Qualifying standards and qualifying meets for the 2018 Short Course World Championships have been released, and now for American swimmers, the only thing left to be determined for American swimmers is the U.S. selection criteria, and further how swimmers will earn qualifying times. The meet will be held from December 11th-16th in Hangzhou, China.
While this meet isn’t always viewed as a primary event by Americans, the selection criteria, when released, will be a significant marker for the new administration, which includes a new CEO Tim Hinchey and a new National Team Director Lindsey Mintenko. In 2016, the procedures varied from traditional procedures for USA Swimming and instead of objective criteria, the final selection choice was made “at the discretion of the National Team Director and the Head Coach in order to field the best team possible.” This kind of criteria, frequently seen in other countries and most significantly Great Britain, isn’t traditional in the United States – where “first to the wall” has been the norm in recent memory.
Coaches were limited to selecting from within a certain pool of eligible swimmers (they had to swim in the A/B finals of the Olympic Trials, the US Open, Junior Nationals, or Junior Pan Pacs to be eligible), and interested post-grad participants had to race at the USA vs. Big Ten challenge or a World Cup meet, but otherwise coaches were free to choose who they wanted.
Besides that question, the other to be answered is ‘where will USA Swimming athletes hit the FINA-mandated selection criteria for the meet?” This is tricky, because the United States doesn’t (often) sponsor a short course meters-style championship meet, but FINA’s selection times are only in short course meters. USA Swimming could again require interested swimmers to race at the World Cup series, but for many, that won’t be feasible because of academic schedules.
Among the possible solutions would be time trial races at the TYR Pro Swim Series stops – which, in spite of all being long course meters, are official FINA selection events. The 2018 U.S. Nationals/Pan Pac selection trials are not currently listed as an approved FINA qualifying event – that would be the most logical place to do them, perhaps in a post-meet time trial, because swimmers will be on full tapers. While the qualifying times are by no-means “soft,” any American swimmers sent to Short Course Worlds should be able to hit the “A” standard, for sure at the end of a taper meet, and in most cases probably suited up at an in-season meet like the Pro Swim Series. While Nationals isn’t yet listed as a selection event, FINA has in the past shown flexibility in Worlds qualifying at the behest of federations, so that meet may still be added.
As for an official decision, a USA Swimming spokesperson for USA Swimming says that “USA Swimming is in the process of determining the best possible opportunities for helping U.S. athletes meet the qualifying requirements for this year’s short-course FINA World Championships.”