Make-or-break time for city swimmers

Benproud2.jpgTHE international hopes of city swimmers will be decided this week when they compete at the 2015 British Swimming Championships in London.

The event, which takes place at the 2012 Olympic Games pool, are acting as trials for Great Britain team selection for the World Championships, World University Games, European Youth Olympic Festival, European Games and World Junior Championships.

Plymouth Leander swimmers Ben Proud, Shauna Lee, Joe Hulme and Charlottle Atkinson all represented Great Britain last year and they, along with the likes of team-mates Antony James, Levi Lucas, Laura Stephens, Emma England and Eliza Duffy, will be hoping for honours in 2015.

However, it is going to be tough for any swimmer to make the GB team for the World Championships in Kazan this summer.

Proud (2013) and James (2011) have both competed at previous World Championships, but this year British Swimming have set incredibly tough automatic qualification times, many faster than the national records.

Only the winners of each event, who swim inside the qualifying times – based on the top six world times in 2014 – will automatically book a place on the plane to Russia this summer.

However, there will be alternative qualification criteria for those who win their events but miss the automatic time or who finish second, but athletes are still going to have to swim very fast this week to land one of the maximum of 30 places available in Kazan.

Proud, British 50m freestyle and butterfly record holder and double Commonwealth Games champion, should have the best chance, particularly after his relay exploits for GB at last year’s European Championships.

Proud will be defending his 50m butterfly title in London and also looking to improve on last year’s 50 and 100m freestyle silvers.

The one-length butterfly event this year is set to be decided on fastest heat times rather than a final. Last year, Proud and James finished first and second in that race.

James, who has had a tough few years since competing at the 2012 Olympics, will be hoping to make his mark in London. His main event is the 100m butterfly and his form at the end of last season and start of this has been encouraging.

Leander juniors Lee, Atkinson, Hulme and Duffy all made senior finals last year at Tollcross, while Hulme also won two junior silvers in Glasgow.

Their eyes will be mainly on qualifying for the European Games, World Junior Championships and European Youth Festivals.

The British Championships start on Tuesday and run through to Saturday.

Leander’s World, Olympic and European champion Ruta Meilutyte will be swimming in London – the venue where she made her name in 2012. However, as an international swimmer, the teenage Lithuanian will only be eligible for the heats.

British Swimming head coach Bill Furniss said: “It will be an interesting five days in London as our very best athletes try to make the World Championship team.

“We had a good 12 months last year culminating in best-ever results at the Commonwealth Games and European Championships but we’re under no illusion of what is needed going forward and we simply can’t stand still – we have to start again.

“Already in 2015 we have seen some impressive performances from nations all around the world and now we have to move it forward.

“We have set a fairly high standard for our athletes and coaches and we will be looking for all to step up to the task.”

He added: “There is still time for athletes to put themselves in the frame for Rio 2016 Olympics next summer and I will be very interested in who begins to shine through.”


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