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Over the weekend, the three-time Kona runner-up was a runner-up again—but in a much shorter race. Lucy Charles-Barclay hit the wall for the 1500m at the British Swimming Olympic Trials on Sunday in 16:46.26, just .17 of a second behind the winner, Leah Crisp. Charles-Barclay also hit the Olympic B standard of 17:01 (though missed the A standard of 16:32).
Despite that finish, she will not be representing the UK at the Olympics.
British Swimming had established a “consideration standard” of 16:04 for the 1500m. For those of us in the U.S., where such a thing doesn’t exist in swimming or running, let’s explain what that means. Just because you’re in the top two or three in an event for your country and have hit the Olympic standards, it doesn’t mean a national governing body has to name you to their Olympic team. British Swimming, which is only taking 35 swimmers total to Tokyo across all events, has made the decision to focus on the top contenders—hence the need to hit a very challenging standard in the 1500m in order to be considered. (For comparison, the world record held by Katie Ledecky is 15:20.48, and Charles-Barclay’s time would place 155th in the world rankings.) In fact, because of COVID limitations on field size, only seven women met the entry standards and competed in the 1500m at the British Trials.
So why did a world-class triathlete go back to her swimming roots?
As she noted on Instagram, it was an opportunity she didn’t want to miss, a chance to test herself. It was held in the pool where she trains and where she shot her underwater wedding photos:
Of course, Charles-Barclay isn’t the only triathlete to compete in a single-sport Olympic Trials—many have competed over the years in running or swimming. Andy Potts, for instance, placed 4th at the 1996 Olympic trials in the 400m IM before giving up swimming to pursue triathlon. Charles-Barclay, herself, first went after an open-water 10K swim berth in the Olympics. A number of triathletes made an appearance at the large U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials just before the pandemic hit (including Ironman champ Haley Chura, who had also competed previously in the swimming trials as a backstroker). Sheila Taormina, notably, made the Olympics in three different sports. And, most recently, Scottish Olympian runner-turned-triathlete Beth Potter’s 5K world record has prompted questions about her desire to run the track trials. However, what’s notable is that most of those athletes have competed in the much shorter single-sport Olympic Trials (as opposed to the marathon) either before or after they were triathletes—not during their triathlon peaks.
Charles-Barclay’s husband, Reece, noted that the 1500m time bodes well for an athlete who is already always first out of the water. Will we see a new Kona swim course record in October?
Need some Monday motivation? You can watch the race yourself (starting at 38:53):