(UPDATE) USA Swimming Will Split 2021 Olympic Trials Into Two Separate Meets

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that USA Swimming is planning dramatic changes to the 2021 Olympic Trials. The official announcement about changes to the format is expected to come at 9AM Eastern Time on Tuesday morning.

The meet will be split into two events, with a primary meet (Wave II) being held from June 13-20 and a secondary meet (Wave I) from June 4-7.

The first wave, Wave I, will be the lower 550-650 qualifiers, with the top 2 finishers in each event advancing to the Wave II meet. The Wave II cuts will be set based on the 41st seeded athlete as of today, plus the qualifiers from the Wave I meet. USA Swimming is expecting around 19 more qualifiers per event, which will set the field for each event at around 50 or 60 swimmers per event.

Once a swimmer qualifies for the Wave II meet, they must swim in the Wave II meet, and may swim any “Bonus” Events that they have at least a Wave I Cut in.

That 41 swimmer cut line was based on, from the last 5 Olympic Trials, the lowest-seeded qualifier to make an Olympic Trials final.

The cut between Wave I and Wave II will be made so that all likely Olympic qualifiers will swim in the Wave II event. In the previous 5 Olympic Trials, Erin Phenix, the 38th seed in the 100 free at the 2000 Olympic Trials, was the lowest-seeded swimmer to qualify for the team. Further, Morgan Scroggy in the 200 back at the 2008 Olympic Trials was the lowest-seeded swimmer to make an Olympic Trials final.

Across all events over the last 5 Trials, 91.8% of those to make an Olympic Team for the US have been from the top 10 seeds in an event.

Lowest Seeds to Make the US Olympic Team, Since 2000

38th seed Erin Phenix 6th place in 100 Free 2000 Olympic Trials
30th seed Gunnar Bentz 5th place in 200 Free 2016 Olympic Trials
28th seed Gary Hall Jr. 1st place in 100 Free 2000 Olympic Trials
28th seed Dana Vollmer 1st place in 200 Free 2004 Olympic Trials
28th seed Gary Hall Jr. 3rd place in 100 Free 2004 Olympic Trials

Lowest Seed to Qualify for a US Olympic Trials Final, Since 2000

41st seed Morgan Scroggy 200 Back 2008 Olympic Trials
40th seed Shannon Draves 200 Fly 2012 Olympic Trials
40th seed Kate Dwelley 200 Free 2004 Olympic Trials
38th seed Erin Phenix 100 Free 2000 Olympic Trials
35th seed Katie Cowan 200 Back 2000 Olympic Trials

Both meets will be held in the CHI Health Center Arena in Omaha, Nebraska, as planned.

The standards to qualify for Wave I remain the same as the original Olympic Trials standards, with a qualifying period of November 28, 2018 through May 30, 2021. The Wave II meet has the same qualifying period, but faster standards.

Below are the Wave I and Wave II standards:

Even with the delay of the Olympic Trials by a year, the field for this year’s Trials is substantially smaller than in previous years. At the beginning of 2021, there were under 1300 qualifiers for the Olympic Trials, which is substantially less than the 1700+ seen in previous years.

“We figured out this was the best option, and that it still allowed all athletes to have a crack at the Olympic trials, which, for many athletes is the pinnacle of their careers,” said Mike Unger, USA Swimming Chief Operating Officer. “But it also then allowed us to pick the best Olympic team.”

The new plan assumes that COVID-19 vaccines won’t be widely enough available for the majority of participants in the event to be vaccinated.

USA Swimming also told the Wall Street Journal that it was “extremely likely” that a negative COVID test would be required for every attendee to enter the venue, and that regular on-site testing will also be likely. That system was implemented for the recent Pro Swim Series meets in Richmond and San Antonio, with no reported outbreaks from those events earlier this month.

Other Details:

  • USA Swimming says that the can roughly break even on the Trials with 60% attendance for the Wave II event, which is about 7,700 spectators. At present, state and local officials are allowing 75% capacity for events at the CHI Health Center Arena.
  • The Wave II meet will still be aired on NBC, with arrangements to televise the Wave I meet still under way.
  • USA Swimming CEO Tim Hinchey acknowledged that the size of the meet is crucial to the ongoing success of American swimming, serving as a carrot for young swimmers even if they are unlikely to make the team.
  • It costs USA Swimming about $3 million to install the two temporary pools in the arena and pay for infrastructure and other event costs.
  • USA Swimming has set up several webinars next week to answer questions from coaches.
  • The Wave II Event Schedule will follow the standard Olympic Trials schedule, announced here. The Wave I meet schedule, condensed into 4 days, is below.

The Tokyo2020 Olympic Games are scheduled for Friday July 23, 2021 – Sunday August 8, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan.

Wave I Event Schedule:

Prelims begin each morning at 10 a.m. CDT, while finals begin at 7 p.m. CDT.

 Women’s Event #  Event Order  Men’s Event #
 Friday, June 4
1 100m Freestyle 2
3 100m Backstroke 4
5 200m Butterfly 6
 7 800m Freestyle* 8
 Saturday, June 5
 9 200m Freestyle 10
 11 100m Breaststroke 12
 13 400m Individual Medley 14
 Sunday, June 6
 15 400m Freestyle 16
 17 100m Butterfly 18
 19 200m Backstroke 20
 Monday, June 7
 21 200m Individual Medley 22
 23 50m Freestyle 24
 25 200m Breaststroke 26
 27 1500m Freestyle* 28

* The 800m and 1500m freestyle events will be conducted as timed finals, with the fastest seeded heat in each of these events swimming in the Finals sessions.  All other heats of the 800m and 1500m freestyle events will swim fastest to slowest, alternating women and men following the conclusion of that  morning’s preliminary session.

More information will be added as it becomes available.

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A$AP Pocky
3 years ago

swimfin and swack waging war lmao

3 years ago

Some of these comments are from people that don’t know anything😂😂

Last edited 3 years ago by UNKNOWN
3 years ago

Wait so are swimmers still allowed to make Wave 1 cuts right now?

3 years ago

SwimSwam commentators – we want trials!
USA Swimming – provides an option to still hold trials in a manner that reflects the current pandemic
SwimSwam commentators – not like that!

3 years ago

Someone can correct me if I am in accurate, but as I remember and again could be wrong….but when I swam in the late 70’s the trials, Sr Nationals and NCAAs had cut times that were the 15th place time from the previous years meet. You had to make cuts every season SC and LC unless you were in the finals or consoles which only went to 12th place.

point being meets were less crowded and short prelims session as only 5-6 heats in each event for the trials and Sr Nationals. Not sure when they went to easier cut times and bigger meets. Which by the way I think is good as it gives younger swimmers a chance to… Read more »

3 years ago

FWIW, when I swam WC trials in 1986, there were no more than 3-4 heats per event.

3 years ago

Wait so in Wave 1, how many people make it to finals?

Poppin Ov
3 years ago

I think instead of the “top 2 advance” thing they should just allow the the times from wave 1 to count for qualification, so in the off chance someone goes fast enough to make the team in wave 1 they can qualify directly rather than having to do it again the next week.

Seems more fair for to the wave 1 swimmers; any argument that they would do better the next week is a bit ridiculous because that’s generally not how tapers work for people. Only real problem is potential problems with 50 free where swimming with a slower heat in wave 1 could give an advantage.

3 years ago

What a dumb idea this is! Sounds like someone that has never swum competitively before came up with this plan. You can’t ask someone to come back two weeks later. Is the USOC paying the swimmers and their coaches return travel and hotel??

Why not just split up the Men’s and Women’s sessions rather than this ridiculous way.

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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