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British Swimming Championships 2024: Trio in mouth-watering battle for Paris place

Matt Richards, Tom Dean and Duncan Scott
Matt Richards (left), Tom Dean (centre) and Duncan Scott (right) will all comepete at the British Swimming Championships in London this week [Getty Images]

2024 British Swimming Championships

Dates: 2-7 April Venue: London Aquatics Centre Time: Heats from 10:00 BST. Finals session from 19:00

Coverage: Finals sessions streamed live on BBC iPlayer & BBC Sport website and app. Daily reports on BBC Sport website

The maths is stark. Three into two won't go.

Britain has three leading names in the men's 200m freestyle, all seeking Olympic places. Tom Dean is the Olympic champion. Duncan Scott won silver at Tokyo 2020. Matt Richards won gold at the 2023 world championships.

All three will line up in the event at the British Swimming Championships in London this week - the meet that doubles as Britain's Olympic and Paralympic trials.

The catch? Only two can qualify for the event in Paris this summer.

"It is scary because if it goes wrong, you are not going - it is that difficult," Richards told the BBC.

"But I can't wait. I will be really excited that morning. It will then be about trying to keep it cool and stay composed ready for the race."

An Englishman, a Scot and an Welshman, the trio are team-mates, friends and rivals who won relay gold together at the last Olympics in Tokyo.

England's Dean and Scotland's Scott have spent time as room-mates while Wales' Richards, the youngest of the three at 21, has been tipped as the next big thing in British swimming.

Both he and Dean want to become the first Briton to win five medals at a single Olympics.

The current record is four, held by Scott.

When Dean won Olympic gold in the event in Tokyo, he pipped Scott to the touch by just 0.04 seconds.

When Richards produced a shock to beat Dean in the 2023 world championships, the margin of victory was even less - a mere 0.02 seconds.

"I love the rivalries between us all," Richards told BBC Wales.

"We're all really good friends first, which makes it quite special.

"But when we are in the water, we're all competitors and we all want to beat each other.

"There is a lot of pressure on it, but at the same time we all want to see each other do well. Maybe just one one hundredth less well than yourself!"

While Dean is the champion and Richards the rising star, Scott is the elder statesman at 26.

He was considering his future in the sport after a difficult 2023 dogged by illness and mixed results.

Scott has found form this year, however, and has likened the build-up to the 200m freestyle British showdown to the end of a boxing match with each convinced he has done enough to win.

"Whether I'm lying or telling the truth, I've got to say that I'm fully, fully believing," the Scot, who will also contest the 100m freestyle against Dean and Richards, plus the 200m individual medley alongside Dean, told BBC Sport last month.

"I'm confident in the work that I've done for sure. I think that's really exciting, especially given where I was at last year."

Peaty's return and the others to watch

For the Olympics, the winner of each event is guaranteed a place in the team in Paris this summer. The second spot will be chosen by British Swimming's performance director and head coach.

Away from the 200m freestyle, Adam Peaty will look to secure his place to compete for a third successive 100m breaststroke gold medal in Paris.

The 29-year-old, who went eight years unbeaten over the distance between 2014 and 2022, won bronze at the world championships in February as he makes his comeback following a mental health break last year.

He is expected to have few issues qualifying the Olympics when he races on Tuesday, day one of the trials at London Aquatics Centre.

Laura Stephens won 200m butterfly world gold in February.

She will race in that event, plus the 100m, while Freya Colbert, another 2024 world champion, will race the 400m individual medley, the event in which she won her world title, plus the 200m individual medley and 100m and 200m freestyle.

Tokyo relay gold medallist Freya Anderson will make a late decision on whether to race, as she has been struggling with glandular fever.

Paralympic hopefuls bid for Paris places

Para-swimming events will be fully integrated into the finals programme for the first time.

For those hoping to compete at the Paralympics, the selection process for Paris is slightly different - swimmers must meet qualifying times to be considered for a place on the team.

They will take part in multi-class events, meaning swimmers from every category are in the same race, with the one closest to the world record in their class declared the winner and the British champion.

Britain won 14 golds at last year's World Championships in Manchester and picked up 26 medals - including eight golds - at the Tokyo Paralympics in 2021.

In the absence of six-time gold medallist Bethany Firth, who is pregnant, Poppy Maskill and newcomer Olivia Newman-Baronius will aim to step up in the S14 category and secure places at their first Games.

Alice Tai, who won 4x100m relay gold in Rio but missed Tokyo through injury and then had her right leg amputated in early 2022, will be hoping to make her Games return.

Tokyo gold medallists Maisie Summers-Newton and Tully Kearney, who has returned to the S5 category after being classified as an S6 for last year's worlds, and current world champions Ellie Challis, Stephen Clegg, Suzanna Hext and Faye Rogers will also be among those in action.

How to watch British Swimming Championships

Each of the finals sessions (from 19:00 BST) will be shown live on the BBC Sport website and app, plus the Red Button from Tuesday, 2 April until Sunday, 7 April.

There will also be daily reports on the BBC Sport website and app.