Swimming Canada has announced the cancellation of its open water selection trials that were scheduled to be held from April 25th-26th on Grand Cayman. The cancellation comes after the government of Canada announced an advisory on travel outside of Canada and the Cayman Islands government announced a restriction on public gatherings of more than 50 people related to the global coronavirus pandemic.
The Cayman Islands have closed its two airports, which will remain closed through April 12th. The British Overseas Territory still has only one confirmed case of coronavirus, which was a 68-year old Italian man taken to the island from a cruise ship after suffering a heart attack. He died from complications associated with the virus on Saturday.
Canada, meanwhile, has 478 confirmed cases so far.
Swimming Canada currently has no swimmers qualified to race in open water at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The final open water qualifier is currently set for May 30th-31st, and Swimming Canada says that they are “evaluating an alternate qualification path should the qualifier be held and travel to Japan deemed safe.”
“We are in the midst of very difficult times that transcend sport around the world,” said Swimming Canada CEO Ahmed El-Awadi.
“We now have more decisions to make with regards to the selections for the final Olympic Marathon Swim Qualifier,” said High Performance Director and National Coach John Atkinson. “As soon as these decisions have been made we will communicate the outcome. We recognize these are disappointing outcomes, however, we had to make these decisions and communicate them.”
The first avenue to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games in open water came at last summer’s World Championships. There, the top 10 finishers in the Olympic-distance 10 kilometer race were automatically qualified for the Olympic Games.
Canada’s top finisher in the men’s event was Hau-Li Fan in 17th place, about 16 seconds away from a qualifying spot; in the women’s race, Kate Sanderson was Canada’s highest finish in 35th place, which was 5-and-a-half minutes behind the 10th-place finisher.
At present, the qualifying procedure has the remaining spots allocated via the Olympic Marathon Swim Qualifier. There, the top 9 finishers in each race (men and women) earn invites, with 5 additional spots going to one representative from each FINA continent. The final representative, 1 male and 1 female for the hosts Japan, completes the fields of 25 swimmers each.
FINA considers South American, Central America, the Caribbean, and North America to be the same continent for the purposes of this qualification. If Fan were to repeat his relative position from the World Championships at the Olympic qualifying event, he would be in as a top 9 finisher. On the women’s side, the path at present seems to be through continental representation. Sanderson would’ve been the 3rd finisher from the Americas from outside of the top 19 at the World Championships.
Each country that doesn’t already have a qualifier can send up to 2 men and 2 women (where applicable) to the Olympic qualifying event.
Swimming Canada says that it is continuing to evaluate the future of the Olympic and Paralympic Swimming Trials that the organization announced last week would be postponed. The organization says that they are evaluating contingency plans that “may allow for a pool Trials to be held in late June in compliance with current FINA rules.”
“We must also recognize the window to get things done is getting smaller every day,” National Coach John Atkinson said. “I hope that FINA and ultimately the IOC are looking at the situation of athletes who are now unable to train around the world, the strain in many countries on their health systems, and societies in various stages of lockdown. Narrowing the window in which qualification needs to take place for athletes who have dedicated years of their life to pursuing excellence is creating additional uncertainty and stress in this very difficult world situation.”
In addition, Swimming Canada is evaluating the feasibility of hosting the Canadian Masters Swimming Championships May 22-24 in Etobicoke, Ont., and will make a final decision on or before April 6.