The Pros and Cons of European Championships 4/2 Per Country Qualification Rule

2022 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS

  • August 11th – August 17th (pool swimming)
  • Parco Del Foro Italico, Rome, Italy
  • LCM (50m)
  • Entries
  • Live Results

Most major international meets are not wholly a test of who is ‘the best’ in any given week of competition. In many cases, they are a test of who is ‘the best’ in any given week of competition among those who were the best during their countries’ unique selection process.

The European Championships, however, have a relatively-unique entry system that provides a balance between limiting a single country’s ability to monopolize spots in finals, and allowing countries the flexibility to not whittle-off a potential medalist during the selection process.

At European Championship meets, a country can enter up to four individual swimmers into each event. Only two of those four, however, can progress out of the prelims (be that to semi-finals or finals, depending on the event).

This system is more plausible for a European meet than most thanks in part to the relatively-affordable costs of intercontinental travel in Europe. Countries can justify the cost of bringing extra athletes, even knowing some of them won’t advance out of preliminary rounds.

Some will choose to focus on the negative of this selection policy – in theory, the 3rd-fastest swimmer in prelims could be knocked out already. We’ve seen that happen many times, including, for example, in the men’s 200 fly in 2018, where Hungary went 1-2-3-5 in prelims. This means that someone who proved in prelims that they were the 3rd or 4th or 5th best performer in the building that day won’t get a chance to push through for a medal.

But instead I’ll focus on the positive outcome. All four of those Hungarian men (Kristof Milak, Tamas Kenderesi, Bence Biczo, and Laszlo Cseh) had their opportunity to show that they were one of their country’s top two swimmers on August 4, 2018, rather than having to fight to do so during the country’s selection process.

In 2022, the host country of Italy has taken significant advantage of this selection policy, entering four swimmers in almost every individual event (with the women’s distance races being a notable exception).

They are one of a number of countries that will likely have to deal with leaving medal contenders in the preliminary rounds. Here are a few of the most notable examples:

  • Italian men in the 400 and 800 freestyle – In the 400 free, Italy has high seeds in Marco de Tullio (#4), Gabriele Detti (#5), Lorenzo Galossi (#8), and Matteo Ciampi (#9). With Galossi being so young, having just turned 16 in May, there’s a big potential for a jump forward. That’s in addition to the 2016 champion Gabriele Detti. The competition gets even stiffer in the 800 free, where Italy has the #3, #5, and #6 seeds, including Gregorio Paltrinieri.
  • The Italian women’s breaststroke races are a bloodbath at domestic qualifying competitions, but they all get a shot at the European Championships. At the last version in 2020, the Italian women were 1-2-4 in prelims of the 100 breaststroke. This year, Arianna Castiglioni is the #2 seed, Benedetta Pilato is the #3 seed, and Martina Carraro is the #4 seed.
  • The Italian men have three of the top eight seeds in the 100 freestyle. Alessandro Miressi is the #2 seed, Thomas Ceccon is the #5 seed, and Lorenzo Zazzeri is the #7 seed. All are seeded sub-48, and the Italian won the World Championship in June in the 400 free relay.
  • The Italian men also have three of the top six seeds in the 50 breaststroke (and four of the top nine), led by top-seeded Nicolo Martinenghi.
  • Sweden has the #1 seed (Sarah Sjostrom), Sara Junevik (#5 seed), and Louise Hansson (#8 seed) in the women’s 50 fly, and Hansson is underseeded in the event compared to her capability.
  • The Dutch women’s sprint group isn’t what it was in its heyday c. 2012, but it’s still very deep. They have the #6, #6, #8, and #23 seeds in the 50 free at this week’s meet, led by Tessa Giele and Valerie van Roon.
  • The Hungarian women have three of the top six seeds in the 400 IM. The top seed is Katinka HosszuViktoria Farkas is the #3 seed, and Zsu Jakaobos is the #6 seed. With the top two seeds (Hosszu and Mireia Belmonte of Spain) on questionable form, this race is wide open.
  • An under-the-radar conflict is the men’s 200 backstroke and France. They have the #5 seed Mewen Tomac, the #7 seed Yohann Ndoye Brouard, and the #8 seed Antoine Herlem.

The European Championships employ semi-final rounds in all races 200 meters and shorter. The event runs from August 11-21, 2022 in Rome, Italy. The pool swimming portion runs from August 11-17 at the Foro Italico.

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commonwombat
1 month ago

I like this conceptually and for a continental championships for somewhere like Europe where the distances/relative transport costs are significantly less; I think this is very workable.

Adopting it for global meets would, I suspect, require a deal of tinkering in order to work given the general drive to cap competitor numbers. Using the FINA A mark as the defining line is fine but will no doubt be most workable in those events with clear relay cross-over (100/200fr/stroke 100s).

Whilst obviously giving further racing opportunities to those with multi-event potentials, it would, however, further complicate the issue of managing swimmers racing programs. Unless something significant “gives” such as removing semifinals entirely; I can see this being problematic

However, I… Read more »

Jamesabc
Reply to  commonwombat
1 month ago

It definitely won’t spread the medals around. Any system where bigger countries get to send more swimmers and then see who is the best on the day is obviously going to benefit bigger countries, because most smaller countries aren’t going to have 4 swimmers in any event that meet the qualifying standard anyway.

commonwombat
Reply to  Jamesabc
1 month ago

Which is precisely why they dropped the 3 per nation in the first place. For those cases where they may cry “we wuz robbed” when they may indeed have had a legitimate 3rd medal contender; there are the cases where they DO pick up medals in other events that may not have eventuated under 3 per nation …. ye old swings and roundabouts.

For meets like Euros, this 4-2 rule can work just fine just like the similar situation with Pan Pacs; but not for global meets.

tea rex
Reply to  commonwombat
1 month ago

There is one small drawback for big nations. If only 2 swimmers from your country advance out of prelims, you don’t get the benefit of cruising prelims. Screws up load management for guys like Dressel, who need 47-high to get out of prelims while a Sun-Woo can get by with a 48-mid.

MZ/X
1 month ago

Women 400 IM had exciting domestic battle last year too.

  1. HUN HOSSZU Katinka  4:37.42 q
  2. HUN MIHALYVARI F. Viktoria  4:38.07 q
  3. HUN KAPAS Boglarka   4:40.03
  4. GBR WILLMOTT Aimee   4:40.19 q
  5. HUN JAKABOS Zsuzsanna   4:40.50
Last edited 1 month ago by MZ/X
Memma EcKeon
1 month ago

No cons. I can see only upside. Heats are faster and you are able to give an opportunity to more than 2 Swimmers to participate in the championships. Also with a maximum 4 per country in the heats you can give an opportunity to swimmers ALREADY on the team to swim other events.
I wished they took this approach to worlds and the Olympics. If not bring 3 or 4 swimmers for each event, at least let a maximum of 4 swimmers per country in the heats provided that they are ALREADY on the team in other events, and maybe enforce a B or A qualifying time for that swimmer to be able to swim that other race.
… Read more »

Jamesabc
Reply to  Memma EcKeon
1 month ago

All that really does is benefit the bigger countries. How many countries outside of USA and Australia realistically have four medal contenders in multiple events?

commonwombat
Reply to  Jamesabc
1 month ago

JAP perhaps in a few events; from time to time maybe GBR but then again we are talking strong countries.

Am not in favour of increasing team numbers. The proposition of allowing these further nominations from those already selected/on teams does ostensibly have a degree of merit BUT in itself is likely to create even more headaches for coaches/selectors with regards to managing racing schedules, particularly for those swimmers who will most likely have multiple relays.

flicker
Reply to  commonwombat
1 month ago

I agree but how many of the swimmers who got 3rd/4th at their trials in a particular event and are already on the team going to be used for multiple relays that they weren’t already selected for because this hypothetical rule mostly lends itself toward 100/200 freestyle and specifically for countries who have the depth for the top 3/4 swimmers to be relatively close in times for it to make any real difference with which 2 swimmers progress past heats

Dan
1 month ago

The swimmers that benefit are the swimmers that finish 3rd & 4th during their selection procedure.
I have seen several meets with this being implimentet and I feel that in the majority of the cases it has been good as the swimmer that hit the taper better has been the swimmer that raced in the final and did really well.

Lola
1 month ago

And yet the British team will have 4 swimmers in few, if any events and perhaps no more than one in some events. Really decent swimmers will be left at home, who would jump at the chance to represent their country, as the selectors focus on relays and medal prospects only.

The unoriginal Tim
1 month ago

Just have a system for swimmers to attend based on season best times. The national bodies pick their teams then FINA invites anyone in the world top 16 who hasn’t been picked by their country. These swimmers are not eligible for relays and don’t represent their country. They can swim any individuals where they are top 16 regardless of per country rules.

Not worth it at Euros but I beleive this should be the system for Worlds and Olympics to stop what happened at Tokyo in the W2Fly.

This would be most beneficial for swimmers who have been defunded or snubbed by their nation and excluded from national teams as not medal potential when in fact they may be national… Read more »

OLOAP
1 month ago

Thinking of the Italian situation, pushing hard already in the morning prelims could be very problematic in arace such as the 4 free which has finals later on the same day (of course the same could be applied for Hungary for women’s 400 medley). It’s really grueling as well for the 8 free but at least final is the following day…

fred
Reply to  OLOAP
1 month ago

At least 4 athletes get an opportunity to swim at Euros in that race and even if 2 of them don’t proceed to finals they’re still taking part in an important meet instead of being at home watching it on tv

OLOAP
Reply to  fred
1 month ago

I’m just focusing on the single race, what you said applies to whatever event. For those having semifinals too, some athletes can better handle that round saving a bit of energies for entering the final. 4 free and 4 medley are among those events more impacted by this rule especially if people fighting for the final spot are strong medal contenders

CraigH
Reply to  OLOAP
1 month ago

Bobo, is that you?

OLOAP
Reply to  CraigH
1 month ago

Not Bobo but honored to be called like the MAESTRO

Last edited 1 month ago by OLOAP
NathenDrake
Reply to  OLOAP
1 month ago

Or 200 butterfly for men & 400 medley as well for Hungary.

Troyy
1 month ago

What I don’t like is that it prevents athletes from countries with a lot of depth from conserving energy in the heats because they have to fight for their place in the next round. This is an even bigger problem if an athlete has a large program.

fred
Reply to  Troyy
1 month ago

At least prelims are faster and more interesting to watch

Troyy
Reply to  fred
1 month ago

Only those from countries with more than 2 entries are faster. Everyone else cruises the heats as per usual which is an advantage that really shouldn’t exist at this level.

Last edited 1 month ago by Troyy
Dan
Reply to  Troyy
1 month ago

2022 WC, Men 200 Free, only 1 country had 2 swimmers in the Top 16 (5th & 11th) with K. Smith qualifying with 0.8 seconds to spare. I know that could be classified as cruising but he semi time was “only 0.67 seconds faster and he was 8th”
I am sure there are better examples in Troyy’s favor but you still have to be Top 16 based on 2 swimmers/country (unless there is a scratch).
I did not look at any other event, but the events that Dressel scratched could still have had 3 (instead of 1) swimmers in the prelims and probably 2 more on to Semi’s instead of 1 as it took 52.1 for Semi’s in… Read more »

jpm49
Reply to  Troyy
1 month ago

Not wrong, it’s like having to make two finals in the same discipline, often.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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