Several weeks of watching coronavirus claim most major 2020 meets has left swimming fans with more questions than answers. But asking the questions is a first step to finding answers. We’re compiling some of the most intriguing and pressing questions we’ve heard in the past two weeks, running the gamut from the Olympics to the International Swimming League.
Overall Olympic Qualifying
Prior to the Olympic postponement, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had noted that more than half of Olympic qualifying spots had already been filled across all sports. With an adjusted timeline, there are plenty of questions about those qualifications, as well as the makeup of a rescheduled Olympic Games:
- Olympic qualifying spots for open water swimming had already been locked in as of last summer – do those spots remain locked in, or will they have to re-qualify in the future? Similar questions are up in the air for many sports which have either already allocated qualification spots to athletes, or in cases like the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, countries have already named teams.
- Will various Olympic sports be postponed to different times, or will the entire Games take place in one block as originally scheduled?
- Will FINA add more Olympic qualifying events? Will all previous Olympic qualifying events remain officially recognized for Olympic selection?
- Will the Olympic relay qualifying period be extended? Will the 12 nations locked into each relay through 2019 Worlds finishes remain locked in, or will teams be re-selected?
National Olympic Qualifying
- Open water events had already qualified most athletes through 2019 Worlds finishes – will those athletes remain qualified?
- The remainder of open water qualification was to be done through a qualifying event in May – will that event be rescheduled? Will selection through that event remain unchanged?
- Many nations had “pre-qualifying” for the Olympics, based on performances at the 2019 World Championships. Will those pre-qualifications remain, even if there’s a two-year gap from the qualifying meet to the Olympics?
- On a broader level, most nations will have to tweak their Olympic selection methods, whether it be a rescheduled qualifying meet or a set of standards to be hit over a certain time frame – how will each nation select its athletes?
U.S. Olympic Trials
With the Olympics on the move, USA Swimming has noted that Olympic Trials will be rescheduled to try to provide the best format for selection.
- Will the Olympic Trials qualifying window be extended, or will athletes have to re-qualify in a new qualifying period? Are there concerns that the already-crowded meet will become overpopulated with a longer qualifying window?
- What will happen to Olympic Trials ticket-holders who had already purchased tickets? Will tickets be transferable to the updated Trials meet? Or will all tickets be refunded and then re-bought at a later date?
- Will Olympic Trials remain in Omaha, or could the meet move if the reschedule forces a different venue?
- On a semi-related note, with no Olympic Trials meet, and perhaps a disruption to training, how will USA Swimming select its national team for 2020-2021, and how will it distribute athlete stipends?
Future International Meets
The Olympics moving will create a ripple effect to other major international meets down the road.
- Will the 2021 World Championships be rescheduled or canceled if the 2020 Olympics are pushed closer to the summer of 2021?
- How would a postponed 2020 Olympics affect dates for the other major 2021 international meets, World University Games (set for August 16-17 in China), Short Course European Championships (scheduled to be in Russia, though the ongoing doping scandal could be affecting that), and the 2021 World Junior Swimming Championships?
International Swimming League
The ISL will paint a face of support for the move to postpone the Olympics, as part of their broader messaging regarding ‘support for what’s best for the athletes.’ But mechanically, this move can’t be good for year 2 of the ISL, which would have benefited from the post-Olympic bump in interest that comes every 4 years in swimming. That could still come after the 2021 Olympics, but that delays a lot of interest in the ISL. Some of the questions below were going to come up eventually, but the ISL was probably hoping that the league would have grown into an international force by the time they had to be answered – in 2021, the Olympics will still offer a far bigger financial carrot for the top swimmers.
- Will Asian nations participate in season 2 with the Olympics looming? There was very limited participation in season 1 because of the pressure of a regionally-hosted Olympics, but a team in Tokyo was expected to change that.
- If the Olympic reschedule is in the coming winter, does the ISL open a gap in its schedule? Or try to reorient to finish before or start after the Olympics?
- If the Olympic reschedule comes next summer, will the ISL have to contract its season to cope with the pending Olympic Trials around the world next spring and how that could impact athlete interest and availability?
- Is there room in the yearly schedule for the ISL, World Championships, Olympics, World Cups, and Champions Series that will all now be expecting to happen in the same 15 month period?
- Will this lead to more pre-and-post-Tokyo retirements, sapping the ISL of badly-needed talent depth as it expands?
- Will this build challenges to the ISL to find sponsors as advertising dollars remain wrapped up in the IOC’s grip for another year?
- Might the delay, in some corners of the world, increase athlete interest in ISL participation as mid-level swimmers look to fund another year of training?