Francesca Halsall: Rio 2016 Olympics remains the focus

By Owen PhillipsBBC Sport
Halsall glad for Glasgow experience

Britain's top female swimming sprinter Francesca Halsall says her main target remains the "endgame" of Rio 2016 as she prepares for a hectic summer.

Halsall is competing in five events at this week's British Championships in Glasgow, adding the 50m backstroke to her regular double up in the sprint events for the freestyle and butterfly.

But the 23-year-old says 2014 is about deciding what events she races in Rio.

"Rio is the main focus of my four years - the endgame," Halsall told BBC Sport.

"An Olympic medal is the only medal I haven't got in my collection.

"I want to peak and be at my best then so whatever happens in between happens."

The six-day long British Championships, which get under way on Thursday, serve as England's qualifying for the Commonwealth Games in July/August, and both events are being held in Glasgow's Tollcross International Swimming Centre.

This is the first time the British Championships have been held outside of England - and Halsall a British record holder in seven events - will be defending titles in 50m freestyle, 100m freestyle and 50m butterfly.

Gibson welcomes qualifying changes

"It's exciting and should be good fun," Halsall said. "It's nice to have a change of scenery. And the fact we will be able to swim in the pool where the Commonwealth Games will be held is always good."

The British Championships, the Commonwealth Games, the European Championships in August and the World Short Course Championships in December are all part of the journey to working out what Halsall will swim in Rio.

"I have five events that I am targeting for the trials," Halsall said. "The 50m and 100m free, the 50m and 100m butterfly and the 50m backstroke - which I am adding in.

"I am not really used to doing backstroke but I seem to be going okay at so I will see how it goes this season."

Despite not turning 24 until the third day of the British Championships, Halsall has been competing at the top level for nearly 10 years, having been part of the England team for the 2006 Commonwealth games in Melbourne.

The Southport-born, Loughborough-based swimmer is relishing the chance to race in Glasgow, but her and National Sprint coach James Gibson are mindful of the bigger picture.

Gibson, who she teamed up with after the London Olympics, added: "The British Championships are a stepping stone towards the major events later on in the year.

"You cannot now avoid this four-year cycle terminology. The way UK Sport and the funding model is set up it is all to do with the Olympic performance and how the athletes fare at the Olympic Games - so that is what they put as their benchmark."