Sheffield Stage Set for British Gas Swimming Championships

By guest writer Julia Wilkinson-Minks (2008 & 2012 Canadian Olympian)

Most of the swimmers who will be racing this summer at the 2013 World Championships already know whether or not they will be standing on the blocks in Barcelona, wearing their country's flag. There are a handful of world-class athletes, however, who still need qualify, and the Americans are not the only ones who are itching to race for a spot on the World Championship Team: Great Britain will hold its trials at the end of this month as well, from June 26-30, in Sheffield.

Some of the well-known medal threats are missing from the heat sheets, which is to be expected the year following an Olympic Games. 100-meter backstroke world record holder Gemma Spofforth announced her retirement from competitive swimming back in September, Olympic medalist Rebecca Adlington as well in February. But there are still a few veterans who are far and away the best swimmers in their respective events, and will undoubtedly have no problem punching their ticket to Barcelona.

Who to Watch:

Michael Jamieson: last summer, Jamieson surprised the world when he won the silver medal in the 200-meter breaststroke. He is seeded first in his premier event, and is also seeded first in the 100-meter breaststroke, the only swimmer with a sub one-minute seed time.

Hannah Miley: this 23-year old has had a very successful career so far, with multiple podium performances. At the 2012 short course World Championships, Miley won the gold medal in the 400-meter IM; she was also the 2011 World Championships silver medalist and 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medalist in the same event. She will be very busy this week if she swims every event she is entered in: both IMs, the 200-meter butterfly, 200 and 400-meter freestyles, and 200-meter breaststroke.

Liam Tancock: Tancock was fifth last summer at the London Olympic Games in the 100-meter backstroke, and is also the world record holder in the 50-meter backstroke. A two-time Olympian, he should have no problem qualifying for this team in either of his backstroke events, the 50-meter and 100-meter: he is seeded first by a comfortable margin in both.

Francesca Halsall: Halsall is a two-time Olympian for Great Britain, reaching the final of the 100-meter freestyle in both Beijing and London. She won the silver medal in the same event at the 2009 World Championships in Rome, and has also stood on the podium numerous times at both the Commonwealth Games and European Championships. Her talents are not limited to freestyle, however. She is seeded first in all four events in which she is entered: the 50 and 100-meter freestyle as well as the 50 and 100-meter butterfly.

Elizabeth Simmonds: Simmonds is another two-time Olympian for Great Britain, with multiple podium appearances at the Commonwealth Games and European Championships. She qualified for the Olympic final in the 200-meter backstroke at both the Beijing and London Olympic Games, and narrowly missed out on a medal at the latter, placing fourth. Simmonds is seeded first in both the 100 and 200-meter backstrokes, and third in the 50-meter backstroke.

Siobhan-Marie O'Connor: O'Connor is seventeen years old, and swam the 100-meter breaststroke at the Olympics last summer. Coming into trials, she is not only seeded first in her premier event, the 100-meter breaststroke, but also in the 200-meter IM, ahead of Olympic finalist Hannah Miley. In a meet where, at least according to the psych sheets, there does not seem to be a lot of depth, the race between O'Connor and Miley could be one of the most exciting of the weekend.

Racing begins on Wednesday and continues through Sunday.

Julia Wilkinson-Minks is a two-time Olympian for Canada and was a finalist in the 200-meter IM at the 2008 Beijing Games. In 2010, she became Texas A&M's first ever NCAA champion in swimming when she won the 100-yard freestyle. She graduated from Texas A&M with a degree in Speech Communication. Julia retired from competitive swimming following the London Olympic Games and now lives in Texas with her husband Shane.

Follow her on twitter @juliah2o

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