USA Swimming Has 12 Relay-Only Swimmer Limit on Olympic Team, Now There Are 13


There are 13 swimmers who have only qualified for the 2020 U.S. Olympic team in only relay events,  as of Saturday morning. The problem is, USA Swimming is limited to a maximum of 12 relay-only swimmers on their Olympic team.

If after the U.S. Olympic Trials ends and there are more than 12 relay-only swimmers, USA Swimming uses a ranking process based on Modified World Rankings. This means compiling all the finals times from the 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials, adding those to the World Rankings (March 1, 2019 – June 7th, 2021), and comparing the swimmers’ Olympic Trials finals time to them.

There are a total of 13 relay-only swimmers on Team USA’s Olympic roster with only two days of competition left:

  1. Katie McLaughlin
  2. Bella Sims
  3. Brooke Forde
  4. Olivia Smoliga
  5. Natalie Hinds
  6. Catie DeLoof
  7. Drew Kibler
  8. Andrew Seliskar
  9. Blake Pieroni
  10. Brooks Curry
  11. Bowe Becker
  12. Patrick Callan
  13. Ryan Held

Note that if any one of these swimmers qualifies in an individual event they are no longer a relay-only swimmer. The only individual events left are the men and women’s 50 free, men’s 1500, men’s 100 fly, women’s 200 back, and the women’s 800 freestyle.

The best chances of someone making an individual event are in the 50 free. Ryan Held is ranked 3rd in that event and he dropped a 22.66 50 free split in the 100 free final Thursday. 

On the women’s side, Olivia Smoliga is ranked 10th and Natalie Hinds is ranked 17thin in the 50 free. Both Smoliga and Hinds had solid first 50’s in their 100 free final on Friday; Hinds went out 25.62 and Smoliga posted a 26.06.

Bella Sims also has a significant chance to make an individual event. She is entered in the 800 free, ranked 5th.

One relay-only swimmer, Drew Kibler, no-showed the 50 free this morning. This was his last individual event of the meet and he was ranked 19th. Blake Pieroni was also entered in the 50 free, ranked 9th, but he scratched.

Full Relay-Only Swimmer Rules:

 1.3.6 Selection of Relay-Only Swimmers. USA Swimming is limited to a total of 12 (combined between men and women) Relay-Only Swimmers on the Team (see Attachment A for the language of this rule). If, after applying the procedures set forth in Sections 1.3.4 and 1.3.5 above, there are more than 12 RelayOnly Swimmers who stand to be Nominated to the Team, then USA Swimming will use the process set forth in this Section 1.3.6 to determine who will be Nominated to the Team:

 (a) Ranking Process. In the event that more Relay-Only Swimmers stand to be Nominated to the Team than allowed under FINA rules, the Relay-Only Swimmers will be ranked within their priority according to the Modified World Ranking list. Relay-Only Swimmers with the best Modified World Ranking will be eligible for Nomination to the Team in order of priority. RelayOnly Swimmers will be added to the list of those to be Nominated to the Team in order of priority until the maximum number of Relay-Only Swimmers (under the FINA rule) is obtained or the Team is full, whichever comes first. 

[Note: Per FINA rules, Swimmers who qualify for an individual Event and as a Relay-Only Swimmer are not considered Relay-Only swimmers.] 

Modified World Ranking

“Modified World Ranking” means the World Ranking list as modified by integrating all times from the Finals of the Qualifying Competition. An athlete’s Modified World Ranking shall be determined by his/her time from the Finals of the Qualifying Competition. The results of the semifinals and preliminary heats of the Qualifying Competition will be used to determine finish order immediately lower than those in the Finals (i.e., ninth place and below)

Full U.S. Olympic Roster After Night 6:



  • Chase Kalisz: 400 IM, 200 IM
  • Kieran Smith: 400 free, 200 free, 4×200 free relay
  • Michael Andrew: 100 breast, 200 IM
  • Townley Haas: 200 free, 4×200 free relay
  • Drew Kibler: 4×200 free relay
  • Andrew Seliskar: 4×200 free relay
  • Ryan Murphy: 100 back, 200 back
  • Zach Harting: 200 fly
  • Bobby Finke, 800 free
  • Nic Fink, 200 breast
  • Caeleb Dressel, 100 free, 4×100 free relay
  • Zach Apple: 4×200 free relay, 100 free, 4×100 free relay
  • Blake Pieroni: 4×100 free relay
  • Brooks Curry: 4×100 free relay
  • Jay Litherland: 400 IM
  • Jake Mitchell: 400 free
  • Andrew Wilson: 100 breast, 200 breast
  • Hunter Armstrong: 100 back
  • Gunnar Bentz: 200 fly
  • Michael Brinegar: 800 free
  • Bryce Mefford: 200 back
  • Bowe Becker, 4×100 free relay
  • Patrick Callan4×200 free relay
  • Ryan Held: 4×100 free relay

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2 years ago

So are we down to Becker finishing second in the 50 for Held to make the team?

Hot Take
Reply to  96Swim
2 years ago

Or Catie DeLoof in the 50

2 years ago

What I’ve learned from watching trials
2004 trials – 1st to 2nd all strokes go to Olympics, 1st to 6th in relay events goes.
2008 Trials – Swimming a prelim or Semi only will get you on the final relay if you make the team in other events and all 6 event swimmers will be on it too.
2012 – If the winner of a relay event decides not to swim it individually at the games then 7th place makes the team and the winner still swims the relay.
2016 – Swim Swam will freak out that our prelim team won’t make it if we let the 6th place finisher swim.
202(1) – Our swimmers… Read more »

Reply to  Xman
2 years ago

And you could add for 2004 Trials that you don’t even need to swim prelims to get on a relay if your last name rhymes with Shmelps lol.

2 years ago

The thing that bums me out about Held is that he swam slower each round, we know what he’s capable of but Trials has not been his meet

2 years ago

Shouldn’t priority go to freestyle swimmers if we already have two swimmers who make the A cut in a stroke?

2 years ago

so confusing and complicated

Last edited 2 years ago by SwimMom
2 years ago

I didn’t realize that someone who finished 6th in a relay event would ever get bumped. I get the 26 roster spot cap but why the 12 relay only swimmer cap? Trying to understand the rationale for the rule.

Reply to  Rembeo
2 years ago

Since when would you expect FINA to be rational in all their rules?

Reply to  Rembeo
2 years ago

It’s bizarre. We hear about this 26 swimmer limit and figure that’s the only thing to consider, and now we’re learning about only 12 relay only swimmers. So the US could be over the 12 relay-only cap, but maybe only be at 24-25 swimmers for men, and someone would have to get left behind. Beyond stupid.

Last edited 2 years ago by MTK
Reply to  Rembeo
2 years ago

The IOC regulates how many athletes that each federation gets in the Olympics, and in turn FINA distributes them between its disciplines. This year FINA allocated 878 slots to pool swimming. (For example, when open water swimming was added to the Olympics, FINA did not get any extra slots for it, so it carved 50 slots out of pool swimming to give to open water swimming.)

The relay only swimmer rules are intended to make sure that federations aren’t just padding their delegations with swimmers who won’t be swimming or aren’t needed. Note that for every extra relay only swimmer a federation brings, that’s one less swimmer with an OST/B cut who will get invited to the Olympics, since that… Read more »

Coach Macgyver
2 years ago

Good, because 13 is a lucky number

2 years ago

I know it’s not a relay event, but I don’t see his name at all in the roster list posted with this article….and it should be Mefford- it auto corrected me. Lol

Reply to  Dixie
2 years ago

Thank you for updating the roster!

About Annika Johnson

Annika Johnson

Annika came into the sport competitively at age eight, following in the footsteps of her twin sister and older brother. The sibling rivalry was further fueled when all three began focusing on distance freestyle, forcing the family to buy two lap counters. Annika is a three-time Futures finalist in the 200 …

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