SwimSwam Pulse is a recurring feature tracking and analyzing the results of our periodic A3 Performance Polls. You can cast your vote in our newest poll on the SwimSwam homepage, about halfway down the page on the right side, or you can find the poll embedded at the bottom of this post.
Our most recent poll asked SwimSwam readers how high a Wave I qualifier would place at the Wave II Olympic Trial meet:
Question: What’s the highest a Wave I athlete will place at Wave II U.S. Olympic Trials?
- Make the Olympic team – 5.8%
- Make a final – 21.3%
- Make a semifinal – 49.8%
- Top 40 – 19.8%
- Lower than 40th – 3.3%
Voters were extremely bullish on the chances of a Wave I qualifier making at least a semifinal at the Wave II Olympic Trials meet. 49.8% said a Wave I qualifier would make a semifinal, in addition to 21.3% who predicted a Wave I qualifier to make a final and 5.8% who predicted a Wave I qualifier to actually make the Olympic team.
As a quick refresher, the Wave I/Wave II split was USA Swimming’s strategy for moving forward with an Olympic Trials meet amid the coronavirus pandemic. Over the previous three Olympic cycles (2008, 2012 and 2016), the Olympic Trials meet has swelled from about 1200 participants to about 1800 participants. A gathering of that size – plus coaches, meet workers, USA Swimming officials and potentially spectators – would represent a major risk for a COVID-19 superspreader event and could jeopardize the health of the U.S. Olympic team just weeks out from the Tokyo Olympics.
The new format will feature a Wave I meet for lower-ranked qualifiers. The top two in each event from the Wave I meet will advance to Wave II, which will follow traditional Trials format: the top 16 will make semifinals (in events 200-meters and shorter), the top 8 will make finals, and the top 2 will make the Olympic team (with the exception of the 100 and 200 freestyles, where the top 6 make the Olympic team).
The Wave II cuts are faster, and were based on the time seeded 41st in each event as of January, when the decision was made. All athletes ranked 41st or higher at that time were already Wave II qualifiers, but anyone who swims faster than the Wave II cut between then and June will also qualify for Wave II. That means, by definition, all Wave I participants will be ranked 42nd or lower in their event.
41 is significant – USA Swimming picked that place because it’s the lowest seed of any athlete who has made an Olympic Trials final since 2000. Only five athletes ranked 35th or lower have made a final, and the lowest seed to make an Olympic team was 38th. (More data here).
The 5.8% of voters predicting an Olympian to come out of the Wave I meet would be predicting the lowest-seeded U.S. Olympian this millennium. Even the 21.3% predicting a Wave I qualifier to make a Wave II final would be predicting a historic outcome, with someone seeded lower than 42nd ultimately making a final.
On the flip side, there is some reason to believe that seed times might be less prescriptive this year compared to previous years. With all of last summer’s season extremely limited (and in some areas completely wiped out) amid the coronavirus pandemic, many athletes are starting to see two years’ worth of time drops coming to fruition this season. There’s a chance someone would have risen well above the 41st seed last summer, but if they don’t fully peak until Trials this summer, their rise will look extraordinary.
Below, vote in our new A3 Performance Poll, which asks voters whether Caeleb Dressel will make the U.S. Olympic team in the 200 free:
The A3 Performance Poll is courtesy of A3 Performance, a SwimSwam partner