LAURA STEPHENS’ Olympic hopes have been given a major boost after she was named on British Swimming’s World Class Podium Programme for 2019-20.
The Plymouth Leander star is one of just 17 swimmers selected for that programme, with another 31 named on the ‘Podium Potential’ programme.
Joining her in the top tier is team-mate and European champion Ben Proud, as well as the likes of Adam Peaty and Duncan Scott.
British Swimming made their selections after analysing athletes’ past and current performances and a robust assessment of their ability to win medals at both this and future Olympiads.
Athletes selected on both programmes will receive opportunities and targeted financial assistance from UK Sport through the World Class Performance Programme’s Athlete Performance Award (APA). They are also eligible to receive training camp and competition opportunities throughout the selected season, as well as access to world-class sports science and medicine services, and comprehensive support from British Swimming performance staff and national institute of sport programmes across the UK.
Proud went to the 2016 Olympic Games, where he finished fourth, but Stephens is hoping to make her Olympic debut in Tokyo next summer after making her breakthrough this year by reaching the 200m butterfly World Championship final.
British Swimming’s national performance director Chris Spice said: “The programme has enjoyed another strong year, culminating with our swimmers winning seven medals at the World Championships in Gwangju, three of which were gold.
“Our junior swimmers also continued to impress against the best in the world and a number of those involved in strong performances across the European and World Junior Championships have been rewarded with a place on the World Class programme for the next 12 months.
“Today marks 304 days to go before we hear the starting gun in Tokyo, so the excitement is growing as we head into another Olympic season.
“The WCP (World Class Programme) is not an end in itself and we know we must improve from where we were at the World Championships in Gwangju if we want to meet all our targets for next year. For some of the younger athletes, they will be on a longer journey toward Paris and we look forward to working with them and developing them to be the best they can be over the coming years.”