Burch sets sights on record low
Roy-Allan Burch will not be retiring despite falling agonisingly short in his bid to reach the Olympic Games after a courageous comeback from a horrific training accident.
Burch made a miraculous recovery from a career-threatening injury, having ruptured both his patella tendons while playing basketball in March last year, but was unable to hit the A standard in the 50 metres freestyle.
It is understood he seriously contemplated calling it quits after missing out on Rio, a disappointment made all the more acute considering the hurdles he had to overcome to race again competitively.
Ben Smith, the Bermuda coach, admits it was heartbreaking to watch Burch's Rio dreams go up in smoke but said the 30-year-old's motivation was beginning to bubble back.
“It's been an emotional few weeks for Roy and it was such a difficult situation,” Smith said. “Being in Bermuda we didn't see the day-to-day things he had to go through to get back.
“He was sitting in a machine for ten hours a day just to be able to bend his knee and then going from a wheelchair to crutches.
“He came so close after such a short space of time after the injury and it makes no sense for him to stop before he achieves his goals.”
Burch was able to achieve the B standard in a time of 22.95 sec in the 4x50 free relay at last month's Caribbean Island Championships in the Bahamas to qualify for next year's Fina World Championships in Budapest.
He also has the inaugural World Short Course Championships in Windsor, Ontario, to look forward to in December.
“We've spoken to Roy about the future and before his injury he was looking to go under 21 seconds, which would have put him in a position to final or semi-final at the Olympics,” Smith said.
“The goal hasn't changed. He's got to try and hit the 21 seconds [Burch's best is 22.04] as that puts Bermuda in a spot we have never been in before.
“We've never had an A qualifier. We've never had someone who can produce that level of time.”
In Burch's absence, Bermuda will be represented in Rio by Julian Fletcher in the 100 breaststroke and Rebecca Heyliger in the 50 freestyle.
Both swimmers received B standard invitations from Fina having competed at last summer's World Championships in Kazan, meaning Burch had no option but to meet the A time of 22.27.
“It's a very complicated system and you had to go to worlds, and obviously Roy couldn't go to worlds,” Smith said.
“He wasn't allowed to be on a plane; he wasn't allowed to do anything that would have taken him to Kazan.
“You had this select process and when it came down to it there were even less people selected than we thought.
“They only selected one B person per event, that's it, which was about 18 swimmers.
“In order to get selected Roy had to hit the A standard. Without having that selection based on them attending worlds, Julian and Rebecca wouldn't be going either.”
Burch had to skip several steps during his rehabilitation to give himself the best possible chance of making the Olympics.
He will now consult with his medical team to make sure he did not do any long-term damage during his accelerated recovery.
“He's going to get his knee scoped and make sure he's healthy and get back to work once the doctors clear him,” Smith said.
“He's already accomplished a great feat by putting himself in a position to go to the World Championships.
“He knows he's fast and it was a time issue, and if he'd had six more months he could have made it. Now he's got that time to prepare and go the worlds fast.
“Whatever time he does there will determine what he does next.”