Courtesy of Barry Revzin, resident SwimSwam stat-fiend.
FINA announced recently that it would cap the number of events each swimmer could enter at a single World Cup stop at four. What kind of impact would this have on the cup? How many swimmers would be hurt by this rule, and by how much? I took a look at the recent World Cups, whose results were posted on OmegaTiming.com to find out.
From 2012 to 2016, there were 40 such World Cup stops, with 2,687 swimmers making a final in 11,818 entries. The distribution of those entries skews strongly towards only making a small number of finals:
From here it might seem that cutting off the distribution at 4 wouldn’t have too big an effect. After all, five swims is already really rare. Six more so. But what I’m more interested in are the swimmers who would be affected by the rule change. How many times has each swimmer competed in more than four finals at a single stop? This is a pretty familiar list overall:
Of course Katinka Hosszu has done this far more than anyone else. The Iron Lady will have broken this rule more than the next three most prolific competitors combined. But even this doesn’t quite do justice to just how many events she has competed in. After all, swimming 5 events at a stop isn’t really equivalent to swimming 10, but here I am comparing them as if they are. The swimmer competing in 5 events only loses one swim, by the swimmer competing in 10 loses six. So let’s get to the real question: how many events over four has each swimmer competed in? How many swims would have been lost due to this rule.
Put it even simpler, Hosszu: 250. Everyone else combined: 269.
It could be that FINA is simply focusing on the aggregate numbers and Hosszu becomes just one swimmer negatively impacted by the rule change. It could be that they simply don’t like Hosszu and the decision was a little targeted. Regardless, FINA appears to be greatly disregarding the value that the Iron Lady’s crazy event schedules have brought to the World Cup series. It’s not just that she’s been the most successful swimmer in the history of the World Cup, she has been, without a doubt, the most interesting swimmer in the World Cup over these last five years that’s being missed.