Despite a change in FINA’s rules regarding relay swimmers at the Olympics, USA Swimming says it doesn’t plan to change its selection procedures for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
The FINA rule prohibits a nation from bringing a relay alternate to the Olympics and then not using that swimmer in either prelims or finals of the relay they were selected for.
Typically, the larger swimming nations will select up to 6 swimmers per relay, allowing the team to rest some of its top swimmers during prelims and replace the slowest few legs heading into the final. FINA’s new rule, though, has caused some speculation that teams will be less likely to bring extra relay swimmers if there is any concern that the relay could miss the final if the relay-only swimmers swim prelims.
That speculation takes a lot of its inspiration from last summer’s World Championships, where longtime swimming powers Australia and the United States missed the final of the men’s 4×100 free relay. One idea floated has been to leave relay-only swimmer selection entirely up to a nation’s coaching staff, allowing them to only select relay members they are confident can get the team into the final.
However, USA Swimming told SwimSwam that “our National Team staff is not anticipating any changes to the selection procedures.” That means it appears Team USA will continue to select the top 6 finishers in the 100 and 200 frees to the Olympic team as long as the roster size allows it.
When we covered the new FINA rule, we noted that the American men had no problem using its 5th and 6th swimmers on prelims relays in London – the 4×100 free relay used an entirely different lineup from prelims to finals and the 4×200 free relay had only Conor Dwyer swim twice at the 2012 Olympics.