Britain's medal hopes resting on magnificent six

In Ponds Forge last week, it was not about the Olympic rings but about the Olympic ring. The five rings, representing the five continents linked together in sporting excellence, are nothing compared with the lump of gold, moulded into the Olympic emblem, that is worn on the fingers of the members of the most exclusive sporting club in the world - those who have participated in the Olympic Games.

In Ponds Forge last week, it was not about the Olympic rings but about the Olympic ring. The five rings, representing the five continents linked together in sporting excellence, are nothing compared with the lump of gold, moulded into the Olympic emblem, that is worn on the fingers of the members of the most exclusive sporting club in the world - those who have participated in the Olympic Games.

"Everybody wants that Olympic ring," pronounced Helen Don-Duncan after her British record victory in the final of the 200 metres backstroke. It was her first reaction to a lifelong ambition to swim backstroke in the Olympic Games. And while last week's trials were about making those dreams come true for 22 of the 41-strong team who are likely to be selected to their first Games when the British Olympic Association announces the team today, it was also the final competition for our medal hopefuls to record world-ranked times.

Deryk Snelling, the national performance director, made the point after the trials that the medal winners in Sydney will come from the top seven ranked swimmers going into the Games. And for Britain, that means six swimmers and two teams: Paul Palmer in the 400m freestyle, Steve Parry in the 200m butterfly, Don-Duncan in the 200m backstroke, James Hickman in the 100m butterfly, Mark Foster and Alison Sheppard in the 50m freestyle and the men's and women's 4x200m freestyle relay teams.

However, before we get caught up in Olympic fever, it is important to point out the difference between a medal hope and a medal prospect. England's football team hoped to win Euro 2000. Physically possible, but too many others were better.

For some of our hopefuls, simply reaching an Olympic final would be a great personal triumph. The prospects are where the medals could be won. With probably only four prospects, we could as easily win no medals as win four. The only time the Olympic swimming team failed to win a medal was in Berlin in 1936. But to judge this team on its medal count would be a mistake.

In Atlanta four years ago, we had just seven final appearances out of 36 events. To improve on this number would provide a more accurate yardstick of the impact that Lottery funding for regional training centres is beginning to make. With more finalists this year than before, the chances of having medal prospects in four years' time will have improved significantly. And 2004 is the earliest date to make a judgement on the benefit to British sport of the National Lottery.

In all, 41 swimmers have been proposed for selection to the BOA. It is a measure of success that so many have taken up the challenge and surpassed the toughest qualifying standards that the Amateur Swimming Association has ever imposed on its Olympic athletes. The weakness of the policy was the easier times proposed for relay teams. Some 17 swimmers will be there just to make up the relay squads, and it is possible that some of this number will not even get a swim once they are there.

While Palmer, Parry and Hickman swam fast throughout the heats, semi-finals and finals, many others here missed the opportunity to practise for the Olympics by swimming close to their best times throughout all three rounds, which is what they will need to do in Sydney.

"The problem is that the ones who have never been there before will be underestimating just how tough the competition is going to be," says Britain's last Olympic swimming champion, Adrian Moorhouse. "Some kid from Guatemala is going to give them a hell of a shock."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Accessory Fitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Accessory Fitter required. Bristol

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Telesales Advisor - OTE £30,000

£14000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is very proud of t...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Sales

£75000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Head of Sales position is offered on...

East15 Acting School: Finance and Contracts Officer

£20,781 to £24,057 per annum: East15 Acting School: The post involves general ...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen