The 2021 Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Swimming Trials will look drastically different than what we’ve seen in the past.
Swimming Canada announced some major changes to next year’s meet in light of the coronavirus pandemic on Monday, with the event most notably switching to a timed finals format with a limited number of athletes invited to allow for “sufficient physical distancing and other risk mitigating protocols”.
Each event will be contested as a timed final, with a maximum of 20 swimmers invited per race. This will allow the events to run over two 10-lane heats, with dedicated warm-up and warm-down periods before and after each event.
Additionally, Paralympic events will be contested as multi-class timed finals, with a maximum of 15 swimmers per event.
“Today we announce some key decisions for 2021, based on the best information we have available,” said High Performance Director John Atkinson. “In this global COVID-19 pandemic, we have to make health and safety the priority, along with allowing for the best possible performance from our athletes who will be invited to the Trials.”
The 2021 Canadian Olympic Trials are scheduled for April 7-11, 2021 in Toronto.
The organization also announced the cancellation of its Open Water Swimming Trials, scheduled for April 17-18 in Grand Cayman, and says that the remaining spots available for the FINA Olympic Marathon Swim qualifier in Fukuoka, Japan will be contested for in the 1500 freestyle at the Trials.
With so few swimmers given the opportunity to compete, this also means that the Trials will no longer serve as a selection meet for the 2021 FINA World Junior Swimming and Open Water Swimming Championships, and that Canada will not send a team to next year’s World University Games.
“We do not take the decisions announced today lightly,” said Atkinson. “We strive to ensure all in swimming are aware of the decisions and why we are taking them, and to give our athletes time to make plans based on the decisions,” Atkinson said.
“While some of the decisions may not be popular, we determined this was the best alternative after a great deal of work went into considering multiple scenarios.”
In terms of the process for inviting athletes, Swimming Canada says it will post an initial ranked list of 30 swimmers per event by December 22, with the first round of invitations to be sent out on January 6.
Additional detail on the invitation process and other changes can be found here.
“The primary purpose of the Olympic & Paralympic Swimming Trials is to select athletes to be nominated to Team Canada for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo,” said Swimming Canada CEO Ahmed El-Awadi.
“In a global pandemic, every scenario has its drawbacks, and any event we offer must be done with health and safety as the top priority. By hosting these Trials as an invitational event, it allows us to run a swim meet as safely as possible while giving us the best chance of selecting our Olympic and Paralympic teams as fairly as possible.”
Atkinson also added that if the situation should improve by the time April rolls around, Swimming Canada may consider altering the Trials format, but it will not invite more swimmers to compete. This would perhaps mean that the organization would consider having traditional prelims and finals with a pared-down field.
“Conversely, should the COVID-19 pandemic have improved significantly, the review may address the format of the Trials, however this will not see more athletes invited to the Trials,” he said.