Medals or Experience? The selection question for Kazan

“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” say the French. “The more it changes, the more it’s the same thing”. (Well in swimming at the moment they’re saying something else, if this book is anything to go by, but that’s a different story).

Back in 2003, we wrote about difficulties in picking a team for the World Championships, following a trials process and policy that left the squad much smaller than expected. Sound familiar? In that instance the selectors surprised us all but picking a much larger team than expected and finding ways to get some of the most promising swimmers on the plane to Barcelona. Undoubtedly similar conversations have been had by the selectors this year as they seek to finalise the team they will take to Russia for this year’s world championships.

There are eight swimmers guaranteed to go, being Adam Peaty, Jazz Carlin, Hannah Miley, Roberto Pavoni, Chris Walker-Hebborn, Siobhan-Marie O’Connor, Lizzie Simmonds and James Guy.

James Guy: First to book his ticket to Kazan at British trials.

Beyond that we’re into the percentages game and selectorial whim. It seems unthinkable that Ross Murdoch won’t get picked given his run at the 100m breaststroke behind Peaty’s world record, and if the policy is applied directly as written then we should expect to see him joined by another five swimmers. Andrew Willis, Aimee Willmott, Nick Grainger, Francesca Halsall and Stephen Milne were the top ranked swimmers inside the 2% cut off mooted for selection.

But then there is the relay complication. The big unknown in all this is whether Bill Furniss wants to take the full complement of relays, given that qualification for Rio is available in Kazan, or if he intends only to select those he thinks can win medals. All six quartets were within 2% of the consideration times given in the selection policy so all can justifiably be taken. But if medals are the criteria applied then selection is likely to prioritise the two medley and 4×200 squads, with the 4×100 freestyle teams left behind this time. How would that affect Olympic qualification? Well that again depends on how serious British Swimming are about taking a full complement to Rio. 12 spaces are allocated this year and the remaining 4 are made up from teams who post the next 4 fastest times. A home European Championships in London next spring would be an ideal opportunity to post one of those if the teams are not qualified in 2015.

Let’s assume that all relays are selected, adding another potential 10 names to the team. We’re then left with up to 6 discretionary picks, if the maximum team size of 30 is taken; fewer if the team is smaller as has been reported in some quarters. It would seem churlish not to select Dan Wallace, whose 400IM is the only individual swim under 2% not otherwise picked (Robbie Renwick also achieved that distinction, but makes it in as part of the relay contingent), which could mean 5 additional wild cards.

Who these could go to is not clear. Does Adam Barrett get a look in based on his potential in the medley relay despite only being 3rd in London? Might Molly Renshaw get a reprieve in the 200m breaststroke or might some up and coming talent get a chance to gain some valuable international experience? Perhaps Katie Matts or Sarah Vasey, who were both runners up at trials, in the breaststroke events?

Without knowing the selectors’ priorities we can’t hope to second guess how these will go but there are some intriguing questions to be answered when the team is revealed on 24th April.

11 thoughts on “Medals or Experience? The selection question for Kazan”

  1. So we won’t take winners of many individual events (Brodie 200 Fly, Mc Nally 200 Back, Renshaw 200 Breast etc), but the suggestion is that we take swimmers who finished outside top 2 in the 100 Fly?!? What is the sense or fairness in all this?

    1. It’s a tough call – but placings at the British Champs don’t really mean anything on the world stage. Why should a higher position in one event mean more than a lower position in another if all are outside qualifying times and swam by athletes that have arguably performed below potential? In this scenario, the question needs to be that if all these athletes swim to their potential (including Barrett, who i assume you’re referencing above), who is likely to have the biggest impact on the medal tally? Arguably, that’s Barrett if he swims a 50.6 on the relay.

  2. OC – IF is a word I never liked. IF my granddad hadn’t died, he would still be alive…

    1. I think OC has got the thrust of what I was saying, but that doesn’t mean it’s desirable or right to take those people in place of others, it’s just the decision the selectors have to make. As soon as you’re outside whatever criteria you have defined as the automatic qualification then it’s into ifs and buts about what people might be able to do.

      1. Yes – ifs and buts are definitely not ideal selection criteria, but what else would you use in this situation?

  3. Interesting to see if any/many get selected as wild cards on non-Olympic events – purely as Worlds medal opportunities.

    1. I wouldn’t expect anyone not already picked to get a swim in a non-Olympic event.

  4. Regarding Barrett – the team is picked this year not on relay performances last year. Finishing third in your only event means you don’t go.

    1. Ed
      Not sure we can bank on anything these days.
      The fascinating thing, on Friday, will be to see how much justification British Swimming have to provide for the selections they make.
      They ought to just say – “here’s the team”. I expect, though, there will be a lot of wriggling if they choose a fullish team and one or two seemingly wild cards.
      I’m not sure how they can justify many relay selections if they’re really as tough on selections as they keep purporting to be – it’s a lot of people’s futures to be playing with in a non-Olympic year.

      If funding follows from selection, we might well have a team of 10 in Rio.

  5. If they take Barrett as a wild card for the relay would they then leave laxton? Even though he won after 4 months training after a 2 year injury?

Comments are closed.