Time Standards Need To Be Implemented At the FINA Champions Series

Editorial content on SwimSwam is the opinion of its author and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of SwimSwam.

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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4 years ago
Reply to  ooo
4 years ago

Discretionary fines handed out arbitrarily? I mean, sure would give us a lot to write about lol.

Northern Swimparent
4 years ago

The format makes no sense and is not interesting.

4 years ago

I like the idea of adding two more swimmers. I would probably cap it at two individual events a day and do a better job anticipating when a swimmer might not give a best effort. If they don’t cap it at 2 events they could just not pay the swimmer who swims more than two events and gets last place.

Reply to  Taa
4 years ago

The Iron Lady and MA might complain but I agree with that concept

Ol’ Gator
4 years ago

I would just like to point out that I could swim in the FINA champions series ahead of Rapsys where are my 500 dollars?

Ol’ Gator
Reply to  Ol’ Gator
4 years ago

*5000, and the whole NCAA thing ruins that for me

McGill Rocks
4 years ago

I think this has more to do with the structure of the meet than Rapsys. His example is extreme because of how much he dogged the event, but there have been a few others doing the same thing.

Ervin has been horrendous the entire series. Morozov swam a 51.0 on the mixed medley relay. Cody Miller (not a freestyler, and by no means a bash on him he is an an incredible athlete) was 53 on the free relay. Why was he on there to begin with if we were trying to get competitive teams in?

This article emphasizes only one of many examples of how some swimmers have been trying to take on too many events during their… Read more »

4 years ago

He was obviously just filling a lane so that FINA wouldn’t have the embarrassment of having an empty lane. The finger should be pointed at FINA not Rapsys.

Michael Paine
Reply to  Troy
4 years ago

I don’t like the 4 swimmer format. The problem with elite swimming is that swimmers are only fast once a year. Listen to the commentators “ swimmer is in heavy training” it’s fun to see racing but the quality isn’t there.

Reply to  Troy
4 years ago

Exactly. You could have hime swim 200 back 100 times against those three and he would come fourth every time

Predict It
Reply to  CACrushers
4 years ago

The dude goes 1:56.1 in the 200 back, y’all act like he sucks. Gold medalist at WUGs in 2017.

4 years ago

Another question is why no 4IM at any of the stops? There is a 4free at every stop but definitely biased against IMers! There are more important questions or things to tweak than worry about last place finishers who got asked to add an event!

Woke Stasi
4 years ago

What Rapsys did is fine with me: he made the prudent decision. I was just just disappointed that there were not more top-flight Americans there (Cal guys, Stanford women, Florida peeps, Deanzo, Zane, etc.). Of course, many of these folks just competed two weeks ago and/or will compete again this coming week.

For all of you purists: what about the “rabbits” who take the milers (or 1,500 runners) out fast for two laps and then exit the race halfway through. Should they get paid?

Awsi Dooger
Reply to  Woke Stasi
4 years ago

The rabbits do get paid, and paid well. But if they screw up then they are chewed out by the promoter and not invited back. This goes on all season long at the Diamond League and it includes many more distances than the mile. There are rabbits at 800 all the way up to 10,000, including the steeplechase. The world championship races sometimes dawdle because rabbits are not allowed. Elite marathons also have rabbits.

Swimming doesn’t need rabbits but it does need common sense. If you are inviting an athlete to swim two events at 200+ on the same night and the much weaker event is first, it doesn’t take a genius to anticipate what might happen. The problem in… Read more »

Reply to  Awsi Dooger
4 years ago

The ISL format will, of course, handle this a little better. Because there’s a bigger incentive than just the money for the specific race, there’s more incentive to race hard. Loaf a race, you won’t get to swim it next time. If FINA comes to you and says “hey want $5,000? Doesn’t matter how fast you swim.” Nobody is going to look at them and say “no thank you, I want to protect the integrity of the event as an elite racing spectacle, please look for someone else who will be better positioned to go all out.” They’re going to take the money, until there is disincentive for them to do so.

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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