Did The Tight Turnaround From Trials Impact The U.S. Performance In Fukuoka?

Thank you to Barry Revzin for compiling the data.

The United States had a relatively short time to prepare for the 2023 World Championships following the conclusion of U.S. Nationals, with the action kicking off in Fukuoka just three weeks after things wrapped up in Indianapolis.

The 22-day turnaround was certainly quick, especially compared to last year when the International Team Trials were held at the end of April, but it still wasn’t the shortest.

Looking back over the last 11 years, the U.S. had just 11 days between both Pan Pacific Championships meets in 2014 and 2018, though that’s a much less high-stakes competition compared to the Olympics or World Championships.

In terms of Worlds, 22 days matches the gap the American squad had in 2017, while it’s a week shorter than the 2013 team and less than half of the time last year’s squad had to prepare.

(In 2015 and 2019, the U.S. selected the World Championship based on combined results from the 2014/2018 U.S. Nationals and Pan Pacs.)

U.S. Gap Between Trials & Major International Competition

Year U.S. Trials (last day) Olympics/Worlds/Pan Pacs (Day 1) Gap
2023 July 1 July 23 22 days
2022 April 30 June 18 49 days
2021 June 20 July 24 34 days
2018 July 29 August 9 11 days
2017 July 1 July 23 22 days
2016 July 3 August 8 36 days
2014 August 10 August 21 11 days
2013 June 29 July 28 29 days
2012 July 2 July 28 26 days


In terms of how the team performed on the global stage, the Americans won seven gold and 38 total medals in the pool at the World Championships in Fukuoka, a significant drop-off compared to their 2022 performance, when they won 17 gold and 45 total medals.

Pan Pacific Championships have been excluded since it doesn’t offer a clear picture of how the U.S. team performed given a lack of depth at the competition.

Event Total Medals Gold Medals Medal Table Rank Gap From Trials
2023 Worlds 38 7 2 22 days
2022 Worlds 45 17 1 49 days
2021 Olympics 30 11 1 34 days
2017 Worlds 38 18 1 22 days
2016 Olympics 33 16 1 36 days
2013 Worlds 29 13 1 29 days
2012 Olympics 30 16 1 26 days

Note that there have been varying degrees of medal events at the meets listed above, with the 2017, 2022 and 2023 World Championships offering 42 different events, while the 2013 Worlds had 40. The Tokyo Olympics had 35, while London 2012 and Rio 2016 both had 32.

Performances Without Trials

  • Without a trials meet to prepare for, the U.S. team won 14 gold and 27 total medals at the 2019 World Championships, worse than both 2017 and 2022.
  • In 2015 (also no trials), the U.S. won just eight gold and 23 total medals.
  • The relatively poor performances in 2015 and 2019 are due in part to USA Swimming selecting the World Championship team based on results the year prior.

Does the U.S. performance at the Olympics or World Championships directly relate to the gap they had from their trials meet? Not necessarily, as in terms of gold medals, the U.S. had their best showing come in 2017 with just a 22-day gap, the same as their worst performance by this metric this year.

However, they did perform their best in terms of overall medals with the biggest gap on the chart above, last year’s Worlds with 45 medals after a 49-day reset, while at the Olympics, the team won five fewer gold medals in 2021 compared to 2012 and 2016 despite having a relatively normal gap of 34 days.


Looking specifically at the athletes and how they fared, the majority of them added time from U.S. Nationals to Worlds.

If we take each swimmer’s fastest time in each event from both meets, factoring in relay splits from Fukuoka and adding half a second, 49 of 84 swims were faster at Nationals than they were at Worlds, meaning 58.33% of swims were slower on the international stage.

The most-improved performances from Nationals to Worlds came primarily on the men’s side, with Dare RoseBobby FinkeShaine Casas and Jack Alexy all producing notable drops.

Rose went from 23.16 to 22.79 in the 50 fly, 37 one-hundredths of a second or 1.60 percent faster, while Finke chopped off over 11 seconds in the 1500 free to swim 1.27 percent faster (14:42.81 to 14:31.59).

Casas’ 200 IM and Alexy’s 100 free nearly cracked one percent, while Katie Grimes and Katie Ledecky had the biggest drops on the women’s side.

Combining each athlete’s swims, Rose (2.15 percent drop), Finke (1.63 percent drop) and Carson Foster (1.44 percent drop) had the best relative performances (including relay splits with +0.5 seconds).

Top 10 U.S. Drops – Nationals To Worlds

Not including relay splits

Rank Swimmer Event Worlds Nationals Difference
1 ROSE Dare 50 FLY 22.79 23.16 -1.60%
2 FINKE Bobby 1500 FREE 14:31.59 14:42.81 -1.27%
3 CASAS Shaine 200 MEDLEY 1:56.35 1:57.47 -0.95%
4 ALEXY Jack 100 FREE 47.31 47.75 -0.92%
5 GRIMES Katie 400 MEDLEY 4:31.41 4:33.80 -0.87%
6 LEDECKY Katie 400 FREE 3:58.73 4:00.45 -0.72%
7 MURPHY Ryan 100 BACK 52.02 52.39 -0.71%
8 FOSTER Carson 400 MEDLEY 4:06.56 4:08.14 -0.64%
9 HEILMAN Thomas 200 FLY 1:53.82 1:54.54 -0.63%
10 FINK Nic 50 BREAST 26.59 26.74 -0.56%

On the flip side, there were 15 swims that added more than one percent from Nationals to Worlds (19 if we include relay splits with a half-second added on).

According to the data, Gretchen Walsh was the swimmer who had the biggest drop-off in performance from Indianapolis to Fukuoka, with all four of her events seeing a 1.39 percentage add or more.

Combining swims, Walsh (6.19 percent add), Lydia Jacoby (3.18 percent add) and Destin Lasco (3.12) saw the biggest drop-offs (including relay splits with +0.5 seconds).

Top 15 U.S. Adds – Nationals To Worlds

Not including relay splits

Rank Swimmer Event Worlds Nationals Difference
1 WHITE Rhyan 200 BACK 2:08.43 2:05.77 2.11%
2 JACOBY Lydia 50 BREAST 30.4 29.81 1.98%
3 LASCO Destin 200 BACK 1:57.84 1:55.63 1.91%
4 WALSH Gretchen 100 FREE 54.06 53.14 1.73%
5 WALSH Gretchen 50 FREE 24.71 24.31 1.65%
6 WEINSTEIN Claire 200 FREE 1:57.03 1:55.26 1.54%
7 WALSH Gretchen 100 FLY 57.14 56.34 1.42%
8 WALSH Gretchen 50 FLY 25.46 25.11 1.39%
9 DANT Ross 800 FREE 7:54.23 7:48.10 1.31%
10 JOHNSTON David 400 FREE 3:48.68 3:45.75 1.30%
11 HUSKE Torri 50 FLY 25.64 25.33 1.22%
12 JACOBY Lydia 100 BREAST 1:05.94 1:05.16 1.20%
13 WEITZEIL Abbey 50 FREE 24.27 24.00 1.12%
14 HELD Ryan 100 FREE 48.16 47.63 1.11%
15 KING Lilly 100 BREAST 1:05.45 1:04.75 1.08%


While the three-week turnaround between meets is the most obvious thing to look at when theorizing why the U.S. performed relatively poorly in Fukuoka, we also can’t overlook the geographical aspect.

Despite the U.S. team heading to training camp in Singapore about two weeks before the World Championships got underway, it was still a complete 180 in terms of timezone change, with Fukuoka time coming in at 13 hours of EST.

The shortest turnarounds between a trials and international meets over the last decade, as we saw in the chart at the top of this article, were the Pan Pacific Championships in 2014 and 2018.

Both of those meets were also significant time changes, with 2014 hosted in Queensland, Australia (14 hours ahead of EST) and 2018 held in Tokyo (13 hours ahead of EST).

Of course, those turnarounds were much shorter than the 2023 World Championships (both just 11 days), and the meet was a much lower-stakes affair in relative terms, but it’s still notable that the U.S. performance across all three meets was extremely similar.

Below, find a chart showing the distribution of swimmer improvements/adds from trials to the international competition, with a negative number meaning that time was dropped.

In an analysis published in 2018, the 2014 and 2018 Pan Pacific Championships were the only two meets where the median was positive (time added), having also looked at several other Olympic and World Championship events. That was the case until this year.

U.S. Time Distribution – Trials to International Meet

25% 50% 75%
Pan Pacs –  2014, 2018 -0.33% +0.24% +0.77%
Worlds – 2023 -0.35% +0.22% +0.92%


Ultimately, it’s fair to say that the 22-day turnaround from Nationals to the World Championships had a negative impact on the U.S. performance, but in all likelihood, it was one of a myriad of factors on how the team fared.

There was also the time change, the team being a relatively young and inexperienced one (including eight high schoolers), the undeniable fact that nearly everyone needs to be right around their peak to simply qualify for the team at Nationals, and of course, the pressure of racing against the best in the world on the big stage.

The 2024 U.S. Olympic Trials will conclude on June 23, 2024, 34 days prior to the start of the Olympic Games in Paris.

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4 months ago

Don’t just look at the USA team, but look at the Australia team as well….they had what USA typically has between trials and the olympics for their time between meets, and also their travel time was equivalent, i’m told, of about 1 hour time difference (compared to USA’s 12-14 hour time difference). That, to me, also played a HUGE part in the potential disparity between the two countries.

The Original Tim
4 months ago

USAS continues to make poor decisions around team selection and training camp scheduling.

In general, unless you’re one of the big superstars (e.g. Ledecky), you’ve gotta go through a full taper for Trials to make the team. Having a 3 week turnaround between trials and Worlds isn’t ideal for anyone who had to do a full taper for Trials. Putting my coach hat on, I’d ideally want to see *at least* a 6 week gap between trials and the meet, preferably 8 or more.

The logistics around the Singapore training camp were just poor decisions all around.

These are entirely preventable snafus, though after USAS’ utter debacle of team selections for 2015 and 2019, I suppose it’s not as much… Read more »

4 months ago

I think as always, there are many factors.
1st is Australia’s day 1 performances..that definitely had an impact!!!! The US got beat..badly..next might be the full taper athletes needed for trials, ..with Finke and Ledecky obviously not fully rested. I don’t count youth, as many really stepped up. Would ten more days between the meets have helped? Maybe. But I don’t think so.
I also think the 8 day grind is TOO long for a meet..prelims, semis, finals..even though all athletes had to deal with that. First day swims are important psychological speaking. That may have set the tone. After the college season, Douglas may have looked unbeatable..yet her 200im was almost identical to Tokyo.
All in… Read more »

4 months ago

It was a mixed bag for the supposed young and inexperienced.

As for the high schoolers, Jillian Cox posted a personal best time (8:19.73) in the final of the W 800 FR. Erin Gemmell posted a personal best time (1:55.97) in the W 200 FR, leading off in the final of W 4 x 200 FR-R. Alex Shackell posted a faster relay split in the final of the W 4 x 200 FR-R at the 2023 World Aquatics Championships than Leah Smith in the final of the W 4 x 200 FR-R at the 2022 World Aquatics Championships.

The public does not want excuses. The public wants answers.

Reply to  Weinstein-Smith-Ledecky-Sims
4 months ago

Wow. Time to tap the brakes, WSLS. This is swimming, not a military conflict.

4 months ago

Time to put boots on the ground and start pounding on doors. An explanation needs to be provided on what transpired during the staging camp in Singapore. Pure speculation no longer cuts it.

4 months ago

Distance from Rijeka, Croatia to Budapest, Hungary: 266 miles

Distance from Singapore to Fukuoka, Japan: 2803 miles

So much for logistics.

Last edited 4 months ago by Weinstein-Smith-Ledecky-Sims
4 months ago

The supposed inexperience does not explain the poor showing from Lilly King (100 BR, 200 BR) and Abbey Weitzeil (50 FR, 100 FR). In addition, Leah Smith did not exactly shine leading off in the heats of the W 4 x 200 FR-R.

With the number of U.S. military air bases located in Japan, the Japanese could have been more accommodating. A contact in the State Department could have greased the wheels.

4 months ago

Where is the staging camp to be located for USA Swimming in preparation for the 2024 Summer Olympics? Rijeka, Croatia as was the case for the 2022 World Aquatics Championships?

Have the travel date been scheduled in preparation for the 2024 Summer Olympics?

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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