One of the big topics on Thursday was news and notes from the big meets in the summer of 2012: the Olympic Trials and the U.S. Open, as well as a hint for what the new quad plan will look like under Frank Busch. Busch has wasted no time in implementing some changes to the program. More globally, we also heard from FINA about the makeup of their executive committee.
2012 U.S. Olympic Trials
For the first time ever, all 8 nights of the U.S. Olympic Trials will be live on NBC at 7 PM Eastern Time. For those who were concerned about NBC getting the rights to the 2014 through 2020 Olympics and what that might mean for the publicity of swimming, it seems as though the NBC/Comcast family is really gaining some momentum with its swimming coverage. This full-time, prime-time coverage of the trials, on its main broadcast network no-less, will be a huge boon for the sport.
We did our breakdown of the U.S. Olympic Trials qualifiers last week, and we came pretty close to hitting the official entry numbers that USA Swimming released. Their count is at 1,506 (we had 1,510) total qualifiers, with a pretty even split between males and females. Here’s the scary part: this is already 270 more than we had in 2008, and there’s likely still a couple of hundred who will qualify in the 9 months between now and the Trials. Omaha might have to start thinking about a second warmup/cooldown pool.
And finally, an interesting quote from ASCA head John Leonard regarding doping. He said that we are looking at one of the “dirtier” Olympic Games in London that we have seen in the last 20 years (presumably since the Chinese systematic doping on the women’s side at the 1992 Games).
It was taken that he was referring to the event in general, not specifically swimming, but things would have to be really bad to match the level of 1992. Among the measures that the organizers have used to help control doping is the banning of all needles from the Athlete Village.
2012 U.S. Open
Besides the changes discussed yesterday to the 2012 U.S. Open, specifically that only long course cut times would be allowed to try and cut back on the number of entries (that’s not official, but seems to be a few rubber-stamps away from passing), there were more changes to the format announced today. At the 2012 U.S. Open, there will be an A and B final open to all entrants, and then a C-final that will be reserved specifically for 18-and-under swimmers. This is especially important as that U.S. Open will be the selection meet for the 2012-2013 Junior National Team.
This strikes a great balance between increasing opportunities for our youth swimmers to get that exposure at the elite meets without hampering the development of our senior-aged National Team swimmers.
2013-2016 Quad Plan
Editors Note: For those unfamiliar, a “Quad Plan” is the general layout that the USA Swimming National Team Program makes to guide its path through every Olympic cycle. It includes the major meets that National Teamers will participate in, the National Championship meets, and whatever the big focus meet of the year is.
Frank Busch came in too late in the process to make huge changes to this year’s quad plan, but he’s wasted no time on putting together that which will prepare us for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. The first thing he did was to move the Conoco Phillips National Championship meet in odd-numbered years much earlier in the schedule to avoid the terrible situation we had this year where the World Championship team swimmers were forced to swim it back-to-back with the big meet.
CP Nationals will now take place in early July (the dates have already been set for 2013: July 8-12). In 2013, that meet will serve as the World Championship Trials, which will diverge from the last regime’s plan to choose the team the year before. That makes the meet a week before the World Championships are set to begin in Barcelona, Spain (and two weeks before the pool-swimming will begin).
Later in the summer (in the standard August time slot) there will be a Junior National Championships and a U.S. Open Championship (that will be open to athletes of all nationalities – hence the “Open”). This means there will be two National Championship meets in the summers of odd years: a standard meet and an open meet. This falls closer in line to what other countries have.
The 2013 World University Games (which will be selected at the 2012 U.S. Open) will be from July 6-17, so athletes who commit to the World University Games will miss their opportunity to qualify for the World Championships, which could generate some controversey, but seems almost unavoidable in the context of the plan.
Refocus on the National Youth Team
Frank Busch has said that the United States would be refocusing its efforts on the National Youth Team program. The USA’s perceived falling-behind in its youth ranks has been a criticism of many swim fans in the past year or so.
Specific moves that have been made include allowing National Youth Team coach Jack Roach to hire an assistant. This assistant will be George Heidinger, who previously served on the National Team in a role of a “Performance Support Consultant” (more typically referred to as a technical coach).
Busch also would like to have an extended weekend in Colorado Springs (the home of USA Swimming) for the winning Junior National Team. This will help give some incentive to develop a wide range of junior athletes, as well as put more focus on the team competition. Along with the winning team, he would like to bring the winner of each individual event and their coach as well.
Currently, there are 102 different athletes on the National Youth Team, represented by 75 different coaches.
Coach Representation on the FINA Executive Committee
This has been a topic that we haven’t delved into too far here at The Swimmers’ Circle, but it’s probably on the horizon as the next big fight within the swimming community. USA Swimming were the big pushers to try and get a coach representative on the FINA Executive Committee, but their proposal was defeated 17-4.
FINA Vice-President Dale Nuberger was asked if the matter would be brought to a vote again (possibly at the next FINA Conference in 2013) and Nuberger said that it would probably not even come to a vote.
This is a topic that we’ll begin to examine more in the coming months, but what it comes down to is that when FINA makes its biggest decisions that alter the future of the sport, there is currently no coach or athlete vote. There are both benefits and challenges to having a coach on the committee, but we’ll dig further into the topic later.
High Performance Team Setting Up Website
Coach Busch is working on setting up a US National Team High Performance website that will help maintain contact with club coaches. This is a small, but potentially useful, step.