‘Tis the season for world champions, fa la la la la… Ahem, sorry. But with the ongoing squash championships, last week’s bowl showdown and season-ending finals in badminton and table tennis, it’s a good time to recover that Olympic spirit and follow your heroes, once again.
The thing is, there wasn’t much in the way of heroism when it came to Great Britain’s swimmers at London 2012. A home haul of one silver medal and two bronzes was scant reward for a £35 million chunk of funding. Rebecca Adlington, winner of two such medals, has been the most vocal about British Swimming’s downfalls and its need for a new head coach, but she isn’t going to be at this month’s World Championship’s (25m). Instead, the youthful team is to be led by silver medallist Michael Jamieson.
At just 24 year old, you’d expect him to be overwhelmed by the task at hand. Au contraire ; he’s eager for his fellows to step up and deliver what’s expected of them – an improved team performance. First, though, he needs to concentrate on his own events, a group of 100m and 200m breaststroke heats, before he can hope to add to the medal table.
Pretty much any medal is an improvement on the 2010 edition of the biennial event, where Jemma Lowe picked up the only medal – a silver – for Britain. She’s returning to Istanbul, but won’t be defending her 400m butterfly. Joining her in the 200m fly event is Roberto Pavoni, who’s declared that he isn’t going to be distracted by GB’s organisation woes, but he does admit that he’ll struggle to make it to the finals of a hotly-contested race.
The short-course version of the World Championships, taking place in 25m pools rather than the Olympic “long-course” 50m, isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I’ve expressed my dislike of the format before, often rendering the opening stretch pointless; once you’ve leapt into the pool, you’re about to flip over for the second length. Hannah Miley, who earned a gold at the European Short-Course Championships as well as two silvers, is happy to attend, but she deems it to be “good experience” for next year’s full version of the game. She needs to draw on any experience she can after a poor showing in London, but she’s taking good form into this event. “It would have been lovely to come away with a medal but I think that every athlete wants the same and I can’t sit there and sulk because it didn’t happen for me,” she’s defiantly claimed, but she has at least six opportunities to lead from the front next week.
Someone else who could take her recent form into the Worlds is Sophie Allen. She appears to be particularly adept at the short form and has excelled in recent stages of the FINA/Arena World Cup, earning a number of gold medals. It’s a heck of a step up, though. She usually has the likes of underperforming Liam Tancock and Sophie Taylor to make her look good, but the Olympian now has to take the stage and get the results under the spotlight.
It hasn’t been a good few months for British Swimming. When you take away the poor showing only made to look good thanks to Australia’s equally lousy Olympics, as well as a tumultuous upheaval of staff and Ellen Gandy’s likely defection to Australia, you have to wonder if our swimmers have the competitive attitude to pick up medals and be a winner. £5,000 prize money for a first place, and £15,000 for an unlikely world record, is hardly an incentive for our supposed elite. The likes of Hannah Miley and Fran Halsall should be performing at their best at all times, but after such a long Olympics build-up, is there any chance for a gold rush in Turkey?