Comparing US Olympic Trials Standards from 2021 to 2024 by Entries

USA Swimming last week released time standard for the 2024 US Olympic Swimming Trials, which will be held in Indianapolis, Indiana from June 15-23.

While so far, the organization has not allowed its technical staff to give interviews about specifically how the standards were developed, they did say they used “predictive analytics” to develop an algorithm with a goal of between 80 or 90 qualifiers per event during the qualifying period (not actual swimmers who enter the event, just the number of swimmers who hit the standard in the qualifying period).

This brings a new level of objectivity to the standards. While USA Swimming has never disclosed how previous standards were developed either, it is widely-believed within the swimming community that there was some level of subjectivity to the standards in previous editions.

With the help of SwimSwam data guru Barry Revzin, we wanted to look at how many entries from 2021s Olympic Trials meets (Wave I + Wave II) would be under the 2024 standards. The table below compares the number of entries (not qualifiers) from 2021s Trials meets (2021 column) to the number of entries (not qualifiers) from 2021s Trials meets (2024 column).

Unsurprisingly, the three events in which the time standards have dropped the furthest are the three events that will “cut” the most qualifiers from 2021 to 2024.

Also unsurprising is that the distance events and 400 IMs have the lowest percentage of athletes “cut” from 2021 to 2024 – swimmers who are talented enough to qualify but aren’t going to final in these grueling events will choose other races at some point in their careers if given the option. That means that there is a wider ‘distribution’ of athletes at the lower end of the qualifying range.

The depth of the ‘cuts’ in some races is shocking, and probably needed. While the 50 freestyles, for example, are exciting events, and don’t take that much time, there becomes a diminishing return when sitting through 20 heats of prelims of any race. Even moreso in the men’s 100 breast and men’s 100 back.

Men’s events tended to be cut at a higher rate (by entries, not times or qualifiers) than women’s events: 7 of the top 9 deepest cuts came from men’s events. In total, that’s 157 more men’s entries cut than women’s. That could be in part explained by the fact that women tend to have multiple cuts in more events than men do, so comparing “entries” to “qualifiers (the standard used to develop 2024 cuts)” could hit men harder.

There were also more men’s entries to begin with: 1,309 for men versus 1,193 for women. So the disproportionate cutting of men’s races would be expected to even the field somewhat.

Ultimately, USA Swimming says that the goal is to get to around 1,300 total competitors (not entries) for the 2024 Trials. The new standards represent a cut of entries by about 44% (not competitors)

Standards Comparison

2021 2024 Drop (By Athlete Count) Event
60 50 -16.70% M 400 Medley
42 34 -19.00% F 1500 Free
57 46 -19.30% M 1500 Free
66 51 -22.70% F 400 Medley
79 61 -22.80% F 200 Free
52 40 -23.10% F 800 Free
71 54 -23.90% F 400 Free
78 57 -26.90% M 200 Fly
64 45 -29.70% M 800 Free
71 48 -32.40% M 200 Free
82 53 -35.40% M 200 Medley
85 54 -36.50% F 200 Breast
79 50 -36.70% F 200 Fly
111 68 -38.70% F 100 Breast
75 45 -40.00% F 200 Back
91 49 -46.20% F 200 Medley
91 49 -46.20% M 200 Back
98 52 -46.90% F 100 Free
114 60 -47.40% F 100 Back
82 43 -47.60% M 400 Free
100 52 -48.00% F 100 Fly
109 54 -50.50% M 100 Fly
87 43 -50.60% M 200 Breast
99 44 -55.60% M 100 Free
130 48 -63.10% F 50 Free
125 45 -64.00% M 100 Back
167 55 -67.10% M 50 Free
137 45 -67.20% M 100 Breast

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JimSwim22
4 months ago

Back in the day the meet was tiny. We had less than 16 swingers in the boys 4Fr one year.
I’d love to hear how the crowd energy level during finals has changed. I like the proposals for 6 hearts max (60 swimmers)

ChefJake
4 months ago

Bring back Wave 1 & Wave 2 for 2028!

Lots of seats to fill
4 months ago

I understand wanting to reduce the size of the field from the logic that it is unlikely for someone past 50th seed to make the team. However, Olympic Trials is not just about that.

Olympic Trials is also a tool to energize swim clubs which means a great recruitment tool for more athletes to find the sport and become swimmers. It is simple math that by increasing the number of athletes in swimming, you also increase the chance of finding the next Ledecki, Phelps, Dressel, Manuel, et al. Reducing participants limits the 15 or 16 year old who makes it with no chance to make the team but gets the experience so they are ready for the next Trials.

Finally,… Read more »

SwimFan49
Reply to  Braden Keith
2 months ago

Aren’t prelims largely family/friends anyway? I took my kids (then age groupers) to 2016 Trials and the only reason we went to one prelim session was because an older kid that used to swim in their club was swimming. Otherwise, we were only there to attend evening finals sessions.

Noah
4 months ago

I get that USA swimming might want a smaller meet, but to make the times so strict that 60% of swimmers wouldn’t have qualified seems a little extreme.

Strict
Reply to  Noah
4 months ago

Not really. A swimmer who gets a trials cut by .01 won’t make the team. Makes more sense to have the meet be based on the 40 fastest swimmers in each event by a certain deadline. This is the Olympic trials we’re talking about.

Smith-King-Huske-Curzan
Reply to  Strict
4 months ago

I would limit to the 48 fastest swimmers for 6 heats per event.

SwammaJammaDingDong
Reply to  Noah
4 months ago

The name of the meet is “Olympic Trials” and it’s nice to see the meet returning to that purpose. 2021 turned into a participation trophy event for 1000+ swimmers.

HulkSwim
4 months ago

This feels right. The actual entties will end up a little higher than the 2024 column shows, because we love a challenge 🙂 but not by so much that we’ll see 90 athletes in any event. Somewhere between 65-80, which feels right.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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