Swimming Australia has announced a new plan, for the foreseeable future, for their qualifying time standards.
Specifically, for their senior-level benchmark meets, the 8th-place time qualifying for finals at the most recent World Championship meet will be the minimum number at the Australian Trials to earn their way onto the team. In other words, the 8th-fastest time in semi-finals for three-round events, or prelims for two-round events, from Barcelona this summer will determine the qualifying standards for:
- 2014 Pan Pac Championships
- 2014 Commonwealth Games
- 2015 World Championships
Lesser national teams, like Short Course Worlds, or Junior Worlds, will be set off of a certain percentage slower standards than the above meets to allow for a very carefully-tuned developmental path and standard. After the 2015 World Championships, those standards will become the new qualifiers for the 2-2016 Olympics and 2017 World Championships, and so on.
This sets a much higher standard than the FINA-mandated qualifying times. Australia has always held a taller standard that infamously resulted in only a single qualifier in the men’s 1500 free for Barcelona in an event where the Australians are history’s most dominant nation; but this raises the bar even further. With those standards, there are instances in which even the mighty Americans could theoretically struggle to get two qualifiers at times, and there will definitely be somewhat of an adjustment period for Australians as they adapt to this policy (and there is likely to be some public push-back when it starts to hit swimmers in the top 2 at Trials as well).
The Australians’ early trial date, which in 2014 is set from April 1st-6th, allows them to absorb this big pre-meet taper and will give qualifiers three months to regroup for the Commonwealth Games next year, and even longer for Pan Pacs.
New Swimming Australia Director of High Performance Michael Scott says that “agreeing on these time standards now means coaches and athletes know what’s required to gain selection going forward.
“The goals are there, they have been set and the challenge is to meet them and then exceed expectations. We have to be thinking about what it will take to perform at our best in Rio and we have to apply that to now.”
Major international meets will be set into three tiers:
- Benchmark – Olympics, World Championships, Commonwealth Games and Pan Pacific Championships;
- Australia A (about 3% slower than Benchmark times) – World University Games and or Australia A team tour;
- Junior (about 5.1% slower than Benchmark times) – World Junior Championships and Junior Pan Pacific Championships
(Note that because of the unique nature of Paralympic swimming, those standards are considered separately from this plan.)
When Scott was the head of British Swimming, a post he left after the 2016 Olympics to take a job closer to his home of Australia, they had relatively difficult qualifying standards as well.
While Scott believes that setting the standards now give coaches a better idea of qualifying ahead of time, the plan could similarly result in distinct uncertainty.
For some real world examples, the qualifying times for next year’s big meets (Commonwealth Games and Pan Pacs) in the women’s 100 back is 1:00.24; had Katinka Hosszu not scratched the semi-finals, it could have been under a minute (7th qualifier was 59.99). This leaves a lot of room for big time swings, and could create instability in qualifying across years.
In some races, things could get really ugly. Nobody, for example, would have qualified for the 2013 World Championships in the women’s 100 breaststroke had these standards been in place.
Still, coaches will know their standard a full season in advance, and will also get the message loud and clear: Swimming Australia is only interested in swimmers who are more-than-prepared to final at benchmark meets. In 2013, the Australians had 28 individual swims that did not advance to a final in 51 individual entries (excluding an Emily Seebohm scratch from the semis of the 50 back). That’s over half of the individual entries that did not meet Australia’s standard of ‘finals or bust.’
In summary: expect a much smaller Australian team for the 2014 benchmark meets than we’re used to seeing.
With all of that considered, here is a table of what will be the qualifying times for the 2014 Commonwealth Games, the 2014 Pan Pac Championships, and the 2015 World Championships. Swimmers can only earn invites in Olympic events:
|Men’s Standards||Women’s Standards|