Time Standards Need To Be Implemented At the FINA Champions Series

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The debut of the FINA Champions Series over the last month has been exciting for both swimmers and fans alike.

Four of the world’s best, competing head-to-head in a timed final format for a relatively large sum of money. It not only incentivizes the athletes to show up and compete but is also more digestible and visually appealing for the viewer.

And now with the three legs of 2019 in the books, I have to say I’ve enjoyed it. It’s not often we get to see some of the biggest names in the sport face off with something on the line, and the majority of the events have yielded some very fast times and intriguing races.

But, of course, there were some issues.

One that stood out upon first reading the rules was that all four swimmers would get paid, and quite well at that.

For example, at the 2017 World Championships, a swimmer would earn $5,000 USD for placing fourth in an individual event. At the FINA Champions Series, in a field of four, placing fourth earned you the same amount.

Now, this prize pool is all part of the incentive for athletes to disrupt their training cycle and compete, and I think paying all four swimmers can still work.

But there needs to be some sort of standard put in place.

Danas Rapsys‘ performance in the men’s 200 back is what really highlighted this. Clearly wanting to save up for the 400 free which would go about 40 minutes later, he blatantly threw the race and swam a time over 17 seconds slower than both his best time (1:56.11) and the winning time from Jacob Pebley (1:56.35) in 2:14.02.

Both the comment section in our live recap and Olympic champion Roland Schoeman on Twitter saw what happened and weren’t too pleased.

And this isn’t a knock on Rapsys. He knew he would face no consequences for it, and he followed through. He has been one of the more captivating swimmers to watch over the three stops, and has set himself up for a big summer after producing some very impressive times in the 200 and 400 freestyle.

However, it’s not a good look for the event. And while I don’t think it would be fair to penalize someone, who, say, was swimming their third event of the session and just ran out of gas and ended up going a relatively slow time, throwing a race in such obvious fashion shouldn’t be rewarded.

There is a fine line there, and I think the answer is to implement some kind of standard an athlete must attain in order to earn their money. It doesn’t have to be crazy fast. We’re not talking British World Championship qualifying times here. Just something in place to prevent what Rapsys exploited in that 200 back.

Even if a swimmer was in the midst of heavy training and had just finished another race 10 minutes earlier, all a world-class 200 backstroker would have to do is put in an ounce of effort to be significantly faster than 2:14.

That swim scored 582 FINA points. If we were to go the route of using the points table to determine the required time to earn money, 750 looks to be about right. In the men’s 200 back that would be a time of 2:03.18, which would’ve given Rapsys seven seconds to add from his best to still get paid.

The only other swim to fall short of 750 FINA points was the 2:08.33 200 IM (701) from Zach Harting, who probably shouldn’t have been entered in that event with only one career swim (three years ago) sub-2:05 – sounds like a last minute ‘someone needs to swim this.’ Leah Smith‘s 2:14.04 200 fly hit the number right on the nose, and Andrii Govorov slipped by in the 100 fly with 764.

The swim from Rapsys was really the first time we’ve seen someone throw a race in such an obvious way, so it’s not like it’s an ongoing problem, but it’s one that will happen every now and then if a rule isn’t put into place.

Other shortcomings include the lack of spectators – there were only about 1,000 fans at the meet on Friday evening. While Saturday was a bigger crowd, the arena still was not nearly full (only one side of the seating was used, and that side was mostly full, but not to-the-brim, on Saturday), with estimates at about 1,500. This could be a bad sign for the pending ISL, which is counting on being able to fill bigger facilities like Indy (and including Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas for the championship).

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The prize money should be as follows:

1st: 10 x fina points
2nd: 8 x fina points
3rd: 6 x fina points
4th: 5 x fina points if at least 800 points; else, $1000.

I’m all for paying swimmers more, but we need to reward fast swimming.

Ooooh this is an interesting idea, I kind of like it.


Pretty good idea, but it would mean people in events with strong world records would be perpetually underpaid.

Ledecky’s WRs would be a good example where this would happen.

An alternative would be a fixed prize for the winner (with record bonus incentives—WR, and fina champions series or more like world leading time) and then the cash multiplier correction applied to 2,3,4 based off of the winner’s time’s fina points.

One way would be using the winners time as the base time for calculating fina points, instead of the world record.

It would be complicated for fans to follow and they would have to work it out so 2nd never got more than 1st.

Fun… Haven’t read the complete thread…but I THINK that if a swimmer is sand-bagging for 4th for $5,000—if other three swimmers get out of the pool before the sand-bagger finishes, they get the sand-bagger 5k and split it evenly between them. This is a game. You should be able to team up and snag rev in fun ways. We’re looking for drama in sports. That creates drama.

….thinking more….and FINA or ISL would never do this but………. What if you could take your competitor’s purse by exiting the pool before they finish the race? Meaning–you win, but you could take the 2nd place finisher’s purse by exiting the pool before they touch the wall? And 2nd can do the same to 3rd place, and 3rd to 4th place. That would be so harsh, but you would watch that play-out and feel the tension, waiting to see if anyone tried it….and some folks would for sure. The upside — pure drama. Also, distance swimmers could make more money than sprinters for once in their career in purse competitions…..Again, probably way too harsh for our sport, and I cannot… Read more »


could work and be kinda fun but you could still probably sandbag the 50s and get in before they get out and I know they don’t do distance races but in the 400 you can finish last by 5 seconds or so and still be giving your best


Love it Mel.

NM Coach

What would work is to expand the field to 6/event and pay the top 4. Then you wouldn’t have people lay down knowing they get 5k no matter what.


I agree and maybe add a wild card invite per event or stroke, male and female based on their current world ranking. Inject some fresh blood that may take advantage of the opportunity!


That would be great for swimmers like Lazor, not having won a world or Olympic medal, but having a breakout season


Let’s fans pick one of the swimmers.


Dean’s too busy


But for the fifth and sixth place swimmers would face the prospect of losing money in terms of travel fees

Travel expenses are covered for all athletes. All participating athletes also receive an “engagement fee” for attending and spending at least one hour doing ‘media’ events, swim clinics, community visits, etc.

Fat Swammer

Prelims/finals. Invite 8 or 12 (with travel/lodging covered). Pay 4.

Coach Coach

Perhaps the best method would be the 4th place swimmer cannot be more than n% slower than 1st place. EX if Ryan murphy goes 52.9 in the 100 back then 4th place can’t be more than 3% slower (about 54.5). It seems like the point of this meet is to watch exciting races where four people are competing closely the entire race. Knowing you need to race 1st place instead of just thinking about a time standard to get your money would probably be better.


Rip to everyone trying to race ledecky

13 % Chinese person

If KL were to swim 3..59.9 then – 3% is 4.07 . That has been done in the series by Wang Li Hosszu Margolis . .Plenty of others out there who have not been invited.

13 % Chinese person

AT is so far a full second ahead of KL in the 200 so likely , she could win that . If KL were to be put in the 400im or the 100 plenty could beat her . But it is all theoretical & you should not be so dismisdive of all the other girls . Im sure KL is not .


Whats the other 87%?

13 % Chinese person

Southern England .

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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