British swimmers seek improved pool haul in Rio

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 21, 2016 9:27 AM

By Alan Baldwin

BATH, England (Reuters) - Britain announced a 26-strong Olympic swimming squad on Thursday that coaches hope will eclipse their lean three-medal haul from London 2012 if they get it right on the night in Rio.

Those on the plane to Brazil include 2015 world champions Adam Peaty and James Guy, the former also world record holder at 50m and 100m breaststroke, who will both be making Olympic debuts.

"Every athlete on this team is within two percent, if they get it right, of getting to the podium," head coach Bill Furniss told reporters at Bath University's training pool.

"There are no passengers on this team."

Individual 2015 world championship medalists Jazz Carlin and Siobhan-Marie O'Connor were among eight swimmers who secured automatic qualification by winning national trial races inside tough times set by selectors.

Another 15 were within two percent of a set benchmark and three were chosen at the discretion of coaches due to track records as relay swimmers or other criteria.

Four of the men's 4x200 freestyle relay team that won gold in Kazan, Russia, last year -- Guy, Daniel Wallace, Robbie Renwick and Duncan Scott -- will be in Rio.

British swimmers finished fourth in the Kazan medals table -- behind powerhouses the United States, Australia and China -- with five golds, a silver and three bronzes.

"We don’t talk about medals, we talk about season’s best performances or even lifetime best performances when it counts on the day," said Furniss. "If we can get a high percentage of our team doing that, then the medals will come to us."

There are no medalists from 2012 in the squad, with double Beijing 2008 gold medalist Rebecca Adlington retiring after taking two bronzes in London -- two thirds of the total haul.

Michael Jamieson, the only British male swimmer to medal in London when he won a surprise 200m breaststroke silver, failed to make the grade.

Furniss, Adlington's former coach, said UK Sport had set a medal target but he had not discussed it with the athletes.

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Both Furniss and Chris Spice, swimming team leader for Rio, said a lot of work had been done since London on self-belief and performance.

"In London we had 20 percent of people who swam their season’s best. No-one's going to win much if you do that," said Spice.

"Now we are over 60 percent (at championships) in the last two years.

"We know if we can get 60 to 70 percent of our athletes swimming a season’s best...then the medals will come to us.

"People need to understand that if they’ve made this team, they are in medal range. That’s a significant shift of where we’ve been a few years ago," he added.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)