BBC Home
Explore the BBC

BBC Sport Olympics

Last Updated: Friday, 7 March 2008, 10:20 GMT
GB swimmers prepare for Eindhoven
By Bob Ballard
BBC swimming correspondent

David Davies
David Davies has been confirmed for Team GB in Beijing

Such is the nature of this year's swimming calendar, the European Swimming Championships in Eindhoven are not considered a priority for many of Britain's elite.

The Olympic trials in Sheffield come shortly afterwards and then, hot on the heels of that, it's the World Short Course Championships in Manchester.

But, for most of Europe, and some important members of Britain's Olympic team, this is the first big long course test of 2008.

Medal contenders in Beijing, Liam Tancock, Kirsty Balfour and David Davies will all be competing in Holland from 18 March, as will the men's 4x200m freestyle relay team - who are very good medal candidates for the Games in August.

Backstroker Tancock has been the most consistent British performer over the last three years and has started to make the step up from the 50m event, which is not included in the Olympics, to the 100m, which is.

13-17 March: Synchronised swimming events
18-24: Swimming and diving
The Americans have strength in depth in this discipline and Tancock will have a battle on his hands to even become the best in Europe, with Austria's Markus Rogan and Germany's Helge Meeuw amongst the medal contenders.

The Loughborough-based Devonian is a good listener and a quick learner, and has thrived under the guidance of Ben Titley at the University.

He has the capability to be a star in China if he can put three consistent swims together, which has been his undoing before now.

Edinburgh's Kirsty Balfour is the European Champion in the 200m breaststroke and a mean performer in the 100m as well, but her main adversaries will come later in the year from the US, Australia and Japan.

There is so much potential here for Britain it's frightening and pleasing at the same time

She is ranked just behind Germany's Birte Steven in the 2008 standings for Europe, but if she performs as majestically in Eindhoven as she did in Budapest in the summer of 2006, it's hard to see Balfour relinquishing her crown.

It's been a year of upheaval for David Davies.

The Olympic bronze medallist in the 1500m freestyle at Athens four years ago has changed coaches, tried his hand successfully at open water swimming, and picked up another bronze at the World Championships in Melbourne.

The proud Welshman has left his home city of Cardiff, and coach Dave Haller, for Loughborough.

Kirsty Balfour
Kirsty Balfour will want to repeat her Budapest performance
Davies' winning performance at the first time of asking at the recent open water event in South Africa was encouraging - quite what that will do to his 30-length performance in the pool, we'll have to see.

World Champion Mateusz Sawrymowicz and silver medallist Yuri Prilukov swam impeccable races in Australia a year ago, whereas Davies lacked the finishing speed necessary to put pressure on the Pole and Russian, something I know he is aware of and has been working hard to rectify.

As for the men's freestyle relay, there is so much potential here for Britain it's frightening and pleasing at the same time.

Competition is fierce to be the four men to go up against the US, Australia and Italy in Beijing in the 4x200m.

There will be a score to settle with the Italians in Eindhoven, who always seem to do the business at the big events.

There are six, potentially seven swimmers going for the positions in the GB quartet.

All the swimmers will be keen to impress the new performance director

Aside from the Americans, no-one can muster that strength in depth with swimmers all around or below the 1 minute 50 mark.

There will also be the chance for youngsters to cut their teeth in a big long course event - those who are not ready for this Olympic Games, but will be the high profile swimmers in London four years from now.

One interesting development this time is that the main British swimmers will not be hanging around.

They'll be flying in to prepare for their event and, once it's done, they'll be back to continue their preparations for Sheffield and then Manchester.

The timing doesn't really suit the Brits this time but all the swimmers will be keen to impress the new performance director, Michael Scott, who was confirmed in the post two months ago.

He isn't the taskmaster that his predecessor Bill Sweetenham was, but is the man charged with taking the sport forward to 2012, so he'll want to see the green shoots appearing as soon as possible.

GB swimming trio chosen for Games
27 Feb 08 |  Olympics & Olympic sport
Davies success in open water test
02 Feb 08 |  Swimming
China unveils 'Water Cube' venue
01 Feb 08 |  Olympics & Olympic sport
Scott to head up GB swimming team
22 Jan 08 |  Swimming
Scott praises Sweetenham legacy
05 Oct 07 |  Swimming
Team GB for Beijing
29 Nov 07 |  Team GB
Swimming on the BBC
02 Oct 07 |  Swimming


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Daily and weekly e-mails | Mobiles | Desktop Tools | News Feeds | Interactive Television | Downloads
Sport Homepage | Football | Cricket | Rugby Union | Rugby League | Tennis | Golf | Motorsport | Boxing | Athletics | Snooker | Horse Racing | Cycling | Disability sport | Olympics 2012 | Sport Relief | Other sport...

Help | Privacy & Cookies Policy | News sources | About the BBC | Contact us