90% of respondents in our latest A3 pool believe that USA Swimming made the wrong decision to select the 2015 World Championship team in 2014 instead of 2015.
The question has swirled after Team USA had a historically-bad performance at the 2015 World Aquatics Championships two weeks ago in Kazan, Russia. There, the American men won just 2 gold medals and the women just 5. For the men, that’s the lowest total in the history of the long course World Championships, and the combined 7 gold medals (without mixed relays) is the lowest combined total since 1994.
There were many swims and swimmers who wound up outperforming the World Championship team at other meets, including the U.S. National Championships and the Pan American Games. While there was a difference in the level of pressure at those meets, and the fact that Nationals and Pan Ams didn’t include semi-finals in races 200 meters and shorter, this was still an abnormally low output for the American World Championship team.
With their response to our poll, SwimSwam’s readership (which historically has been made up of about two-thirds American and one-third international readers) believes that the selection was made too early. This is not the first time where USA Swimming has used this methodology, but in 2011, the year before the 2012 Olympic Games, it resulted in 16 gold medals: historically one of the more successful meets that the Americans had.
The suspension of Michael Phelps, and his subsequent performance at Nationals, is another caveat to this, as his suspension was not necessarily caused by the team being chosen last year, but were the team not already selected in 2014, hypothetically he might not have lost his spot on the World Championships team (though that’s purely speculative in one direction or another).
Despite the results, the Americans have maintained their confidence heading toward 2016, with several members of the team, including Olympic champions Missy Franklin and Tyler Clary, speaking out publicly that they’re not concerned by the results.
The theory espoused by USA Swimming for this meet is that it gives athletes a full cycle to train for the World Championships without having to double taper, which they view as important heading into the Olympic year. With multiple teams, including the World University Games and Pan Am Games, racing this summer and selected in 2014, a majority of the anticipated Olympic team will have gotten that full-cycle opportunity at one meet or another.
The poll results, however, show that fans aren’t ready to write off World Championship meets as secondary events as easily as they used to.