Swim Ireland starts 2021 excited about the upcoming 2020 Olympic Games, now scheduled for 23rd July to 8th August, and after a year of COVID-19 related upheaval, we have updated our Olympic Nomination Policy to give additional opportunity to athletes to meet the qualification standards. The changes to the policy provide for swimmers who have already achieved an Olympic Qualification Time to be pre-selected and for those that do not meet the qualification time at the Irish Olympic Trials in April (20th – 24th) to qualify at a nominated meet in June.
Both the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and FINA (the world governing body for swimming) require athletes to achieve an Olympic Qualification Time (FINA ‘A’ time) within a designated period from March 2019 and from pre-named ratified competitions for them to be assured of an entry into the respective individual event at the Games.
Darragh Greene and Shane Ryan can now both be considered for the Games as the two Irish swimmers to post performances under the FINA ‘A’ time in their respective events in the designated period thus far. Greene achieved times in the 100m Breaststroke at the FINA World Championships in 2019 and 200m Breaststroke at the Irish Open Championships in 2019, whilst Rio 2016 Olympian Ryan also attained a time at the 2019 Open in the 100m Backstroke.
The COVID pandemic has clearly affected all sections of society and despite the support and understanding Swim Ireland have received from Sport Ireland and Sport Northern Ireland during these times, we continue to face some significant challenges in the preparation of our athletes. Revisions to swimming training environments, the ongoing challenge facing domestic and international competition between now and the Games as well as athlete/staff welfare and wellbeing are very much at the heart of the changes, felt to be both appropriate and necessary.
National Performance Director Jon Rudd said, “This revised Policy is a COVID-specific move away from that which has become our regular and recognised selection process for a summer senior international benchmark meet because of these exceptional times and aims to provide athletes with the fairest possible opportunity to be nominated to the OFI for the Tokyo Olympic Games. We spent a great deal of time looking at that which we truly believe in for international success (individual event selection via a sole Trials) to that which has become necessary because of the unprecedented circumstances that we have faced over the last 10 months – circumstances that are still with us and will remain so for some months to come. We believe that the breadth and balance that the four stage Nomination Process gives us satisfies our performance need, whilst being underpinned by a process which is ethically sound in terms of athlete opportunity.”
National Senior Team Head Coach Ben Higson said, “With the uncertainty that has surrounded and continues to surround us regarding COVID-19, it has been it has been imperative that we respond and not react to the situation we find ourselves in. The new four stage approach provides fairness in opportunity and will hopefully ensure as many of our athletes as possible can be on the plane to Tokyo. Athletes and coaches have worked tirelessly throughout the past four years and deserve to have the best possible opportunity to qualify.’
The next opportunity for athletes to qualify for the Games will be the Irish Open Championships (Olympic and Paralympic Trials).