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|
U.S. PERFORMANCE AT WORLDS & OLYMPICS VS TRIALS GAP
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.
THIS YEAR’S PERFORMANCE
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.
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).
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
|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.
Top 15 U.S. Adds – Nationals To Worlds
Not including relay splits
|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%|
PERFORMANCE VERSUS PAN PACS
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
|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.