The fifth in a series of articles, SwimSwam is taking a closer look at the rankings of each relay as we approach the 2021 Tokyo Olympic games. SwimSwam analyzed the relays a year ago and we are now updating the rankings to reflect any changes that have happened. As refresher, here are the relay qualification procedures:
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.
- Women’s Relays: 400 Free, 800 Free, 400 Medley
- Men’s Relays: 400 Free, 800 Free, 400 Medley
- Mixed Medley Relay
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 coronavirus 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.
Men’s 800 Free Relay
|United States||Worlds #3||7:01.98|
|Great Britain||Worlds #5||7:02.04|
|New Zealand||Wildcard #2||7:13.06|
|South Korea||Out #2||7:15.05|
The only change in the rankings from last year is that the Netherlands are now ranked 20th, bumping Singapore into the 21st position. As only 16 teams qualify for Tokyo, this does not change the teams that are currently qualified; it only puts the Netherlands in a better position to potentially qualify. The Dutch would need to drop another 2-3 seconds to secure a wildcard spot for Tokyo.
The Canadians currently rank as 17th and the first team out. They are less than a second from the second wildcard spot and will have a chance to secure a qualification position at the Canadian Olympic Trials in April.
Canada has a number of options to help improve and move into a wild card position. Ruslan Gaziev’s best time of 1:49.33 comes from August 2019 and he should be looking to split under 1:48 on a relay. Alexander Grant swam a 1:49.44 and puts himself into the conversation. A name to keep an eye on is Cole Pratt. Primarily a backstroker, Pratt put up a 1:50.84 in the 200 free as a 16 year old in 2019. The Canadians have depth as they have seven swimmers between 1:47.60 and 1:49.59 but are lacking a true ace in this event. An improvement in the Canadians’ ranking would bump Ireland out.
This will be one of the relays to watch in Tokyo. Australia, who finished out of the medals four years ago in Rio, are the reigning world champions and lead the field by just under a second. Russia, the United States, Italy, and Great Britain are all separated by less than 0.25 seconds. The US will have some fresh faces on this relay as for the first time since 2000 we will not see Ryan Lochte or Michael Phelps. A close look at both flat start and relay split times shows that there are a lot of men swimming between 1:45 and 1:46. The country that can have two or more swimmers split under 1:45 will be in a very good position for gold.