Great Britain Women Now Lead Tokyo Olympic Wildcard in 800 Free Relay


The fourth day of swimming competition at the 2021 European Championships provide yet another opportunity for teams to move into one of the four Wildcard positions for relay qualification ahead of this summer’s Tokyo Olympics. Tonight featured the women in the 800 freestyle relay.

As a reminder, the top 12 teams from prelims at the 2019 FINA World Championships have already automatically qualified for Tokyo. There are four “Wildcard” spots left for the four fastest teams during the qualification period which runs through May 31, 2021. Teams can decline an invite, leaving a spot for the next fastest team.

Editor’s note: FINA doesn’t officially publish an up-to-date ranking for relay qualifying, so we’ve done our best to compile the current rankings manually.

Coming into the European Championships, there were three European countries in Wildcard spots with Italy leading the contingent as the only team under the 8:00 mark. Turkey occupied the third position, 3+ seconds behind the Italians and then Great Britain was in fourth, another 1.01 behind Turkey. Three more European countries were among the next best as Belgium, Israel, and Spain would all be vying to move up.

Rank Country Time
Wildcard #1 Italy 7:59.68
Wildcard #2 Brazil 8:00.92
Wildcard #3 Turkey 8:02.76
Wildcard #4 Great Britain 8:03.77
Out #1 South Africa 8:04.71
Out #2 Belgium 8:05.13
Out #3 Israel 8:06.91
Out #4 Spain 8:06.97

Prelims would see teams jockeying for position. Israel moved up five spots to the second Wildcard spot by virtue of a new Israeli record. Lea Polonsky, Andi Murez, Daria Golovatyand Anastasia Gorbenko swam a 8:00.51, dropping another 6+ seconds from the previous record. Incredibly, the Israel record was a modest 8:24.74 prior to April of this year when these four women started swimming this relay together.

Denmark jumped up into the fourth Wildcard spot prior to being out of the top eight previously. Close behind the Danes were Great Britain, just .03 seconds behind, and Belgium, just .08 behind. France put their name into contention with a 8:03.36 that put them into eight place on our list.

Rank Country Time
Wildcard #1 Italy 7:59.68
Wildcard #2 Israel 8:00.51
Wildcard #3 Brazil 8:00.92
Wildcard #4 Denmark 8:01.65
Out #1 Great Britain 8:01.68
Out #2 Belgium 8:01.73
Out #3 Turkey 8:02.76
Out #4 France 8:03.36

There would be a lot on the line in tonight’s finals as six countries would be competing for a maximum of four available Wildcard spots. The team of Lucy Hope, Tamryn Van Selm, Holly Hibbott, and Freya Anderson of Great Britain would win the event by over three seconds with a time of 7:53.15. This would vault them firmly into the first Wildcard spot.

Italy dropped over three seconds from their prelims swim to stay in contention in the second Wildcard spot. France, who was ranked out of the top eight coming into today, used a 7:59.45 to move into the third Wildcard spot.

Denmark, despite dropping time in finals, fell out of a Wildcard spot.

Israel added over seven seconds from their prelims swim but held onto the fourth Wildcard slot. Israel is in an interesting position as they have one swimmer that does not have the Olympic “B” cut in the 200 freestyle. Golovaty’s best time is a 2:01.68 swum in April at the Stockholm Open. The 15-year old is .88 seconds away from the cut of 2:00.80. She swam a 2:02.39 in the individual 200 free earlier this week and led-off tonight’s relay in 2:01.71.

The relay qualification rules state the following:

  • Countries can swim any athlete that is entered in any individual event in a relay, even if they have not achieved the OST/”B” standard for the corresponding stroke and distance of the relay in which they are entered.
  • Each NOC gets additional relay-only athletes, but those athletes must have hit the OST/”B” standard for the corresponding stroke and distance of the relay in which they are entered. So, if a swimmer is racing the breaststroke leg of the medley relay, that swimmer must have at least a “B” cut in the 100 breaststroke, if they are a relay only swimmer. If that breaststroker on the medley relay has no cut in the 100 breaststroke but is swimming, say, the 1500 free, they’re still eligible for the relay.

Since Golovaty does not match either of these criteria, she would need to achieve a “B” time in the next few weeks. The deadline for countries to confirm relay participation is June 11th and countries must confirm relay-only swimmers by June 27th. If Israel is not eligible to participate, Brazil would be the next team [as of today] in line to qualify.

The standings for the women’s 800 free relay after tonight:

Rank Country Time
Worlds #1 Australia 7:41.50
Worlds #2 United States 7:41.87
Worlds #3 Canada 7:44.35
Worlds #4 China 7:46.22
Worlds #5 Russia 7:48.25
Worlds #6 Hungary 7:54.57
Worlds #7 Germany 7:55.63
Worlds #8 Japan 7:56.31
Worlds #9 Poland 8:01.70
Worlds #10 New Zealand 8:03.28
Worlds #11 Hong Kong 8:04.98
Worlds #12 South Korea 8:08.38
Wildcard #1 Great Britain 7:53.15
Wildcard #2 Italy 7:56.72
Wildcard #3 France 7:59.45
Wildcard #4 Israel* 8:00.51
Out #1 Brazil 8:00.92
Out #2 Denmark 8:01.33
Out #3 Belgium 8:01.73
Out #4 Turkey 8:02.76

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2 months ago

Mark, South Korea, Hong Kong, Poland, New Zealand also have the same issue.. or this won´t apply to top 12?

On Fina site shows that all Korea 200 swimmers does not have even B Cut, HKG have Haughey, 1 B Cut and 2 others without it. Poland 3 B cut, 1 without it, NZL 2 B cut and 2 without it.

I am really trying to understand it as (On women side only) we could have some relays without 16 teams based on the rules.

Reply to  Rafael
2 months ago

I am reading the following document from FINA:
and I can say that some of the text is not that specific.

From the text below, that I copied directly out of the document linked above.
I interpret it as follows:
FINA will invite all swimmers with A cuts followed by all the swimmers on the 112 relays PLUS additional athletes for relays (“Relay-Only Athletes”) followed by Universality Places (based on the number of countries at 2019 World Champs) and if there are any spots left out of the 878 available spots they will be filled with swimmers who has B-cuts.
— This is my interpretation of the… Read more »

Reply to  Dan
2 months ago

All athletes entered in individual events can be used in relays, even if they have not achieved the OST / “B” Time for the corresponding stroke and distance of the relay in which they are entered.

Each NOC may enter additional athletes for relays only (“Relay-Only Athletes”), provided that they have achieved at least the OST / “B” Time for the corresponding stroke and distance of the relay in which they are entered

I am thinking exactly of this. Hkg for.instance they only have haughey and some of the.ones on relay.does not even have B cut, so they are not eligible. Most places I read are going with this explanation.

Last edited 2 months ago by Rafael
Reply to  Rafael
2 months ago

I had the same interpretation at first but when you read the document and they provide a formula for additional athletes I believe that the intent is similar to what I wrote, but unless someone receives a specific answer from FINA, we will not know until late June when all the information is published regarding entries.

2 months ago

In the future, only Top 8 at the preceding Worlds should be automatic qualifiers, and the next 8 spots should be wildcard.

Without naming names, the list above (and for other relays) seems a bit odd.

Reply to  MaggieMacNeilWalker
2 months ago

That is what happens when countries choose not to send relays to the World Championships. A few countries listed as Wildcard and out had enough fast swimmers 2 years ago to swim faster than the 11th and 12th time for several relays but made the choice not to send or compete in those relays.
The rules regarding the Top 12 were known long before the 2019 World Champs (think the same selection system was in place prior to the 2016 Olympics.
I am not saying I am agreeing with this system of selection as I would like for the relays to be competitive but everybody knows the rules.