How Much Are the Olympic Swimming Trials Standards Changing from 2021 to 2024?

On Monday, USA Swimming released the qualifying standards for the 2024 US Olympic Trials.

Unsurprisingly, every standard is faster than it was for the 2021 event.

Most standards fall somewhere between the 2021 Wave I standards (the original standards) and the Wave II standards (the tightened times after the meet was postponed by COVID-19).

A few races in 2024 have standards that approach the 2021 Wave II standards, though none actually surpass the 2021 Wave II standards.

In 2021, there were around 882 qualifiers for the Wave I meet only, plus around 657 swimmers who had standards that qualified them directly qualified them for the Wave II meet. That means that even with the extra qualifying period, there were only about 1,539 Olympic Trials qualifiers in 2021 based on the original standards. That didn’t miss, by far, the goal of 1,200-1,400 qualifiers, and was a dramatic reduction from the previous meets.

We can use mathematical models to try and predict how many there will be for 2024 (and we will), accounting for the fact that the sport as a whole gets faster from quad-to-quad. based on the standards that were set, however,  it’s clear that USA Swimming is neither trying to squish the meet much further than its original plan in 2021, nor expand it back to the 2,000+ qualifiers that the previous editions in Omaha saw.

With upwards of 30,000 seats to fill in Lucas Oil Stadium, one strategy to do so could have been more qualifiers. Each qualifier brings with them a certain number of ticket-buying family, friends, and teammates, and is an easy way to expand the spectator base (although not necessarily a way to improve the quality of the entertainment product).

Below, see a comparison of how times are changing from 2021 through 2024, and below that, see the events ranked by percentage change.

Percentage Change Time Change 2021 Wave II 2021 Wave I Women Event 2024 2021 Wave I 2021 Wave II Change Percent Change
1.17% 0.30 25.65 25.99 25.69 50m Freestyle 22.79 23.19 22.71 0.4 1.72%
0.90% 0.50 55.56 56.29 55.79 100m Freestyle 49.99 50.49 49.74 0.5 0.99%
0.66% 0.80 2:00.24 2:01.69 2:00.89 200m Freestyle 1:49.99 1:50.79 1:49.65 0.8 0.72%
0.54% 1.40 4:13.28 4:16.89 4:15.49 400m Freestyle 3:55.59 3:57.29 3:54.21 1.7 0.72%
0.44% 2.30 8:44.01 8:48.09 8:45.79 800m Freestyle 8:09.69 8:12.99 8:08.95 3.3 0.67%
0.35% 3.50 16:44.60 16:49.19 16:45.69 1500m Freestyle 15:39.89 15:44.89 15:35.76 5 0.53%
1.28% 0.80 1:01.49 1:02.69 1:01.89 100m Backstroke 55.69 56.59 54.41 0.9 1.59%
0.82% 1.10 2:12.94 2:14.69 2:13.59 200m Backstroke 2:01.69 2:02.99 2:00.81 1.3 1.06%
0.99% 0.70 1:09.55 1:10.99 1:10.29 100m Breaststroke 1:02.19 1:03.29 1:01.97 1.1 1.74%
1.04% 1.60 2:30.49 2:33.29 2:31.69 200m Breaststroke 2:15.99 2:17.89 2:15.28 1.9 1.38%
0.82% 0.50 59.59 1:00.69 1:00.19 100m Butterfly 53.59 54.19 53.37 0.6 1.11%
0.67% 0.90 2:12.56 2:14.59 2:13.69 200m Butterfly 2:00.49 2:01.19 1:59.63 0.7 0.58%
0.96% 1.30 2:15.26 2:17.39 2:16.09 200m Individual Medley 2:03.49 2:04.09 2:03.02 0.6 0.49%
0.65% 1.90 4:47.72 4:51.79 4:49.89 400m Individual Medley 4:25.19 4:25.99 4:23.24 0.8 0.30%

Changes: Ranked by Event

Rank Gender Event Percent Change
1 M 100m Breaststroke 1.74%
2 M 50m Freestyle 1.72%
3 M 100m Backstroke 1.59%
4 M 200m Breaststroke 1.38%
5 W 100m Backstroke 1.28%
6 W 50m Freestyle 1.17%
7 M 100m Butterfly 1.11%
8 M 200m Backstroke 1.06%
9 W 200m Breaststroke 1.04%
10 M 100m Freestyle 0.99%
11 W 100m Breaststroke 0.99%
12 W 200m Individual Medley 0.96%
13 W 100m Freestyle 0.90%
14 W 100m Butterfly 0.82%
15 W 200m Backstroke 0.82%
16 M 200m Freestyle 0.72%
17 M 400m Freestyle 0.72%
18 M 800m Freestyle 0.67%
19 W 200m Butterfly 0.67%
20 W 200m Freestyle 0.66%
21 W 400m Individual Medley 0.65%
22 M 200m Butterfly 0.58%
23 W 400m Freestyle 0.54%
24 M 1500m Freestyle 0.53%
25 M 200m Individual Medley 0.49%
26 W 800m Freestyle 0.44%
27 W 1500m Freestyle 0.35%
28 M 400m Individual Medley 0.30%

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SwammaJammaDingDong
1 month ago

Point of reference…. Men’s 100 Breaststroke had 134 qualifiers in 2021. Projecting the new cut time of 1:02.19 onto the 2021 psych sheet would result in 45 qualifiers.

Not Dean Farris
1 month ago

much swim

Blake pierogi
Reply to  Not Dean Farris
1 month ago

Indubitably

Fraser Thorpe
Reply to  Not Dean Farris
1 month ago

Very racing

Sherry Smit
1 month ago

Honestly, Women’s 1500 should be around 16:39 or faster. 16:45 is is fast, but it isn’t exactly enough to get a top finish. Just a thought.

Smith-King-Huske-Curzan
Reply to  Sherry Smit
1 month ago

Meh! In regard to the women’s 1500 meter freestyle, it will come down to Katie Ledecky and a two way battle between Katie Grimes and Erica Sullivan. By the time calendar year 2024 rolls around, Grimes and Sullivan will be under 15:50 if not 15:45.

Steve Nolan
Reply to  Smith-King-Huske-Curzan
1 month ago

I’ll bet you $5 someone else’ll qualify that you don’t have listed there.

Also that’s very much not the point of cut times. Might as well just make it like the NCAA and only invite like 16 swimmers per event your way.

Awsi Dooger
Reply to  Sherry Smit
1 month ago

16:45 is a glorified floatie. Women’s distance standards are pathetic. Nobody wants to swim those races and the men don’t want to swim the medleys. No surprise whatsoever that all of the distance races and medleys are smack near the bottom in terms of improved standards. The men’s 800 is a bit more of a curiosity race so it’s slightly higher.

Justhereforfun
1 month ago

Does USA Swimming officially publish the rationale behind these trial standards like national/world rankings? Or maybe they just decide on roughly how many qualifiers they want per event and model out the times to do so?

Bethica
Reply to  Justhereforfun
1 month ago

no thoughts, just vibes

Swim Nerd Bob
Reply to  Bethica
1 month ago

There was actually a statistical model taking into account data like top times during the quad and beyond, goal number of qualifying swimmers per event, etc that determined the 2024 qualifying standards. In years past, yes there were different decision makers who made the call based on vibes. I wonder if we’ll ever live in a world where swimming governing bodies, news outlets and commenters will drop the animosity so that facts will be communicated instead of negative gossip.

Xman
Reply to  Justhereforfun
1 month ago

They allocate a certain time frame for each session, and how much time to allocate per event. From there you decide and how many heats you can fit in that time frame.

That’s why you will always have a lot of 50 free heats compared to the 400 free… more 400 free than 400 IM, more fly than breast and so on.

Smith-King-Huske-Curzan
1 month ago

14 events
48 swimmers per event
2 genders
1344 swimmers

I’m not sure if this is the objective the planners have in mind.

Entgegen
Reply to  Smith-King-Huske-Curzan
1 month ago

How many swimmers qualify for multiple events or how many swimmers only swim one event?

Sink or Swim
1 month ago

Nice chart. FYI, from the 200 backstroke downward on the men’s chart, the 2021 Wave I times are mistakenly entered as the 2021 Wave II times.

Blake pierogi
1 month ago

Lots fast

CADWALLADER GANG
1 month ago

it seems that the paris trials is gonna be one meet since USAS doesn’t wanna squish but also doesn’t want a big meet like before

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Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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