Looking Back at 20 Years of US Olympic Trials Qualifying Standards

As we (eagerly) await USA Swimming’s announcement of the qualifying time standards for the 2016 Olympic Trials, we thought we’d take a look back over the last several Olympic quadrennials.

One of the first things you notice when you look at the time standards is that there hasn’t been a whole lot of movement over the last several quadrennials on the men’s side, whereas the women’s times have –for the most part– gotten steadily faster. The next thing you notice is the 2008 anomaly: men’s time standards got significantly slower and there was no movement at all on the women’s side.

Olympic Trials time standards-men

Olympic Trials time standards-women

The US Olympic Team Trials of 1992 and 1996 took place in March. In 2000 the meet was moved to August. From there, 2004 Trials took place in July, while the 2008 and 2012 versions went off at the end of June.

Here is a quick view of USA Swimming’s qualifying standards for Olympic Trials from 1996 through 2012. We will fill in the 2016 numbers when they become available:

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John Hartel
7 years ago

What are the chances that they will ever add the 1500 for women in the Olympics?

pol
Reply to  John Hartel
7 years ago

Zero.

Swim2392
Reply to  pol
3 years ago

HA

eileenswims
Reply to  John Hartel
7 years ago

i’d love to see that change made in the future! and i disagree, i wouldn’t be surprised to eventually see the event added. Ledecky’s prominence in the distance events has made both the swimming and general population pay more attention to the 1500

CoachGB
Reply to  eileenswims
7 years ago

Most countries still hold that they don’t think women can handle it. For 60 years it has been Australia and Us that go really at it. Europe walling with countries not into it control the vote.

aswimfan
Reply to  eileenswims
7 years ago

Its bloody difficult to add events in the Olympics, as IOC doesnt like to increase the number of participating athletes and competition with other sports that also want to get into Olympics is super fierce.

The only way to add w1500 event is to sacrifice the w800, and even USA doesnt like that idea as the 800 has a long olympics history.

Swim2392
Reply to  John Hartel
3 years ago

100%

James
7 years ago

I think the question comes down to what type of meet should Olympic Trials be? A super elite only, where the times to qualify only allow those who have a realistic shot at the team? Or an “open tryout” where any fast (and let’s admit that anyone with a trial cut is very fast) can come for the experience.

Leclave
7 years ago

Whoever Bad Luck Brian is, it is hilarious

CoachGB
7 years ago

The distance program is heavily influenced by the lesser importance of the distance swimmer in collegiate swimming because of the 4 sprint relays that are now there. Some schools down the ladder without enough for relays should publicize distance emphasis xand put out the fulls for some who can score there. When 50’s come in on down the road as the Europeans have taken to them which will eventually get in the games as they are halfway there with World’s. Then age group and so on. The 1500 for US will get poorer as it is still difficult to even get them swum as it more expensive with the time spent and pool time costs. It has no relationship to… Read more »

swimdad
Reply to  CoachGB
7 years ago

For many years I have felt that the distance events/swimmers are getting short changed. I actually have a solution.
500 and up should score double in college meets thus a more equitable value for distance swimmers and distance events.
Additionally add the 1000 to d-1 NCAA. You would see distance swimming times come down soon

Rafael
Reply to  swimdad
7 years ago

I actually think the Long Distance is being more hurt than helped by NCAA.. SCY is a complete different thing than LCM.. but on 400/1500 this difference gets bigger.. while the top 1500 freestylers are swimming sub 14:40 with less than 20 years old, the US swimmers are still going on 1650 with much more wall and much less swimming.. and the 1500 is a race where getting old will always play against you.. you can´t expect a guy who began to focus on LCM at 22 23 and take 2 3 years to adapt to go a 14:45 14:50 to beat guys who at 18 19 are already swimming 14:40

Aquamom2016
Reply to  CoachGB
7 years ago

I only have one piece of advice for young and up-and-coming distance swimmers in the US (particularly boys)…

Quit swimming and play baseball or some other headcount sport.

Bad Luck Brian
7 years ago

Swims to a trial cut, Doesn’t swim it within the qualification period…

Bad Luck Brian
7 years ago

Swims to a trial cut, Doesn’t get swim it within the qualification period…

Pvdh
7 years ago

Ledecky makes the men’s 400 free cut. Lol.

Kathy
Reply to  Pvdh
7 years ago

And 1500 cut.

Sean Justice
7 years ago

The times that are used for 2000 trials are incorrect. The times published in 1998 are reflected in the spreadsheet, however, USA relaxed the cuts to national standards to create a bigger meet. So the above data is misleading for 2000.

About Anne Lepesant

Anne Lepesant

Anne Lepesant is the mother of four daughters, all of whom swam in college. With an undergraduate degree from Princeton (where she was an all-Ivy tennis player) and an MBA from INSEAD, she worked for many years in the financial industry, both in France and the U.S. Anne is currently …

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