Relay entries are way down for the 2017 World Championships as compared to the last edition in Kazan. And not just by a little – there are 31.5% fewer relay entries across the 8 relay events as compared to the 2015 edition.
Each of those 8 relays had fewer entries in 2017 than in 2015, most significantly of which was the women’s 800 free relay – where entries dropped almost in half, from 19 to 10.
Relay entries are typically lower in the post-Olympic World Championships than they are in the pre-Olympic World Championships. The most likely explanation is that the pre-Olympic World Championship involves Olympic qualifying. The top 12 teams at the 2015 World Championships earned a spot at the 2016 Olympic Games – a big prize, even for smaller nations.
In the post-Olympic year, while there is cash available to the top 8 teams, there is little other motivation for a smaller nation that isn’t within reach of a final. Even then, the prize offerings for lower places, when split 4 ways, is still fairly low.
But this year is an anomaly even on that level – while the original entry books for the 2013 World Championships aren’t available, 2017 entries are down slightly even as compared to 2013 actual relays swum – with the presumption that some of the 2017 relays entered may not actually swim.
Another explanation for the decrease from 2013 is that teams are no longer allowed to send swimmers to the meet and have them not swim. So, we would expect that there will be fewer relays entered and scratched.
It will still leave a weird vibe in some of the relays. The women’s 800 free relay, for example, can be swum as almost a timed final. It technically could, since the Danube Arena has a 10-lane pool, though officials won’t for the integrity of the competition.
This does, however, open up an opportunity for top nations, like the United States, with their depth, to do a full relay refresh from prelims to finals if they want to. For other countries, like Hungary, it could allow them to rest one overloaded star (Katinka Hosszu in this case, with 6 individual entries), and still make the final.
The mixed relays continue to be heavily participated in – primarily because smaller countries with fewer than 4 elites of one sex can often cobble together 2 of each sex to participate in a mixed relay. This international interest is a big factor in their continued inclusion in the Worlds schedule, and Olympic schedule starting in 2020.
Below, see a comparison from 2013-2017.
|2013||2015||2017||2015-2017 % decrease|
|Actually Competed||Entry Book||Entry Book|
|Women’s 400 free relay||16||22||15||31.8%|
|Men’s 400 free relay||17||32||20||37.5%|
|Mixed 400 medley||N/A||40||31||22.5%|
|Women’s 800 free relay||13||19||10||47.4%|
|Men’s 800 free relay||18||25||17||32.0%|
|Mixed 400 free relay||N/A||39||27||30.8|