Universality Places Explained
The universality places typically allow smaller nations and those with developing swimming programs to send athletes to the Olympics. The main Olympic qualifying criteria set up ‘A’ and ‘B’ time standards for athletes to qualify. But if a nation has no athletes selected that way, it can still be represented in swimming at the Olympics through the universality system.
In short, the system allows a nation with no Olympic swimming qualifier to enter up to one man and one woman in the Olympics – typically, those ‘universality‘ entries require that the athletes competed in the most recent edition of FINA‘s long course World Championships.
2019 Worlds Participation No Longer Required
Because the Olympic postponement now leaves a two-year gap between 2019 Worlds and the Tokyo Olympics themselves, FINA revised the universality rule, which no longer requires that athletes competed at Worlds in 2019.
The old rules stipulated that athletes could earn universality places “provided that those athletes participated in the 18th FINA World Championships 2019 and are approved by FINA to compete.” But the new rules, which you can read here, change the wording: “provided that those athletes participated in the 18th FINA World Championships 2019 and/or are approved by FINA to compete.”
The new system allows a nation to enter its “highest ranked man athlete or highest ranked woman athlete in one individual event, based upon the FINA Points Table (2021 edition).”
The change should allow countries with universality entrants to take young swimmers who may not have been on a 2019 Worlds roster, but have since risen to the top of their nation. The qualifying swims have to come at a FINA Olympic qualifying event, which can include swims from 2019 Worlds.
A few more notes on universality places:
- If a country qualifies a female swimmer through the ‘A’ or ‘B’ standard system, but no male swimmer, that nation can enter one man under the universality system.
- If a universality selected athlete has a ‘B’ cut, they can swim up to two events at the Olympics.
- If a universality selected athlete does not have a ‘B’ cut, they can enter just one event at the Olympics.
The qualifying period was extended by about a year – it originally ran from March 1, 2019 to June 29, 2020, but now extends from March 1, 2019 to June 27, 2021.