British Swimming’s 2016 Olympic Trials Will Also Look Forward To 2020

Photo Courtesy: Jza84

The main focus of the British Olympic Swimming Trials next April in Glasgow will be to pick Great Britain’s Olympic team for the Rio Games. But it will also serve as an opportunity for British Swimming to begin identifying young athletes who could be the next leaders of the sport at the 2020 Olympics.

British Swimming released this week the schedule for the Olympic Trials, set for April 12-17, and each event (except the men’s 1500 free and women’s 800 free) will feature three championship final heats in the evening session. The “Open Final” will consist of the top eight qualifiers in each event, regardless of age. That heat will exclusively be used to select athletes for the 2016 Olympic team.

The second-fastest finals heat will be called the “Target Tokyo Final,” for athletes who do not make the cut for the “Open Final” but will have the experience of getting a second swim at the Olympic Trials, as a rehearsal of sorts for the 2020 Trials. The boys’ “Target Tokyo Final” will be limited to swimmers born between 1996 and 1999 and for girls born between 1997 and 2000.

The meet will also feature a “Junior Final” heat specifically designed to pick athletes for next summer’s European junior championships. Those heats will be only for boys born between 1998 and 2001 and for girls born between 1999 and 2002, in accordance with the age limits for the European junior championships.

It’s the first time the British Olympic Trials will highlight young swimmers in the finals. Tim Jones, British Swimming’s head of performance pathway, said testing this format at nationals earlier this year was such a success that it was natural to use it at Trials.

“Everyone quite liked the idea of having three finals (at nationals), and having a bit of a progression to see what was coming through the pathway,” Jones said in an interview with Swimming World. “It gives a nice bit of progression from youth swimming into senior swimming.”

Jones brings the idea of putting the junior athletes into the spotlight at a major meet from his five years working with the British senior gymnastics team before taking his current post in 2013. The country saw its best performance in gymnastics at the Olympics in London in 2012, taking four medals.

“A number of times we competed in major venues with the pressure on, and it helped the team to produce when it mattered in 2012,” Jones said. He wants the younger swimmers who compete in the “Target Tokyo Final” to have the same feeling as the gymnasts, to know the experience of racing at their best under pressure so they are ready for it when they make their first international team.

Putting an age limit on the “Target Tokyo Final” came from extensive research “around what the profile of a typical Olympian would look like” in 2020, Jones said. He didn’t want the second-fastest final of each event to be merely a B final for the ninth- through 16th-place swimmers, but rather a place for athletes of a certain age to get their appetites whetted for the future.

“We’re almost acting as prospectors in terms of trying to get a group of athletes that might just miss out on Rio (and give them) an opportunity to feel as if they’re on a journey to Tokyo,” Jones said.

Besides being able to see who’s right on the cusp of breaking through into the senior elite ranks in Great Britain, the two extra finals will show the British government how dedicated British Swimming is to developing future talent while taking care of the present crop of world-class swimmers. The government funds a large chunk of British Swimming, including the money given to athletes as they continue to train. That includes the 21 athletes named this week to the Podium Squad and the 45 picked for the Podium Potential team, all of whom have been identified by British Swimming as medal prospects in the near and far future.

“It’s part of a process to show (the British government) that we’re really thinking this through,” Jones said.

British Swimming is on a roll in the pool, having won a history-making gold medal in the men’s 800 free relay at the world championships as one of the five gold medals won at the meet. That bodes well for next year’s Olympics, but Jones said British Swimming needs to get the next generation ready to replace those who might retire after Rio.

“We need to move our program along,” he said. “We don’t need to rest on our laurels. We need to be better than we’ve been in the past.”

2016 British Swimming Olympic Trials Schedule

Note: All events, except the women’s 800 free and men’s 1500 free, will have an “Open Final,” “Target Tokyo Final” and “Junior Final.”

April 12
Men’s 400 free
Women’s 200 free
Men’s 100 breast
Women’s 400 IM

April 13
Women’s 100 back
Men’s 200 fly
Women’s 200 breast
Men’s 100 back

April 14
Women’s 800 free
Men’s 100 free
Women’s 200 fly
Men’s 400 IM
Women’s 50 free

April 15
Men’s 200 breast
Women’s 100 free
Men’s 100 fly
Women’s 200 back

April 16
Men’s 1500 free
Women’s 400 free
Men’s 200 IM
Women’s 200 IM
Men’s 50 free

April 17
Women’s 100 breast
Men’s 200 back
Women’s 100 fly
Men’s 200 free

2 Comments

2 comments

  1. Dominique Wrench

    Per i ragazzi nato fino 2002…..sarebbe stato un bel esperienza

Author: Jeff Commings

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Jeff Commings is the Senior Writer for SwimmingWorld.com and Swimming World Magazine. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in journalism and was a nine-time NCAA All-American.

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