 freestyle relay, they entered Dan Wallace and Ieuan Lloyd to the individual 200IM while Cam Kurle got an individual swim in the 200 free despite only finishing 5th at Trials. This manoeuvring meant they only had only to consider Robbie Renwick as a relay only swimmer and he became the only man who was obliged to swim the relay. Wallace of course ended up a key member of the silver medal winning quartet and Renwick duly swam the relay heats. Meanwhile Kurle went out in the individual event heats and Lloyd only swam the IM, making the semi finals of that event, with neither being part of the relay team at all.

With that background in mind, here are the issues that the selectors face.

On the women’s side, it all appears straightforward with Eva Okaro, Freya Anderson and Lucy Hope, the three relay-only selections, all being guaranteed members of either the 4×100 or 4×200 relay teams. This means there is no significant benefit of shoehorning them into an individual event, and indeed Okaro and Hope don’t have any OQT’s that would allow that to happen anyway. Anderson has OQTs in both the 100 and 200 freestyle so could possibly be offered one or both of those swims depending on how her recovery from glandular fever is progressing.

Freya Anderson (Left) and Lucy Hope (2nd right) are headed to Paris as notionally relay-only selections. Pic: European Aquatics

Medi Harris is also relay only on paper , having made the 4×200 squad in April, but her trials was curtailed by family issues so she was unable to contest other events. She has an OQT in the 100m backstroke and it seems logical she could get that swim.

For the men it’s much more involved. For the freestyle relays Alex Cohoon is relay only for the 4×100 with Jacob Whittle added under discretion, while James Guy is in the 4×200 quartet with Kieran Bird and Jack McMillan appearing to have been added to the 4×200 discussion.

In the individual 100 there is that spot available after Scott’s withdrawal. This could in theory go to Tom Dean as the third placed finisher at trials, but it’s not entirely clear he would want that swim given the overlap with the 4×200 free, so Cohoon could yet be offered it to buy a bit of flexibility. Whittle is likely to stay relay only and to swim the relay heat at least, but given the Rio precedent, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility to believe he could be given the individual swim.

In the 4×200 conversation, McMillan is likely to stay relay-only and swim the heats, while Bird, who missed the nomination standard in the 400 free by a tiny margin at trials, does have the OQT in the event and will almost certainly be offered that swim in Paris.

That then leaves the elephant in the room – the medley relay. James Wilby, picked as cover for Adam Peaty, will almost certainly get a swim in the individual 100m breaststroke, where he has the OQT from trials, but can’t be offered the 200m where he doesn’t.

Meanwhile Joe Litchfield took a lot of unjustified criticism when he won the 100 fly in London and secured his place on the team as of right. While he fully deserves that spot, there’s little doubt the selectors would have preferred it if he was 0.04 faster and had posted an OQT, allowing them to add him to the individual event and keep their options more open, with Guy the obvious alternative on the fly leg. As things stand Litchfield will have to swim as a minimum a relay heat, whether that is the men’s or mixed medley relay (or even at a stretch one of the freestyle relays). With Guy guaranteed to swim the 4×200 heats at least, there is less imperative to find another swim for him, but he has the OQT for the 100m fly and we could yet see him in that event. That may equally depend on the approach to the mixed relay which overlaps with the fly as it did in Tokyo, where he was encouraged to drop the individual.

This year it’s less certain that the mixed team will go with a male flyer given the development of Ollie Morgan and the fact that Kathleen Dawson remains off her 2021 best following her recovery from a significant back injury. If the mixed team opts to go MMFF instead of FMMF then that may free Guy up to contest the individual.

So there are a lot of moving parts in putting together the GB entry list, even before considering the workload for individuals across the 9 days of competition. Below is a summary of what appears to be the most likely outcome based on the expected approach the selectors will take and a fair amount of guesswork – we’ll find out in a week or so where everyone sits.

Potential GB Men’s Entries
50 FreestyleBen Proud 
Matt Richards
100 FreestyleMatt RichardsTom DeanAlex Cohoon
200 FreestyleMatt Richards
Duncan Scott
400 Freestyle Kieran Bird 
800 Freestyle  Dan Jervis
1500 FreestyleDan Jervis  
100 BreaststrokeAdam PeatyJames Wilby 
200 Breaststroke  
100 Butterfly  James Guy
200 Butterfly   
100 BackstrokeOllie Morgan
Jonny Marshall
200 BackstrokeOllie Morgan
Luke Greenbank
200 IMDuncan Scott
Tom Dean
400IMMax Litchfield  
Relay OnlyJack McMillan
Joe Litchfield
Jacob Whittle
Potential GB Women’s Entries
50 FreestyleAnna Hopkin  
100 FreestyleAnna Hopkin Freya Anderson
200 FreestyleAbbie Wood Freya Anderson
400 Freestyle   
800 Freestyle   
1500 Freestyle   
100 Breaststroke Angharad Evans 
200 Breaststroke   
100 Butterfly   
200 ButterflyKeanna MacInnes
Laura Stephens
100 BackstrokeKathleen Dawson Medi Harris
200 BackstrokeHoney Osrin
Katie Shanahan
200 IMAbbie Wood
Freya Colbert
400IMFreya Colbert
Katie Shanahan
Relay OnlyEva Okaro
Lucy Hope

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