After Tokyo Olympic Delay, Universality Places Won’t Require 2019 Worlds Status

With the 2020 Tokyo Olympics delayed one full year, FINA and the IOC have tweaked their universality rules, which will no longer require athletes to have competed at 2019 Worlds.

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.

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Christian Alvarez
10 months ago

Jared: One doubt regarding the new Universality rules:

Because of the exceptional circumstances related to COVID-19 crisis, the consequent postponement of Tokyo Olympics and taking into account the unprecedented two-year period between the FINA World Championship Gwangju 2019 and the new date of the games in 2021, NOC/NFs with no men or women with and “A” or “B” time standard will be allowed to enter their highest ranked men athlete OR highest ranked women athlete in one individual event…………..

Does this means that will be allowed only ONE Universality representative by country when they do not have men or women with and “A” or “B” time standard?
It is confusing, if they are allowing one men AND… Read more »

9 months ago

Hello Jared,

Do you have a confirmation of this note?
At this point, the FINA Standard rules still have the World Championship rule and we are in December 2020?
Any official confirmation or note from FINA or IOC?
Thank you,

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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