Only 11 Out of 26 US Olympic Swimmers Were On 2018 Pan Pacs Team

Now with two days’ space from the conclusion of the 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials, we’ve been working on ways to quantify the feeling of “well, that was unusual” that we have all left Omaha with.

One suggestion from a Tokyo 2020 Olympian was to examine the number of athletes who were on the 2018 Pan Pacs roster and also on the Tokyo 2020 Olympic roster.

The reason that this comparison is useful is that the Pan Pacific Championships, usually two years before the Olympics but in this cycle three years before the Olympics, is generally viewed as the ‘pool’ of athletes for the Games. When the team was in Tokyo for the 2018 Pan Pacs, this is the group that NBC pulled to do promo shots. This is the group that is on the short path to the Olympic Games.

Now of course we know there will always be surprises. A young swimmer who is rising like a rocket like Katie Ledecky in 2012. A veteran who takes some time off between Olympic Games like Dana Vollmer in 2016.

But generally, because of the looser selection procedures for Pan Pacs that leads to bigger rosters and bigger international lineups, that’s where you can look to peg the majority of the Olympic team.

Except this year.

On combination of the pandemic, the extra year wait, and a very high number of young qualifiers, this year a much smaller-than-normal percentage of the US Olympic team raced at Pan Pacs in 2018.

This was especially pronounced on the women’s side, where this year a whopping 12 out of 20 individual US Olympic swimmers (and 3 out of 6 relay-only swimmers) weren’t on the Pan Pacs roster. That accounts for over half of the Olympic Team.

By comparison, in 2016 there were just 6 individual and 3 relay-only swimmers not on the 2014 Pan Pacs team. In 2012, there were just 4 individual and 4 relay only swimmers not on the 2010 Pan Pacs team.

The men’s roster also has a significant number of non-Pan-Pac’ers on it, though the number doesn’t stand out historically as well as the women’s does.

The Tokyo 2020 men’s roster has 7 individual and 3 relay-only swimmers. In 2014, those numbers were 3 and 4, respectively, while in 2010 they were 7 and 1, respectively. Digging deeper into the lists, the 2010 roster featured swimmers like Anthony Ervin and Brendan Hansen and Scott Weltz who were of an age to race at the 2010 National Championships, but skipped the meet for various reasons.

And so this marks another in a long line of ways to describe the unusual happenings of the 2021 meet, along with the unprecedented (Jake Mitchell‘s “A” cut swimoff and the relay-only swimmer cap) and the superlative.

It’s worth noting that there will be no Pan Pac Championships in 2022 because of the delay in the cycle that will see a long course World Championship meet next year instead, which means we won’t be able to compare 2024 data back.

The Data:

Note: this data was tediously compiled by hand. Let us know if there are any errors or omissions.


2012 OLY not on 2010 PP 2016 OLY not on 2014 PP
2021 OLY not on 2018 PP
Katie Ledecky Olivia Smoliga Emma Weyant
Breeja Larson Lilly King Torri Huske
Claire Donahue Katie Meili Paige Madden
Cammile Adams Molly Hannis Alex Walsh
Dana Vollmer Annie Lazor
Kelsi Dahlia (Worrell) Erika Brown
Claire Curzan
Rhyan White
Lydia Jacoby
Kate Douglass
Phoebe Bacon
Katie Grimes
Lia Neal Lia Neal Natalie Hinds
Alyssa Anderson Allison Schmitt Bella Sims
Lauren Perdue Amanda Weir Catie DeLoof
Shannon Vreeland


2012 OLY not on 2010 PP 2016 OLY not on 2014 PP
2021 OLY not on 2018 PP
Anthony Ervin Caeleb Dressel Kieran Smith
Conor Dwyer Townley Haas Drew Kibler
Connor Jaeger Jay Litherland Jake Mitchell
Matt Grevers
Brendan Hansen
Gunnar Bentz
Clark Burckle Bryce Mefford
Scott Weltz Tom Shields
Davis Tarwater Ryan Held Brooks Curry
Blake Pieroni Bowe Becker
Gunnar Bentz Patrick Callan
Clark Smith


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Awsi Dooger
1 year ago

I’m not shocked. It always seemed that the recent international rosters had plenty of women who were hard trying overachieving types without huge natural talent level. Those swimmers like Kelsi Dahlia, Mallory Comerford and Leah Smith find it more difficult to sustain that level once they are out of college and past the peak years for a female swimmer. There is no question this new wave like Huske and Curzan and White and Jacoby have greater upside than the 2017 through 2019 group.

1 year ago

How many were on the ‘17 or ‘19 Jr Worlds Roster?

Old Man Chalmers
Reply to  Worm
1 year ago

2019 (3)
Claire Curzan
Torri Huske
Jake Mitchell

2017 (10)
Michael Andrew
Michael Brinegar
Patrick Callan
Kate Douglass
Bryce Mefford
Drew Kibler
Kieren Smith
Regan Smith
Erica Sullivan
Alex Walsh

1 year ago

yep the one year extra was huge

1 year ago

Shocking to observe Mallory Comerford fall off a cliff at the age of 23.

Reply to  Smith-King-Huske-Manuel
1 year ago

Bad case of mono, documented somewhere on this site.

1 year ago

I’ve come up with three possible factors for this big discrepancy: 1) the extra year and challenges of the pandemic 2) a wave of older generation swimmers either retiring or slowing down 3) deeper talent pool/less big stars, resulting in more specialization and more relay-only swimmers

Any other factors? I think 3 is the most important, maybe 1, but weighing their relative importance is basically impossible.

Dressel’s Eagle
Reply to  Speculating
1 year ago

I too was pondering why the discrepancy skewing towards the younger gen. I love the move Touch the Wall documenting Missy Franklin and Kara Lynn Joyce’s journey to London 2012. What I found interesting in the movie, that I think is relatable in these circumstances, is that Missy had a stable and wonderful support team of friends, mom and dad, same coach for years etc. She had consistency sleeping in the same bed, eating moms food, having the same routine. Meanwhile as a pro Kara was living in a much less stable way- changing coaches, changing living locations, new apt, new pool, and most importantly, trying to figure out how to get by/get funding to continue pro swimming. (Side note,… Read more »

Reply to  Speculating
1 year ago

I might be wrong, but wasn’t the Pan Pac roster determined by 2017 summer nationals results, too? So add another year to that as well.

1 year ago

What about PanAms?

Reply to  DCSwim
1 year ago

Bacon, Walsh and Lazor all won golds at 2019 Pan Ams.

Fink, Kibler and Shields won medals.

Last edited 1 year ago by boknows34
1 year ago

how many of these athletes have never been on a senior or junior international team before?

He said what?
Reply to  shimswam
1 year ago

Excellent question!

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of 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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