When it comes to the Olympics, most of the world becomes hyper-focused on Olympic “A” cuts, Olympic “B” cuts, and which meets those cuts can be swum at.
But when it comes to meets like the World Short Course Swimming Championships, we sometimes forget about those details, just accepting the rosters as they are.
But with the rise of the International Swimming League, it turns out that those things might come more into focus, afterall. And this may wind up biting the U.S. Short Course World Championships roster, and specifically Nic Fink.
Short Course Worlds Qualifying System
The Short Course World Championships qualifying system is very similar to the Olympics. There is a set of “A” standards, which is the faster of the qualifying times from 2018 Worlds or the 16th place time from SC Worlds in 2018, and a set of “B” standards, which are 3.5% slower than the A times.
There are also long course qualifying times, even though the meet is held in short course meters, which are based on 2019 World Championship standards/16th place times.
The qualifying period is December 1, 2019 through November 28, 2021.
Much like the Olympics, nations can send two swimmers with an “A” cut, or one swimmer with an “A” cut or a “B” cut. To send two swimmers in an event, they would need two with an “A” cut.
Those standards must be at an event approved by FINA as an “International Competition” or a “National Competition.” Those meets must be submitted and approved ahead of time.
The Problem Created
We’ve seen a lot of swimmers this fall, and last fall, who have had huge short course meters breakouts at meets during the International Swimming League season. Coleman Stewart, for example, set a World Record in the ISL regular season in the men’s 100 back, and Ingrid Wilm set a Canadian Record in the women’s 100 back.
The problem is that the ISL never applied to have these meets approved as World Championship qualifying competitions. This doesn’t mean that FINA isn’t accepting the times. Unlike the conflict in season 1 of the ISL, these meets, sanctioned by the host-nation swimming federation, are considered legitimate meets, and FINA says they would ratify, for example, Stewart’s World Record once they receive the relevant documents (which have apparently not been submitted yet).
But, that sanction by the Italian federation is not the same as applying as a Short Course World Championships qualifying event.
That doesn’t necessarily impact Stewart, because his long course time in the 100 backstroke from the US Olympic Trials was 53.91, which is faster than the long course qualifying “A” standard of 54.03. The US Olympic Trials were a FINA qualifying competition for Short Course Worlds.
Wilm, too, has an “A” cut in long course from the Canadian Olympic Trials, which were an official qualifying meet for Short Course Worlds.
In both of those cases, it is domestic selection procedures that have kept them out of the meet.
The 2020 ISL competitions were approved Short Course World Championships qualifiers. That means while, for example, Beata Nelson’s American Record in the 100 IM from this ISL season doesn’t count, her 58.03 from last season would qualify as an “A” standard.
Where this is most likely to crop up is in 100 IM entries. Because there is no long course equivalent, top swimmers can’t sneak under the cut times based on the long course standards. For example, the US couldn’t have entered Carson Foster, who is swimming the 200 IM and 400 IM, in the 100 IM, because he has no official swims in that event, and so he is not eligible.
But more specifically, Fink, who is entered in the 100 IM (alongside 2018 World SC Champion in the event Michael Andrew), doesn’t appear to actually be eligible to swim the event.
Fink swam 52.55 at ISL Match #6 this season – a swim that doesn’t count because it’s not a World Short Course Championships qualifying event. He also swam the race at a bunch of meets in 2018 and 2017, but those are outside of the qualifying period.
SwimSwam was unable to find any other 100 IM swims for Fink, in the ISL or otherwise.
The ISL Playoffs that start in mid-November are also not on the FINA qualification meet list, and FINA’s own rules say that there was a December 2020 deadline to apply for status for meets in the 2021 calendar year.
That means Fink would have to pop in to some other qualification meet, probably in Europe, and swim a 100 IM to hit the “A” standard. The cut is only 53.57, which is a time he can hit without any problems.
All of this adds up to a lot of confusion over qualification procedures. The system of qualification meets are in place because of the need to ensure and monitor proper international standards are met – and that need was highlighted with the Uzbekistan falsified times debacle prior to the Tokyo Olympics.
But as the world of swimming becomes more complicated, we’re starting to see more wrinkles and confusion over the selection procedures.
SwimSwam reached out to USA Swimming and Nic Fink, but neither have responded as of posting.