Swimming Canada has moved its Tokyo 2020 Olympic Trials meet to June 19-23, athletes were told in a conference call on Wednesday. The move comes after Ontario introduced another stay-at-home order and declared a third state of emergency earlier this month amid a rise in new coronavirus cases.
The most recent Trials dates were from May 24-28, with a very limited selection of athletes invited. A high-performance test event scheduled for early May has been canceled.
For now, officials are hoping to continue to hold the meet at the country’s newest Olympic caliber pool, the Toronto Pan Am Sports Center, and have booked those dates, they are exploring other options in case local regulations won’t allow hosting of the meet. While the provinces of British Columbia and Alberta have been ruled out as hosts, one of two big pools in Montreal and the Winnipeg Pan Am Sports Centre are potential alternatives capable of hosting the meet.
Swimming Canada says that if they can’t find a suitable host, their next plan would be to look at options outside of the country. While the Canadian government doesn’t want the team chosen outside of the country, Swimming Canada says that they are fighting for the chance to pick a team in the pool, rather than on paper.
Athletes were told that choosing a team ‘on paper,’ based on the best guess from prior results, was still a last resort.
Canada has 10 provinces and 3 territories.
The Paralympic Swimming Trials have now been separated from the Olympic Trials. The meet is still being planned as a timed-finals event, a plan that drew criticism when announced earlier this year. The Canadian men still don’t have Olympic relays qualified, so will need an Olympic-qualifying event, like those Trials, to earn their “wildcard” slots as one of the top 4 teams that didn’t place in the top 12 at the 2019 World Championships.
The six swimmers pre-selected to the team when Trials were originally moved from April to May continue to be pre-selected:
- Kylie Masse – women’s 100 backstroke, 200 backstroke
- Maggie MacNeil – women’s 100 butterfly
- Sydney Pickrem – women’s 200 breaststroke, 200 IM, 400 IM
- Penny Oleksiak – women’s 200 freestyle
- Taylor Ruck – women’s 100 freestyle
- Markus Thormeyer – men’s 200 backstroke
In 2020, Swimming Canada was among the first nations to alter its Olympic selection in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. By March 13, Canada had announced that its Olympic and Paralympic Swimming Trials would be either postponed or canceled due to the pandemic. About a week or so later, the Canadian Olympic Committee became the first national Olympic committee to declare it would not participate in the Tokyo Olympics, at that point still scheduled to begin in July of 2020.
The Olympics themselves were later postponed one year. Swimming Canada rescheduled and reformatted its Olympic and Paralympic Swimming Trials, paring down the meet to feature just 20 invited swimmers per event. The meet was originally scheduled for April 7-11 of 2021, but earlier this year, Swimming Canada again postponed the meet, this time to May 24-28. A second Olympic-qualifying invitational will take place on June 21-23. Those two Olympic selection events were once again thrown into doubt this month, though, by a COVID-19 lockdown in Ontario.
Canada is currently ramping up its vaccine program. Canada does not have any domestic vaccine production, and so is relying on vaccines from its allies, including the U.S., to emerge from the pandemic. Last month, the U.S. pledged to share 4 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine with Mexico and Canada. That vaccine has been approved in those countries, but not in the United States.
American president Joe Biden also pledged this week to release another 60 million doses, but did not say where to.
Most of Canada’s vaccine supply is coming from Europe.
At its current pace, according to Bloomberg data, the country is still 5 months away from what most experts believe would be a “herd immunity” level, though the 464,000 reported doses on Monday is the most the country has done in one day.
So far, the country has given enough vaccines to cover around 16.7% of the population of 37.59 million.
Nationally, the number of new cases have begun to recede a little from their peaks earlier in the month. Cases are currently about 35% higher than their neighbors to the south in the United States, controlling for population.
The decision to postpone trials again comes a week after Swimming Canada issued a statement saying that they felt their “robust safety” protocols were sufficient but that they “understand the concerns and…are seeking more information to make the best decision possible.”
A breakout 2016 Olympic Games for Canada, led by its women’s team, resulted in 6 total medals: 1 gold, 1 silver, and 4 bronze.
The Olympic qualifying period closes on June 27, 2021. Canada would join countries like the U.S. and Australia as having Olympic Trials events butting up against the end of that qualifying period.