As the calendar has turned to 2021, the focus in the aquatics world turns to this summer’s rescheduled Tokyo Olympic games. Swimming nations will begin to hold their selection meets in the upcoming months for both individual and relay events. In terms of which countries are eligible to swim relays in Tokyo, the process is as follows:
OLYMPIC SWIMMING RELAY SELECTION PROCESS
- The top 12 teams from prelims of each Olympic relay at the World Championships are selected to the Olympics. The finish order from prelims is what matters, so if a team is disqualified in the final (like the Dutch mixed 400 medley relay was), the team’s spot at the Olympics is secure.
- The next 4 best relays from the qualification period, March 1st, 2019 through May 31, 2021, will receive a spot – if the relay is swum at a FINA approved Olympic qualifying event. This includes most Olympic Trials meets, the Southeast Asian Games, the World Championships, World Juniors, Euro Juniors, the World University Games, the FINA World Cups (where a few countries have actually swum times that will get them selected), and a selection of other important international meets.
- If any of the top 12 teams from the World Championships, or any of the next 4 best teams during the selection period, decline their spot, then the next-fastest team during the selection period goes. So, if a top-12 team at the World Championships declines their spot, it’s not necessarily the 13th team from the World Championships that is selected.
A few notes:
- Countries can swim any athlete that is entered in any individual event in a relay, even if they have not achieved the OST/”B” standard for the corresponding stroke and distance of the relay in which they are entered.
- Each NOC gets additional relay-only athletes, but those athletes must have hit the OST/”B” standard for the corresponding stroke and distance of the relay in which they are entered. So, if a swimmer is racing the breaststroke leg of the medley relay, that swimmer must have at least a “B” cut in the 100 breaststroke, if they are a relay only swimmer. If that breaststroker on the medley relay has no cut in the 100 breaststroke but is swimming, say, the 1500 free, they’re still eligible for the relay.
- Countries must confirm their participation in a relay no later than June 11th, 2021 and must confirm their relay-only athletes by no later than June 27th, 2021.
- No ‘aggregate relay times,’ the relay must actually be raced to be considered.
Relay-only swimmers, if a country has:
- 1 qualified relay – 2 additional athletes
- 2 qualified relays – 4 additional athletes
- 3 qualified relays – 6 additional athletes
- 4 qualified relays – 8 additional athletes
- 5 qualified relays – 10 additional athletes
- 6 or 7 qualified relays – 12 additional athletes
These relay-only athletes that are chosen for a specific event must swim that event in prelims or finals, or the nation will be disqualified in that relay.
SwimSwam visited relay rankings a year ago in anticipation of the originally scheduled games. As the Corona pandemic has forced the rescheduling and cancellation of swim meets, we would like to revisit the rankings for changes that have occurred in the past year. We will be looking at each relay over the next few weeks and plan to update the rankings as needed throughout the qualification period.
Editor’s note: FINA doesn’t officially publish an up-to-date ranking for relay qualifying, so we’ve done our best to compile the current rankings manually.
Women’s 400 Free Relay
|United States||Worlds #2||3:31.02|
|Hong Kong||Worlds #10||3:40.40|
|Czech Republic||Worlds #11||3:40.78|
|South Korea||Out #3||3:42.58|
France has made the biggest jump in the rankings from last year. Retaining their spot as the top wildcard entry, France has improved their time significantly over the past year. The French quartet of Marie Wattel, Charlotte Bonnet, Anouchka Martin, and Beryl Gastadello swam a 3:35.64 in December, dropping over four seconds off their previous ranked time and a second off of the French national record (3:34.64).
While still a wildcard entry, the time now ranks France fifth overall and solidifies their spot in the rankings as it is quite unlikely that four other teams would swim faster. This time gives the French a legit shot to final in Tokyo. The French made one personnel change in this relay (Martin replaced Lena Bousquin), and the other three swam respectively faster than they did in June 2019:
|M. Wattel||54.08||M. Wattel||55.31|
|C. Bonnet||53.37||C. Bonnet||54.20|
|A. Martin||54.82||L. Bousquin||56.09|
|B. Gastadello||53.37||B. Gastadello||54.09|
Singapore and Switzerland currently hold the final two wildcard spots with Italy and Denmark close behind. Factoring in South Korea and Turkey, there are six countries separated by just over two seconds fighting for two spots. This does not include Great Britain, who are not on this list due to choosing not to swim this relay at Worlds in 2019. The Brits, while not yet qualified, have the potential of putting together a top-4 relay; we will see this spring if they decide to swim this relay at either the British Championships in April or the European Championships in May. The recent announcement of a 6-week lockdown will keep English swimmers out of the water, affecting their ability to train before these key spring meets.
The Russians are likely to make a final as well. While they lack a 52-second superstar, they do have one of the deepest sprint groups in the world. Even in a truncated 2020, they’ve had 8 swimmers flat-start 54s this year, including 15-year old Daria Trofimova, who went 54.89 in October. The Russians might benefit from the Olympic delay more than anybody else.
Other teams to keep an eye on include Israel and Hong Kong. Israel has a solid two legs with Anastasia Gorbenko and Andi Murez who both split under 52 [short course] during the ISL season. Their next-best two are Aviv Barzelay (57.92 LCM best) and Zohar Shikler (56.18 LCM best), which means their better bet is still probably the 400 medley relay.
Hong Kong has Siobhan Haughey who put up a 50.94 [short course] flat start time at the ISL final. At the World Championships, where Hong Kong qualified for the Olympics, Camille Cheng was a worth second, leading off in 55.23, while Tam Hoi Lam split 55.64 and Ho Nam Wai split 56.64. Ho doesn’t turn 19 until April. That relay has potential to sneak into the final, which would be massive for Hong Kong sport in general and is probably enough justification for them to go after the race, even at the expense of another 2 swims for their budding superstar.