According to USA Swimming’s Athlete Selection Procedures document, the 2016 FINA Short Course World Championships team selection will rely on the coach’s discretion, not objective criteria, to pick the team for the meet, which will take place December 6-11 in Windsor, Canada.
This is a marked departure for USA Swimming, which normally follows strict selection priorities with objective criteria to select the teams for international meets. You can read the full selection procedure document here, but here are the highlights:
- Any swimmer who swam in the Olympics, or the A/B finals of Olympic Trials, the US Open, Junior National Championships, or Junior Pan Pacs is eligible.
- All professional or post grad swimmers have to either swim in the USA Swimming vs. Big Ten competition, or a World Cup this fall to be selected to the world championships team.
- “The selection of the Team will be at the discretion of the National Team Director and the Head Coach in order to field the best team possible.” There is no list of selection priorities, which normally spells out in exactly what order swimmers will be selected to the team.
The short course world championships are not quite as prestigious as the summer LCM world championships, and traditionally, Team USA hasn’t managed to get all of its big stars to attend the winter meet. This year’s world championship could be particularly tough for the USA for a couple additional reasons.
First, a lot of the top US swimmers, especially Olympians, are current NCAA swimmers. Most college teams are having their invitational meets the week before the world championships, and that week-long stretch is also prime time for semester exams. This could knock individual Olympic gold medalists Katie Ledecky, Simone Manuel, Lilly King, and Ryan Murphy out of short course worlds, plus roughly a dozen other Olympians.
Second, a lot of top swimmers are either retired or suspended. Gold medalists Michael Phelps and Maya DiRado are retired. Jimmy Feigen and Ryan Lochte are both suspended by USA Swimming. While Lochte had a subpar Olympics, by his standards, he’s always been an absolute beast at short course, and even outsplit sprinter Feigen in the 4×50 free relay in 2014 in Doha. Even a diminished Lochte probably would’ve helped Team USA in Windsor.
Unless a good number of college swimmers do end up attending, the USA is going to have to go pretty deep to find swimmers to fill out all of the events. For instance, in the men’s 200 fly, top ten swimmers in the US this year (LCM), consisted of the retired Phelps, Tom Shields, and then eight current NCAA swimmers.
Still, we expect we’ll end up seeing plenty of Olympians and other top USA Swimmers competing in Windsor, including recent NCAA swimmers like Missy Franklin and Kelsi Worrell, and stalwarts like Conor Dwyer and Tom Shields.
USA Swimming should be announcing the world championship roster sometime in October.