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.
- 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|
|Saturday, June 5|
|13||400m Individual Medley||14|
|Sunday, June 6|
|Monday, June 7|
|21||200m Individual Medley||22|
* 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.