Team GB have been tipped to provide “some special moments in the pool” at the rearranged Olympics after ex-world champion Ben Proud and two-time Rio 2016 silver medallist James Guy were among 24 swimmers added to their squad.
Molly Renshaw – who broke the British record for the 200 metres breaststroke at the selection trials earlier this month, setting a world-leading time in the discipline in the process – is also set to travel to Tokyo this summer.
The latest batch of entrants join Adam Peaty, Duncan Scott, James Wilby and Luke Greenbank, all of whom secured their spots at the start of the year.
While Britain’s swimmers collected six medals in Brazil five years ago, when Peaty memorably clinched gold by breaking his own world record in the 100m breaststroke, Team GB chef de mission Mark England is bullish of bettering that haul in Japan.
“The team has a blend of Olympic medallists from Rio, it obviously has Olympic champions. It has members of the team who have some of the world’s fastest times in 2021,” he said.
“I’d be pretty confident that we are selecting the strongest swim team that has ever represented Team GB at an Olympic Games. We’ll see some special, special moments in the pool in Tokyo.”
Looking more broadly, England added: “What we are taking to the Games is a very, very, very competitive team. Rio was outstanding but this group of athletes has the potential to have a fantastic medal return.”
Proud posted a trials-winning time in London which would have won silver at the 2019 World Championships in the 50m freestyle while Guy was part of the 4×200m freestyle and 4×100m medley relay teams that were runners-up in Rio.
The absences of the likes of Jazz Carlin and Siobhan-Marie O’Connor – both of whom won silver in Rio – due to retirement and struggles with ulcerative colitis respectively, open up a couple of places for newcomers.
European champion Freya Anderson will make her Olympics debut and so too will Commonwealth gold medallist Alys Thomas at the age of 30, while Joe Litchfield joins brother Max in the 28-strong squad so far.
Chris Spice, British Swimming performance director and swimming team leader for Tokyo, pointed out most of the team have never experienced a Games before as he attempted to water down expectations.
“Whilst our performances compared to a couple of years ago look very good, we know looking at other nations and their trials that they’re swimming quickly as well,” Spice said.
“We’ve got a massive challenge ahead of us to swim well in Tokyo, but we’ve also got some exciting, young talent.
“Seventy per cent of our team will be new and first-time Olympians. This is a very young team and we have of course got both eyes on Tokyo but when you extrapolate ahead to Paris (in 2024), it’s looking even more exciting.
“In terms of comparing this team to previous teams, it’s a strong team but in terms of it delivering something extraordinary in Tokyo, it’s probably a bit too early to tell.
“It’s definitely an exciting team and who knows? We’ll get in there and give it our best shot.”
Peaty won Team GB’s first gold medal at Rio 2016 and is overwhelming favourite to become the first British swimmer ever to defend his title.
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to go there and defend – or attack, as I call it,” the 26-year-old said.
“I want to go out there with my best performance and to get that means getting into the right mindset, the nerves, the enjoyment, the thrill of it, the adrenaline.
“I want to go out there and just enjoy the process of going through an Olympics and hopefully give the performance the country and the world deserves after going through so much rubbish with Covid-19 and a lot of negativity out there.
“Sport is one of things which can inspire people and lift people up, I just want to reinstate that.”
Up to seven more swimmers may be added to the team in June based on performances at the European Championships and other identified meets, with a primary focus on bolstering the potential for relay medals.
The final qualifying event for the marathon swim will take place from 19-20 June in Setubal, Portugal.