The U.S. Olympic Trials is a peak example of athletes “happy just to be there.” For a large majority of swimmers, just qualifying for the meet is an accomplishment. Their training is geared toward qualifying for the meet and not necessarily to swim faster in Omaha. Historically we have seen 75% and more of swimmers actually swim slower than their seed time at Olympic Trials.
The data is in for Wave I of the Olympic Trials and shows a continued trend of most swimmers swimming slower over their seed times. Overall, 18.3% of swimmers swam faster than their seed time in prelims last week in Omaha. This figure is right in line with the results from the (single Wave) results in 2016 where 18% of swimmers in prelims were faster than their seed.
All of the preliminary heats for the 2016 Trials are complete. 18% of the prelim swims were better than seed times. pic.twitter.com/b6bzA2EoLC
— USA Swimming News (@USASwimmingNews) July 2, 2016
Splitting up the numbers by gender, the women showed a slight improvement from four years ago as 15.6% improved versus 14% in 2016. The men performed a bit worse as 20.5% improved their seed time versus 22% in 2016. We do not have a complete set of data from 2012, but looking at two sessions, the numbers were in the 23% to 25% range of swimmers that were faster than their seed time.
There were two events that had no swimmers improve upon their seed time: the women’s 200 freestyle and the men’s 800 freestyle. There were three events that had a 33% improvement from the seed time: the women’s 200 backstroke, the men’s 1500 freestyle, and the men’s 400 IM.
There are a few caveats with these numbers. The statistics from last week are not an even comparison due to the split nature of this year’s meet. We also do not have the numbers from 2016 to see how the lowest 90 seeded swimmers performed to provide a better comparison.
It can be theorized that the numbers from Wave I are actually higher than they normally would have been. The lower-seeded swimmers at the Wave I meet had a double incentive: a much better chance to earn a second swim and the opportunity to qualify for the Wave II meet.
A breakdown of the Wave I Meet by event:
|50 Free||11/61 (18.0%)||16/94 (17.0%)|
|100 Free||7/25 (28.0%)||3/27 (11.1%)|
|200 Free||0/16 (0.0%)||3/10 (30.0%)|
|400 Free||1/20 (5.0%)||3/24 (12.5%)|
|800 Free||3/10 (30.0%)||0/10 (0.0%)|
|1500 Free||1/6 (16.7%)||4/12 (33.3%)|
|100 Back||6/46 (13.0%)||12/60 (20.0%)|
|200 Back||6/18 (33.3%)||10/37 (27.0%)|
|100 Breast||4/52 (7.7%)||18/85 (21.2%)|
|200 Breast||5/28 (17.9%)||8/35 (22.9%)|
|100 Fly||6/38 (15.8%)||8/39 (20.5%)|
|200 Fly||6/38 (15.8%)||6/25 (24.0%)|
|200 IM||3/23 (13.0%)||5/19 (26.3%)|
|400 IM||3/17 (17.6%)||5/15 (33.3%)|
|Total by gender||62/398 (15.6%)||101/492 (20.5%)|
|Overall Total||163/890 (18.3%)|