77% of Prelims Swims Slower Than Seed Time at Trials on Wednesday

  49 Braden Keith | June 27th, 2012 | Featured, National, U.S. Olympic Trials

One of the themes that has been buzzing around the coaching staff at this year’s US Olympic Trials is not just how long the prelims have been, but how slow the morning swims have been. Best times were tough to come by.

We heard some pretty absurd numbers thrown around, and we were curious if they were accurate, so we had swimming superfans Reed Shimberg and Matt Salzberg (D-III swimmers from Tufts, so you know they’re smart) do some stat-tracking during this morning’s session, and the results were tough-to-swallow.

The final verdict: only 23.4% of the swimmers in this morning’s races posted best times. That means on average, in each heat, between two and three swimmers were best times, and if you pull out the men’s races those numbers get even more depressing.

Even if you control for the swimmers in the circle seeded heats, where top swimmers like Elizabeth Beisel and Michael Phelps aren’t gunning for best times, on purpose, the ratio stays nearly identical at 23.4%.

The most likely explanation is the fact that many swimmers have already tapered to hit the qualifying times, but that number still seems unusually low.

DQ’s and scratches were pulled out of the data.

Here’s what even worse, out of the 346 swims this morning, 42% didn’t make an Olympic Trials qualifying time (146 swims). If that’s not the most damning evidence yet that the Trials standards are too slow, I don’t know what is.

Women’s 200 IM
21/113 were best times (18%)
55 missed cuts
48 slower than seed, still made cut.
21 in circle seeded heats were not best times.

Men’s 200 Fly
47/134 were best times (35%)
44 missed cuts
48 slower than seed, still made cut.
21 in circle seeded heats were not best times.

Women’s 200 Free
13/99 were best times (13%)
47 missed cuts
42 slower than seed, still made cut.
24 in circle seeded heats were not best times.

 

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49 Comments on "77% of Prelims Swims Slower Than Seed Time at Trials on Wednesday"


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Sam
3 years 11 months ago

It also could mean that they are so fast that people are tapering at last-chance meets to try and make them, and then they are over-tapered for trials?

junker23
3 years 11 months ago

I mean, I don’t think that has anything to do with the cuts being too fast, I think it more has to do with the calibre of athlete that can hit slow qualifying times. Obviously you’ll get more athletes qualifying when cuts are slower, but I wouldn’t assume it’s a linear relationship. Cut times get 5% slower and 10% more athletes qualify, or something. That adds more fringe athletes, more people that’ve already tapered just to get there and then voila, no more PRs in the mornings.

This all made sense in my head, but I’m afraid it won’t to anyone else.

aswimfan
3 years 11 months ago

Junker23,

I totally agree with you.

USA swimming MUST make qualifying standards faster, to cut down the numbers of swimmers as well as get quality higher!

3 years 11 months ago

SUITS!!
dammit, I wish I could have put that in bold, italics and underline…

WDE
3 years 11 months ago

you can’t blame this on suits at all. The qualifying period was 8/1/2010 through 6/18/12. aka after the suits had already been banned.
Could we attribute this to a slow pool?
I also agree wholly with Sam^^

don
3 years 11 months ago

Nope,

“The qualifying period is October 1, 2009, through 1:00 p.m. (Central Time) Monday, June 18, 2012”

gosharks
3 years 11 months ago

Suits were banned 10/1/2009.

junker23
3 years 11 months ago

SUITS!!!

I gotchu.

junker23
3 years 11 months ago

Bollocks, should’ve made a fake hyperlink.

Jim
3 years 11 months ago

“Here’s what even worse, out of the 346 swims this morning, 42% didn’t make an Olympic Trials qualifying time (146 swims). If that’s not the most damning evidence yet that the Trials standards are too slow, I don’t know what is.”

I don’t really follow you on that one, Braden. Maybe I’m missing something. The standards may be slow, but how would making the standards faster reduce the percentage of trials swims that don’t hit the standard?

aswimfan
3 years 11 months ago

The standards are too slow, and hence you get people who did not need to be serious enough to qualify.

As a result, these “not-so-serious” swimmers cannot replicate their lifetime best swims.

Jim
3 years 11 months ago

I don’t buy that for a second. After all, you don’t have to be “serious” or Olympic caliber to be motivated to improve your lifetime bests, and if you make the Trials cut you are a pretty serious swimmer anyway. I’ll go with Cup O’ Joe’s explanation below – that seems more compelling.

3 years 11 months ago

Thanks for the stats! When watching the prelims online I was very shocked to see how many people were not even hitting the qualifying cuts. Do I dare suggest that we move to an ncaa invitation type format? haha only kidding. But we should definitely make the cuts faster so we don’t see 160+ swimmers in each event.

3 years 11 months ago

For me, probably all 3:
-Suits.
-The Pool is very good, but not GREAT.(How deep it is?)
-Some guys like Phelps and Lochte are not peaked for Trials(and they need it?)

joel lin
3 years 11 months ago

I remember in 2008 hearing from the athletes who also went to Olympics that these temp pools are wavier and choppy. One said it was the sole reason for the drops in Beijing.

RetiredOldLady
3 years 11 months ago

You are right on with that. For those who can feel that sort of thing, the water moves differently in the temporary pools.

LAB
3 years 11 months ago

How many people just made qualifying standards within the last 6 weeks? If you were to take them out of the equation it would be interesting to see the stats on percentages…

I think another factor is the condition of the warmup pool as far as number of swimmers in it, everyone is going to have a diminished warmup before their race. The pool is just fine, isn’t it the exact same as 2008?

BMan
3 years 11 months ago

I would suppose that it could also be that the trials cuts themselves are so incredibly fast, especially on the men’s side, that most have to taper and have THE race of their life to get it. If you want to make Trials cuts even faster then they already are, then cuts for Junior Nat’ls and Senior Nat’ls need to examined very closely.

Globalroamer
3 years 11 months ago

I’ll disagree. 1800 people in the meet doesn’t happen with incredibly fast cuts, I think they are rather slow…I’m a big believer that the meet needs to be an ELITE meet, not a meet where thousands can participate, which to me degrades the quality of the meet. “I competed in 2012 Trials..” “Yeah, so did EVERYONE half decent!” Make the cuts faster, you’ll be amazed how many people will step up and make them, while at the same time raise the quality of the meet!

aswimfan
3 years 11 months ago

Totally Agree!!!

This is what I meant, but you said it in a lot more succinct and eloquent way!

fluidg
3 years 11 months ago

I’d bet that best times are fairly uncommon at any national or international level meet. Many swimmers achieve their cuts in ideal situations: in familiar surroundings where they are most comfortable and the pressure is low. Step up on the big stage and it’s a different story. Breakthrough swims are the exception—and usually when expectations by others are low. It’s more about what pressure does to the mind than about the taper.

I swam at nationals a few times in my mid-30’s after taking a decade off. At first, being in the warmup pool surrounded by a school of badass dolphin people started to freak me out. But then I realized that every one of them had a reason to be scared….every one but me! The low seeds were almost universally terrified and the high seeds carried the weight of high expectations. When I realized that under pressure very few were going to swim well compared to their entry times, I relaxed and had fun. All I had to do was swim my seed time, and I’d have a chance at a 2nd swim—18th. Almost.

DR. EVIL
3 years 11 months ago

USA Swimming has announced the time standards for the 2012 US Olympic Trials. The qualifying period for the trials will be from October 1st, 2009 onward. This is the date that polyurethane suits were banned in the United States, putting all swimmers on an even playing field headed into the trials.

The time standards are largely unchanged from the 2008 trials, with most of the lowered standards being on the women’s side. A significant drop in the cuts for the 100 backstroke events reflect the big change in backstroke technique philosophy that swimming has undergone in the last 2 years.

There has also been a big drop in qualifying times for the 200 IM, which is reflective of the fact that this is an event that the Americans have becoming increasingly proficient in.

The 2012 Olympic Trials will return to Omaha’s Qwest Center, the same site of the 2008 trials, from June 25-July 2, 2012.

PS. Hey Garrett…great to have you back online. Finally an unbiased view of swimming. Same exact pool as last time!! No excuses!!

Fatsmcgee
3 years 11 months ago

Dr.Evil, as a former swimmer who used to obsess over technique and is now gradually coming back to the sport, what has been this massive change in backstroke?

jman
3 years 11 months ago

I have a theory for some of these. I think many of the 18 and unders who had no chance of making a semifinal did not taper/rest for this meet. They are simply there for the experience and will focus on senior and junior nats in August where there will be fewer of the top named swimmers to compete against. Just a thought.

gosharks
3 years 11 months ago

In an interview on Day 1, Bob Bowman implied that he was really impressed with Chase Kalisz for being able to swim a best time at this meet, as if it is difficult/uncommon.

cupofjoe
3 years 11 months ago

I think the slow times are because of a variety of reasons. 1. The oft stated fact that so many of the swimmers recently made their cuts and so “are just happy to be there.” 2. With so many of the swimmers having little are no chance of getting a second swim the drive to make it back is gone. You also see this in early heats of nationals. 3. Most great swims are in highly motivated situations where the athlete is racing in finals or trying to make it to finals or trying to make a cut. For many of these swimmers none of those situations apply. 4. Some of the swimmers made their cuts more than a year ago and are not in the same shape. 5.An early summer meet does not make for great swims for many of the younger swimmers who have bigger meets (for them) laterin the summer.
It looks to me like most of the “great swims” are by people trying to get into semi’s, finals or make the team. That kind of validates my #3.

1650swimmer
3 years 4 months ago

Totally agree here. As a swimmer myself, I swim best at meets I am familiar with. LSC champs for example, because I have gone for years on end. Elite level meets for me are more for the experience and the “competitive mindset” comes into play to achieve the qualifying time since the chance of finaling is slim.

fattypatty
3 years 11 months ago

what I see is a bunch of 17, 18, and 19 year olds who are nervous and over-swimming .Most of the veterans are doing well and the super young don’t have anything to loose. It would be nice to see the ages associated with the statistics. Experience and not the “suits” is the culprit. I agree with FLUIDG.

Donald R. Megerle
3 years 11 months ago

Yes…they ARE smart! Don Megerle (swim coach at Tufts 1971-2004)

BillyGK
3 years 11 months ago

The pool is state of the art facility and 2.5 meters (8′ 2.4″) deep the whole way. The pool is not the reason for the times. Swimming super fast is very difficult. The world records these days are ridiculously fast because of the high tech suits. They helped a ton.

If the pool was slow, everyone would be complaining about it.

aswimfan
3 years 11 months ago

But the time cuts are NOT SUPER fast! AT ALL!
they are not world records!

BillyGK
3 years 11 months ago

Only the coaches and the swimmers may have the answers. You can’t blame the pool, because a lot of world records have been set in Myrtha pools.

The water looks very smooth to me……………..

aswimfan
3 years 11 months ago

I never said I blamed the pool.

Fever
3 years 11 months ago

I am completely unclear on how the time standards being fairly easy would make the meet swims slow. It would seem if the standards were easy the opposite would be true, people could make the standards easily and then taper for the meet itself. So that point seems incorrect.

Secondly, the point of this meet is to pick the best team, not a “stats” meet to see how many people improve their times. The measure of the success of this meet is how well the team does at the Olympics, not how swimmers do in Omaha. If we had 100% improved times at trials but failed to medal at the Olympics, would that be a success for the United States?

Finally, I think that the large meet is a long term benefit for United States Swimming. A lot of young swimmers get to experience the meet and come back in four or eight years better prepared and ready to make a serious run for the team or more. Take a look at the career of Dana Volmer if you want to see how this can be beneficial for young swimmers.

3 years 11 months ago

Someone please explain why all the top swimmers have lane 4?

thanks.

Jcoach
3 years 11 months ago

1 – This meet is really like no other. So many swimmers – mostly younger kids – are really crapping their pants when they come out to the blocks. I’ve heard tons of club coaches here talking about their kids in that way.

2 – I think the biggest reason is that most of these best times are times swum in a finals setting, where you can make changes/corrections after their first swim.

Billc707
3 years 11 months ago

Love these stats! I noticed this trend on Day 1 in the men’s 400 free. There were 111 entrants and only 60 broke 4 minutes. (cut is 3:59.99) So almost half missed the cut completely. Maybe they were pointing to another meet this summer (nationals, Jr. Nationals) and didn’t taper. Maybe they had to shave earlier this year to achieve the cut and couldn’t do it again so soon after. I’ve got to believe it’s a fast pool (deep water, indoors, cool temp) and the atmosphere has got to be inspirational. I don’t know that the time standards are that “easy” but I agree that 1800+ entrants are too many for a meet of this importance.

Would be interesting to compare these results to the NCAA meets. How many NCAA competitors make the A cuts during the meet, and how many get best times in the prelims? Some of the NCAA cuts are so challenging, that few even make the A cut, and even fewer go best times.

Some of the Grand Prix meets limited entries at 700 or so, and that seems to work well. Maybe they can tighten the standards to have about 1,000 entrants for 2016. I do think it’s valuable for young swimmers to go to trials once before they make the team. That way they get a taste of the show, and know how to prepare 4 years later. Frank Busch said they will tighten the standards in an article in today’s LA Times to allow fewer than 1,000 swimmers to enter. Probably a good idea.

LAB
3 years 11 months ago

I have been thinking a lot about how to minimize the meet, because I have heard from some veteran coaches that in 2008 only 20% of the swims were faster than the seed times and I am sure the same is true for NCAA’s.
I think besides the obvious of having faster cuts their are a few options: Maybe 1) have a qualifying meet for Olympic Trials, say summer nationals the year before and take the top 60-70 swimmers from each event; I think that this would make Nationals a much more important meet the summer before and swimmers could really feel that pressure, plus it would make people train and be prepared for Trials. Or…
2) Have the registration deadline six months before OT’s (to allow for travel planning) and only take the top 60% of athletes with cuts into the meet. This would filter out those swimmers who just made times 3 weeks ago and have nothing left to taper down from.

aswimfan
3 years 11 months ago

Also, shorten the qualifying period to:
from beginning of previous year to one month before the trials. (in essence, around a year and a half)

the current qualifying period is too ridiculous: ALMOST 3 YEARS!

Fever
3 years 11 months ago

The longer qualifying period has been heavily demanded by elite coaches and swimmers so that they could concentrate on the “meet” rather than having to worry about making the cut.

DR. EVIL
3 years 11 months ago

Average Age of Male Swimmers For Events Already Contested

Hardly Youngsters – Mostly Collegiate Level Swimmers

400 IM – 19.70
400 FR – 19.82
100 BR – 21.71
200 FR – 20.84
100 BA – 20.53
200 FL – 20.01

DR. EVIL
3 years 11 months ago

I believe this three year qualifying time period is now really revealing how little improvement really goes on even at the elite level of swimming. While the qualifying times were easier than in previous Trials, this is definitely not a population of novice swimmers by any stretch of the imagination!!

cupofjoe
3 years 11 months ago

Here’s another thought as to why the % of best times is so low at these trials (although I’m not sure it is much different than past trials): I believe the tech suit era raised many swimmers expectations for fast swimming and perhaps many of the swimmers in 2008 (and 2009) were anticipating fast swims becasue of the suit. Taking that away may have had a detrimental effect on some swimmers. Obviously the elite of the elite have the attitude “it’s not the suit but what’s in the suit” but I doubt the rank and file swimmer has that same prospective. That’s one of the qualities that separates the elite from the others.

CanuckSwimmer
3 years 11 months ago

I would be interested to know what the % best times at previous OTs were to have a comparison. Though 2008 might be a little inflated with many people only wearing the suits for the first time at trials.

Lea
3 years 11 months ago

I believe I read that 2008 was either 13% or 23%.

Money Maker
3 years 11 months ago

Here is a thought of big business. This meet has become big business and a TV and spectator event. Do you really think USA Swimming wants this meet to be 700 – 1000 athletes? Having this meet as a sell-out with 1800 swimmers and their families is big money, big sponsors, and bigger TV deals. I don’t see them wanting to drop 50% of the participants and their families that fill the seats, dinners, and hotels in Omaha.

The myrtha pool (Quest Center) meets will bring more recognition to our sport but at what cost. I am really going to be interested to see if the business side of this sport starts to get in the way of great swimming. I hope not!

cupofjoe
3 years 11 months ago

I agree, money maker. As soon as TV get’s involved they control the sport. Another problem is the huge salaries the U.S. swimming people are making. The old saying “be careful what you ask for” is appropriate here. Some how there needs to be a balance between getting attention for the sport (good) and money dictating the sport (bad). Usually the money wins out every time. I don’t really know what the answer is.

cupofjoe
3 years 11 months ago

Another quick point. I’ve always felt that FINA was all about the money with no regard for the athletes. I felt that U.S. Swimming was always about the athletes and that coaches kept their best interests in mine. I see a change in U.S. Swimming on this and it is not good. The money is getting so big that decisions are made based on money. The Olympic Trials are just one example. Plus I’m sure the law suits are weighing heavily on U.S. Swimming.

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About Braden Keith

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The most common question asked about Braden Keith is "when does he sleep?" That's because Braden has, in two years in the game, become one of the most prolific writers in swimming at a level that has earned him the nickname "the machine" in some circles. He first got his feet …

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