A host of University of Bath-based swimmers will be looking to secure their place at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games this week when the 2016 British Swimming Championships take place in Glasgow.
The six-day competition, which begins today, Tuesday, at the Tollcross International Swimming Centre, will also determine the British Swimming team for next month’s European Championships in London.
A large contingent from the British Swimming National Centre Bath will be battling for Rio places, including four medalists from last year’s World Championships in Russia – Siobhan-Marie O’Connor, Chris Walker-Hebborn, Jazz Carlin and Sports Performance graduate Calum Jarvis.
Chemical Engineering graduate Andrew Willis will be competing in the 100m and 200m breaststroke, the latter an event in which he has contested every major international final since 2010 including the London 2012 Olympic Games.
The men’s breaststroke is one of the strongest disciplines in British swimming, so Willis – coached by Dave McNulty and Graeme Antwhistle – is expecting plenty of competition for the top-two finish required for Olympic selection.
“I’m under no illusions that I’m probably going to have to swim a personal best at the Trials,” said the 25-year-old.
“But I’m a lot more relaxed about it now – the pressure isn’t so much on me, it’s on the other guys to qualify for their first Olympics. Mentally that puts me in a good place because I can just go to the Trials, enjoy it and do the best I can.”
Unlike his colleagues, Willis did not go on training camp in Australia this winter and instead decided to stay at the Sports Training Village to train in the London 2012 Legacy Pool.
“I love training here, I love the atmosphere,” he said. “We have great pool and gym facilities here, great staff and I have my routine. It’s where I am comfortable and happy, and I’ve been really happy with how training has gone.”
Willis’s preparations, like his team-mates’, have been helped by the new state-of-the-art underwater camera facilities installed in the London 2012 Legacy Pool during its £1.6million refurbishment.
“The new pool facilities are amazing,” he said. “With the young guys coming through, I have to be a lot smarter with my training and I have been doing a lot of technical work.
“With the camera system and analysis, it’s almost been like doing homework – looking at my technique and working out how to make it more efficient.”
Fellow Olympian O’Connor, a reigning World and Commonwealth Champion, also feels she has benefited from the new pool facilities.
“The underwater cameras are so useful,” said the 20-year-old, who will be competing this week in the 100m freestyle, 100m butterfly, 100m breaststroke and her specialist event, the 200m individual medley.
“When we’ve had feedback from our coaches in the past it’s sometimes been hard to understand what they mean but now we can see it and have visual feedback.
“Seeing your stroke from underwater, where most of the work happens, is really good. If there is any flaw in your stroke it will get picked up and changing that can make a massive difference.”
Also racing this week are a number of students in University of Bath Head Swimming Coach Mark Skimming’s training group, including World University Games gold-medalist Jay Lelliott.
British Swimming Head Coach Bill Furniss said: “It’s going to be an interesting and exciting week in Scotland. We want our athletes to experience pressure, to handle pressure and to welcome pressure as this is a pre-requisite to success.
“We’ve got some exciting youngsters coming through the pathway and it will be interesting to see if any of these can step up to the plate for the events in Rio or London.
“As a sport we’re already preparing for the next Olympic cycle and a key addition to this strategy will be selecting emerging juniors to the senior European Championships next month in London as a unique development opportunity.”
Tickets for the British Swimming Championships are on sale at https://www.ticketmaster.co.uk/feature/british-swimming or you can follow the action live at www.britishswimming.org.