Turkish Olympian Merve Tuncel will not be attending USC after “a problem with admission” was communicated to her this week, leaving the 18-year-old distance freestyle specialist scrambling to find a new NCAA home.
Update: Tuncel was slated to join the Trojans this fall, but now she’ll stay in Turkey training for the Paris 2024 Olympics before beginning her NCAA career in the fall of 2024.
“Unfortunately, there was a problem with admission and they told me this week,” Tuncel told SwimSwam. “I am currently talking with other universities. I have very little time to decide. If they had told me this at least two months ago, I wouldn’t have been in such a difficult situation.”
Tuncel committed to USC last May, less than a year after winning the 400 free, 800 free, and 1500 free at the 2021 European Junior Championships, the latter two in meet records. A few months later, she swept those same three events at the 2022 World Junior Championships. This year, she missed out on her third consecutive sweep of the distance events at Euro Juniors with golds in the 1500 free and 800 free and silver in the 400 free.
Tuncel’s best converted LCM-to-SCY times project her contending for A-finals in both the 500 free and 1650 free at NCAA Championships, but the question is whether she can regain (or at least come close to) her peak form from 2021. She hasn’t set a lifetime best in two years, going from 15:55.23 (2021) to 16:13.68 (2022) t0 16:18.53 (2022) in the 1500 free and 8:21.91 (2021) to 8:24.33 (2022) to 8:35.10 (2023) in the 800 free.
Tuncel’s top LCM (SCY conversion) times include:
- 200 free: 1:59.70 (1:44.95)
- 400 free: 4:06.25 (4:35.91)
- 800 free: 8:21.91 (9:22.36)
- 1500 free: 15:55.23 (15:36.50)
- 200 fly: 2:11.54 (1:55.98)
In December of 2020, Tuncel burst onto the international scene by breaking the world junior record in the SCM 1500 free (15:45.29) at Turkish Nationals in Istanbul.