Here’s a quick breakdown of dates, names and locations of the major upcoming Olympic Trials meets. Note that there are plenty of other National Championships besides those listed here, but swimmers in countries like Israel and Hungary aren’t as bound by those as their formal Trials (most of the Hungarian team has already been named, in fact). There will also be other internationals at some of these meets, as they’re ordained FINA Olympic qualifying meets, trying to hit cuts to make their countries’ National Teams.
Canadian Olympic Trials March 27th – April 1; Montreal – There’s an old guard in Canada that will be vying for Olympic medals with tons of experience (Brent Hayden, Ryan Cochrane, Julia Wilkinson, Annamay Pierse, Mike Brown, Victoria Poon) while simulatneously trying to fend off the rising fame of the Canadian youth (Sinead Russell, Sam Cheverton, Martha McCabe). This meet will be a big division between swimmers wanting to go out on top, and the next generation getting a foothold internationally.
China Nationals/Olympic Trials April 1 – April 7; Shaoxing – It’s hard to ever know much going into or coming out of the Chinese Olympic Trials, because of the secrecy, but there are a few things that we’re pretty confident about. Sun Yang is going to be very fast, but he’s going to have some unknown countrymates coming right along with him. Who will be the next great Chinese swimming surprise to emerge at this meet?
Japan Olympic Trials April 2nd-April 8th; Tokyo – If there’s one country whose speed hasn’t been hindered much by the loss of the rubber suits, it’s Japan. Earlier at this year’s Japanese Short Course Nationals, they broke 6 National Records, and that’s with many swimmers training through to focus on the upcoming long course trials. Two-time, defending and reigning, 100 and 200 breaststroke Kosuke Kitajima could face the biggest challenge of his career at this year’s trials – countrymen Ryo Tateishi and Naoya Tomita have been lights-out in short course.
South African Nationals/Olympic Trials April 16th-April 22nd; Durban – Many South Africans will be returning home from their international training bases for this meet. The men’s sprint group is always a focus – good young swimmers like Gideon Louw and Graeme Moore, along with the veterans Darian Townsend and Roland Schoeman. The women, though, look as good as they have in a decade, with swimmers like Kathryn Meaklim and teenage butterflier Vanessa Mohr. And then there’s Chad le Clos, who was an ironman at this year’s FINA World Cup en route to a win and huge cash prizes. His focus will have to turn to a more compact, long course schedule for the Olympics.
Russia Nationals/Olympic Trials April 17th-April 22nd; Moscow – The Russians have been tip-toeing around Siberia so far this year, and we haven’t seen anything out of them that’s even a good time (let alone great) without taking training into context (American-trained Vlad Morozov excluded). People have forgotten about them since the men collapsed at last year’s World Championships. Last week at the St. Petersburg International, Danila Izotov (remember him?) won in 49.63, which is not a bad time for that point of the year. But how the team looks at these trials are going to be a huge surprise to everyone. The women were much better than the men in St. Petersburg, however. Anastasia Zueva swam a 59.39 in the 100 back, 3rd-best time in the world, and Veronika Popova was very good in 55.18/1:59.44 in the 100/200 freestyles
Maria Lenk Trophy (Brazil) April 24th-April 29th; Rio de Janeiro – Brazil has sort of a three-legged Olympic qualifying system, and though there’s another meet (see below) that’s called their Olympic Trials, this Maria Lenk Trophy is the one where most will aim to swim their best times. The sprinters will be jockeying for relay positions, as that could be a medal, while Cesar Cielo, Thiago Pereira, and the rest of the PRO16 crew will show what their big training will do for them. This will also be the big return of the suspended Fabiola Molina. This meet is a huge deal in Brazil, and doubles as the team championships (which means a lot). Can’t wait to see who the mercenaries will be this year.
Brazilian Olympic Trials May 9th-May 12; Rio de Janeiro – Like the above, but will only be used as last-ditch effort t0 earn qualifying times by those who were on the edge at Maria Lenk.
German Olympic Trials May 10th – May 14th; Berlin – Last year’s qualifying was a disaster, but with a new National Team administration in place, the Germans will look to relieve some stress from their swimmers pre-Olympics. World Record holder Paul Biedermann and Britta Steffen will look to lead a rising group to repeat their 3-medal performance from Beijing.
Polish Nationals/Olympic Trials May 12th-May 15th; Olsztyn – An often overlooked Olympic Trial, coming at the end of a big run of the main block, but the Poles deserve some level of attention. They’ve got great men’s butterfliers, especially Marcin Cieslak, Pawel Korzeniowski, and Konrad Czerniak, the latter of whom was 2nd in the world behind Phelps in the 100 fly in 2011.