The IOC’s addition of the men’s 800 and women’s 1500 freestyles as Olympic events won’t change USA Swimming’s selection procedures for the 2017 World Championships, but will have an impact on U.S. National Team selection for 2017-2018.
The main impact for 2017 World Championships selection is the priority placed on Olympic events compared to non-Olympic events. In USA Swimming’s selection procedures for the 2017 World Championships, swimmers are selected in the following priority order based on results of U.S. Nationals:
- Top 4 finishers in 100 and 200 frees and winners of Olympic events
- Second place finishers in Olympic events
- Winners of non-Olympic events
- Fifth place finishers in 100/200 free
- Sixth place finishers in 100/200 free
Whenever the max roster size (26 men and 26 women) is hit, the team is locked, with any swimmers in a lower priority qualifying spot not making the team. Typically, this isn’t an issue, with plenty of swimmers qualifying in multiple events. The main quirk is that non-Olympic events only qualify the winner for Worlds, while Olympic events can qualify second-place finishers as well.
The non-Olympic events contested at Worlds have historically been the men’s 800 free, women’s 1500 free and the 50s of fly, back and breast. A USA Swimming spokesperson told SwimSwam today that USA Swimming would not immediately change the men’s 800 and women’s 1500 to classify as Olympic events for this summer, with U.S. Nationals less than a month away as of the IOC decision to add the events to the 2020 Olympic slate.
That means the winners of the men’s 800 and women’s 1500 will make the World Championships team in priority #3 along with the winners of the stroke 50s. But the second-place finishers in the new distance events won’t make the Worlds team this year.
On the other hand, USA Swimming said it would be using both the men’s 800 and women’s 1500 for National Team status and funding next year. The U.S. National Team is comprised of the swimmers who hit the top 6 times in each Olympic event between a number of national and international level meets (this season, U.S. Nationals, Worlds, World University Games and the U.S. Open). Those swimmers qualify for USA Swimming financial support, meet reimbursement, elite athlete health insurance and other USA Swimming support programs over the next season. We broke down the benefits of National Team member status in a separate report a few years ago.
In the past, the stroke 50s, the men’s 800 and the women’s 1500 did not qualify swimmers for national team status, as they weren’t Olympic events. But USA Swimming said today that the newly-added Olympic events – the men’s 800 and women’s 1500 – would qualify athletes for national team funding for the 2017-2018 season.
That means, in the short term, that we should see more high-level swimmers entering those events, even with only one World Championships roster spot on the line. Distance specialists hoping for national team funding can now achieve that through swims in the women’s 1500 or men’s 800.
With that lengthy explanation of the difference between World Championships selection and National Team qualification, here’s the bird’s eye summary of how the new Olympic events will impact American swimmers this summer specifically:
- Winners of men’s 800, women’s 1500 will make World Champs team (no change from existing policy)
- Second place finishers in those events will not (no change from existing policy)
- Top 6 swimmers from Nationals, Worlds, WUGs and U.S. Open in men’s 800 and women’s 1500 will now qualify for the 2017-2017 U.S. National Team (new policy)
USA Swimming National Team Director Frank Busch applauded the IOC’s expansion of swimming in a statement, calling it an “incredible step forward” for the sport. His full statement is below:
“The IOC’s decision to expand the number of events in swimming at the Olympics is outstanding for the sport and our athletes. Any time you can give the athletes more chances to win Olympic medals, that’s an incredible step forward. These additional events in the Olympic Games reflect how popular the sport of swimming has become around the world and that swimming has the attention and respect of the IOC. We thank FINA for its good work to accomplish this opportunity for athletes.”