SwimSwam Pulse: 76% Think A Wave I Qualifier Will At Least Make Wave II Semis

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 Pollwhich asks voters whether Caeleb Dressel will make the U.S. Olympic team in the 200 free:

Will Caeleb Dressel make the U.S. Olympic Team in the 200 free?

View Results

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A3 Performance is an independently-owned, performance swimwear company built on a passion for swimming, athletes, and athletic performance. We encourage swimmers to swim better and faster at all ages and levels, from beginners to Olympians.  Driven by a genuine leader and devoted staff that are passionate about swimming and service, A3 Performance strives to inspire and enrich the sport of swimming with innovative and impactful products that motivate swimmers to be their very best – an A3 Performer.

The A3 Performance Poll is courtesy of A3 Performance, a SwimSwam partner

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ACC Swimmer
1 month ago

Feel bad for all the wave 1 swimmers that had trials ruined for them

That guy
Reply to  ACC Swimmer
1 month ago

I know it’s harsh but I honestly believe there’s too many people going to trials anyway. I personally still think times should be lowered to make it harder to qualify

Reply to  That guy
1 month ago

I think a smaller meet would be terrible for development on the men’s side. How much faster can they get without shutting the next generation of Olympians on the men’s side out of the meet?

Right now the 200 free is already 1:50 low. Any faster and you could be looking at high school age boys going 1:49 that aren’t making the meet. A high school boy going 1:49 is likely one of the most promising swimmers in the country for their age – you want those kids at trials!

Reply to  Riccardo
1 month ago

Why? Trials are to pick the olympic team, not “development”. They should just have a separate nationals meet later in the summer so the kids can taper. Only reason the cuts are so lax is so they can well trials tickets.

Reply to  Svird
1 month ago

Trials are absolutely for development. That is why they have made it the selection meet for the junior travel teams.

1 month ago

I thought 20th or something – if they were focusing on Wave I then it would be hard to hold the taper for an extra week, though there are counterpoints to that

swimmer guy
1 month ago

what happens if a kid in wave 1 goes a time that would then go on to make the team.. but when they are at the next meet they have now overdone their taper being it’s a long time and a lot of racing… not saying this will happen just curios how everyone would react

Reply to  swimmer guy
1 month ago

not going to happen, but if they do that’s too bad they should not have thrown away the season just to go fast at trials.

Last edited 1 month ago by swim2

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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