British Championships Scaled Back By A Day, Restricted To Tokyo 2020 Olympic Hopefuls & Renamed 2021 British Swimming Selection Trials

2021-03-02 Reading Time: 3 minutes
A selfie well-deserved - James Guy takes a shot at self, and, l-r, mates Duncan Scott, Adam Peaty and Luke Greenbank after historic gold in the 4x100m medley at the 2019 World Championships in Gwangju - by Patrick B. Kraemer

British Swimming has dropped the name British Championships from the masthead of its showcase event in April in favour of 2021 British Swimming Selection Trials after having to scale back the event in several ways, including confining entries to those targeting a ticket to the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

The event, scheduled for the London Aquatics Centre, will also be reduced by a day, cutting the event back by a day and will now unfold over five days from April 14 to 18.

The federation had hoped to be able to stage a national championship that incorporated multiple tests and trials for swimmers at various levels. However, the UK government’s lockdown-easing timetable, released last week, effectively meant that only the very elite level of athletes, those with the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in their sights, could be sure of being able to compete.

Adam Peaty, James Wilby, Duncan Scott and Luke Greenbank are all pre-selected for Tokyo 2020, courtesy of the solo medals they won at the 2019 World Championships, the last major long-course competition before the pandemic struck and the last until the Games scheduled for July. James Guy, who with Greenbank, Peaty and Scott lifted the World title over 4x100m medley in 2019, joins the rest of those targeting places in Tokyo at trials.

Jack Buckner, the CEO of British Swimming, said: “This is a difficult announcement to communicate – we’re excited to stage the British Swimming trials but also disappointed to scale the event back and not provide the experience we wanted to for the sport – thanks for all your support and good luck to all.”

An updated timetable for the Trials, with event conditions, can be found on the federation website.

British Swimming issued the following statement:

British Swimming can today unveil a number of changes to its flagship annual swimming meet, following the announcement of the UK Government’s roadmap on Monday 22nd February.

Due to the ongoing COVID restrictions, continued uncertainty around the exact timetable of easing of lockdown, and in recognition that relatively few swimmers are back in training, the meet has been scaled back, with the ultimate focus being senior selections for international competition later this year. The meet will now be reduced in length by one day, running from Wednesday 14th to Sunday 18th April.

Given this very specific focus of the event, we feel we can no longer call this a British Championships, hence the revision of the event title to the 2021 British Swimming Selection Trials.

We have also removed the junior-specific element of the Trials, given the overwhelming majority of young swimmers have not been able to train for the best part of the last 12 months, that there has been no announcement from LEN or FINA around dates and venues for the 2021 European Junior or World Junior Championships, school term dates around the Easter period are still fluid and variable, and our ability to reasonably select any junior representative teams has been severely compromised.

That being said, this will not exclude junior swimmers from entering the event – but there will be no dedicated Junior or Transition finals. For younger athletes, our primary concern now is to continue planning to facilitate a series of ‘restart’ meets to give as many athletes as possible an opportunity to return to racing through the summer. Significant discussions have already taken place with our Home Nation partners to provide opportunities that the whole of the swimming fraternity can buy into in July – this is likely to focus on a more regionalised ‘festival of swimming’ rather than a single performance-focussed event.

The meet conditions for the 2021 British Swimming Selection Trials below outline the new format of the event, but other key changes include removing all non-Olympic events. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 protocols and the limit on the number of personnel allowed in the building, we will almost certainly need to cap the number of entries we accept; this could result in swimmers achieving a qualifying time not being admitted to the meet.

On the new event format, British Swimming Performance Director, Chris Spice, commented: “Naturally we are disappointed to have to scale the meet back, especially given that 12 months ago we were planning to deliver the biggest and best British Swimming Championships in history. No one will be more disappointed than the swimmers who are missing out and have been out of the water for so long. We share your frustrations but unfortunately we have to work within ongoing DCMS Guidelines, which will be still be in place for April. As a result, all accommodation for this event will be managed centrally and an ‘accommodation bubble’ will be created.

“We are still working hard with the London Aquatics Centre staff on how we will manage this meet in the new restricted format. As soon as we know more, we will advise further around athlete and staff movement, accommodation ‘bubbles’, travel guidelines and the like.

“That being said, we are pleased to confirm that we are well on the way to finalising a series of restart competitions for the summer, once restrictions have been eased further. However, in the short term, we must continue to prepare for the Olympic Games and these selection trials continue to form a key part of our journey to Tokyo.”

An updated timetable and event conditions can be found on the federation website.

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