Team USA ‘Not Anticipating’ Changes In Olympic Relay Swimmer Selection

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.

Leave a Reply

5 Comment threads
13 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
10 Comment authors
newest oldest most voted

Does that still leaves an option to potentially put 2 swimmers in the relay who don’t swim top 6 or even finals at trials ?


Yes because the swimmers who place 3-6 can swim prelims. And then the top 2 can swim alongside wih Phelps and lotche possibly in the finals. That way all 6 are taken care of.


I’m not sure, but my guess is that this will mean people like Phelps and Lochte will have to actually swim through finals to make the relay, rather than blasting it in prelims and then scratching.


Yes. Typically at US Olympic Trials, swimmers 1-6 in the 100 and 200 freestyle will make the team with swimmers 1 & 2 making the event obviously and 3-6 being relay candidates. The FINA rule change would force swimmers 3-6 to swim the relay IF that is how they qualified for the Olympics. My understanding is that if they make the Olympics in another event, they don’t have to swim the relay. Same with #1 & 2 because they made the individual sprint free event. Theoretically they could have 3-6 swim the prelims, and then 1 & 2 (and say, Phelps and Lochte) swim finals. The danger is if for some reason a relay-only swimmer cannot swim in prelims for… Read more »


I was thinking about this the other day and realized that it might not even be a concern at all. I was running through my picks for top 6 at trials and realized that I think each of them will also qualify individually. Adrian (50 and/or 100 free), Dressel (50, MAYBE 100 free), Phelps (100/200 fly, 200 IM), Grevers (100 back), Feigen (100 free), Rooney (200 free). The biggest question mark here, to me, is Feigen vs. Dressel in the 100. If Feigen can get back into the form he was in in 2013, he’s almost a lock for an individual spot. If Dressel can show similar growth in the 100 to what he’s shown in the 50 the past… Read more »


Sorry, I meant for the 4×100 free relay. Haven’t thought much about my top 6 for the 4×200. There are almost certainly going to be some relay only swimmers on that one.


I don’t see feigen 2013 as his real form apart from world he does not have amazing times it seems more like a one time swim like Roberts 47,50. So can’t see him as an individual contender. Also apart from adrian who is a lock second place is open but apart from dressel on 50 any of my bets if is not second won’t get a individual spot. Chadwick Schneider rooney if feigen qualifies is sixth at most. Easier to have greevers there. Also there is Phelps and lochte situation. Both did not swim a individual 100 free lately. Can’t know their current level.


Doh. Forgot about Chadwick! He’s been looking good, lately. He could certainly knock one of those guys off, and might challenge for an individual shot as well.


Sven , Grevers has seriously mentioned be willing to be on that relay – so Grevers is on in my book – and could potentially be the 4th pillar of power in the prelims / maybe finals . Grevers has a better shot than Lochte and was part of the last 400 free relay the Usa won ( 2009 Rome ) – i loved that relay set up . Schneider will surely be in the mix – he is getting better and better on 100 free . So i see Adrian , Phelps , Dressel & Grevers for Finals – Prelims : Schneider or Chadwick / Dressel , Grevers and Adrian for prelims . Conger might as well be in… Read more »

Swimmer A

You mean like Phelps and Lochte did in London? That’s a good question. So this is my hypothetical scenario, at trials the 100 free shapes up like this: 1) Michael Chadwick 2) Caeleb Dressel 3) Bret Ringgold 4) John Murray 5) Matt Ellis 6) Eric Schultz Haha I just took the top 6 US swimmers in the college ranks btw. Anyways, say for example the US coaches plan on swimming Phelps and Lochte at finals. That means we have 8 relay swimmers in total, which means a complete swap out of swimmers from prelims to finals. Then let’s say that John Murray goes a 44 low in prelims (cause you know…. John Murray). In this instance the coaches wouldn’t be… Read more »


In that scenarios of using lochte and Phelps and they did not swim finals they WILL use swimmers 3-6 on prelims. Will they be enough to final?


The other way we could get it wrong is if one of those 3-6 guys looks off during training camp but has to swim in perlims because otherwise they wouldn’t have a swim and we miss the finals because of it. I think that’s more of a concern than leaving an unexpected fast split off because of who needs to be swapped on.

Swimmer A

I missed these comments earlier. Yea, these should both be concerns.

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 …

Read More »

Don't want to miss anything?

Subscribe to our newsletter and receive our latest updates!