Olympics: Swim Ireland insist on 'A' standard only for London
Published 11/05/2011 | 05:00
Irish swimming, like Irish athletics, will have a strict 'A'-standard-only policy for the London Olympics and will make absolutely no exceptions.
"There will probably be someone who'll miss qualification by tiny fractions next year, but that's what the Olympics is about," said Swim Ireland's national performance director Peter Banks yesterday.
Swim Ireland has already applied that policy to the World Championships and it saw Aisling Cooney miss out on qualification by just six-hundredths of a second recently.
"It is a hard lesson, but the athletes themselves understand it and if you're clear enough with them at the outset they're fine, they don't have a problem with it," Banks said.
Only three Irish swimmers qualified for the last Olympics and one was sent on a 'B' standard for developmental purposes, but Banks stressed that will no longer be the case.
Swimming's qualification standards for London have already got 1.5pc quicker than Beijing, despite the banning of the fast suits that saw so many records tumble in China.
And Swim Ireland has also tightened its standards, even at youth level, to meet those international demands.
The association is hoping to qualify six swimmers for London 2012. Grainne Murphy and Barry Murphy are the only two yet to swim faster than the Olympic standard and will be Ireland's top hopes at the World Championships in Shanghai in late July.
But Banks has warned against escalating Olympic medal expectations.
"Both Grainne and Barry still have a way to go," he stressed. "Grainne is only 18 and in London will be swimming against much older athletes, who are probably in their second Olympics, so she's got a big hill to climb. She's not afraid of it and she's going to go after it, but she's still got a long way to go yet."
He said London's proximity will not necessarily be advantageous to Irish swimmers.
"The 'home' factor will probably only kick in if people make finals and that is the first challenge," he said.
But sailing is one Irish sport that believes the proximity of the next Olympics will help give Ireland some advantage. Weather and sea conditions in Weymouth in 2012 will not only be very similar to Ireland's, but many of Ireland's top sailors have raced at the Olympic venue since their youth, and Crosshaven's top international Peter O'Leary (Star class) won a gold medal there in the final of the World Cup last year.
The Irish Sailing Association is pinning all its hopes on qualifying boats in three classes -- Star, 49er and women's Laser Radial -- but says others could also make it.
Since Beijing Irish rowing has had a radical overhaul and invested most of its efforts in an U-23/junior prog-ramme and it is targeting its qualifying hopes on women's double scull (both lightweight and heavyweight) and a men's lightweight double scull.