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)
|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|