Let’s make one thing clear before we get into this: postponement was the inevitable, safe option. And to that end, we all benefit. But the year-long extension on training will give some swimmers a renewed opportunity to be at their best when the Olympics roll around in 2021.
Below, we’ve taken a quick look at who could be positively impacted — but note, however, that we don’t yet know all the details of how meets and qualifying opportunities will be rescheduled.
Mehdy Metella – The French national record holder underwent shoulder surgery in January and announced he would not be able to pursue a Tokyo berth, but promised to “come back stronger in 2021.” Well, now that the Olympics are in 2021, he likely has a shot to make it if his recovery goes as planned. Metella has an Olympic silver medal from 2016 as part of the French 400 free relay along with 4 World Championship medals, including individual bronze in the 100 free in 2017. His best shots at individual awards in Tokyo are in the 100 free and 100 fly.
Luca Urlando – Urlando, a presumed Olympic threat after his 2019 performances, announced in January he dislocated his shoulder in a workout and would take a few months to recover. We don’t know how he was progressing, but it’s hard to imagine he would have been at his best come June. We’ll have another story on the youngsters who might make the team with another year of development, which is of course relevant to Urlando as well, but another year to shore up his shoulders is almost definitely a good thing. Urlando, like many in a senior class full of Olympic-caliber swimmers (Carson Foster, Regan Smith) will now have a big decision to make as to whether they want to defer enrollment in college until after the Olympics.
Amy Bilquist – Bilquist, the 2019 U.S. 100 back national champion, underwent knee surgery in January — and has been no stranger to injury over the past few years. She said she might return to racing in March, though that obviously did not happen. Again, we don’t know how the recovery is going, but in a crowded American backstroke field, another year to recover can’t hurt.
Trey Freeman – The University of Florida sophomore underwent knee surgery last fall and redshirted the 2019-20 NCAA season — as of January, he had already gotten back in the water, but extra time could be a positive. Freeman placed 11th in the 400 free at U.S. Nationals last summer, then competed at the 2019 World University Games in the 200 free and 400 free, finishing sixth in the former and fourth in the latter.
Catalina Corro – Corro, a member of Spain’s 2019 Worlds Team, underwent her third brain surgery for a tumor earlier this month. She had already undergone surgery in October 2019 and returned to training. We don’t know what her recovery timetable looks like this time, but an extra year seems like a good thing. Corro snagged the gold medal in the women’s 400 IM at the 2018 Mediterranean Games in championship record fashion after her first brain surgery.
Junya Koga – The Japanese Olympian is currently serving a two-year ban that is set to expire in May, which would have rendered him ineligible for the 2020 Olympics because Japanese trials were originally happening in April. Koga had said he was aiming to return to the international stage for 2021 Worlds, but now, an Olympic appearance could be back on the table.
Shayna Jack – The Australian sprinter Jack was handed a four-year suspension earlier in March after testing positive for Ligandrol last year, and vowed to appeal it to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Originally, Australia’s only Olympic qualifying opportunity was slated for June 14, so Jack’s case would have needed to be resolved — and her suspension drastically shortened — by then. The pace of the CAS’ recent decision-making seemed to make that an unlikely timeline. Now, she could potentially have time to try to prove a source of contamination or that her ingestion was accidental.
Roland Schoeman – The 39-year-old South African sprinter is banned until May 17. He would have missed South African Nationals, which were originally scheduled for April 4-9, but were rescheduled even before the Olympic postponement. Now, with Nationals likely put off beyond the duration of his suspension, Schoeman’s window is open to go for an Olympic berth.
Hiromasa Fujimori – On August 27th, 2019, the FINA Doping Panel issued Fujimori a two-year period of ineligibility that was back-dated to January 1st, 2019. Fujimori lost his appeal to reduce the ban to a maximum of a year, arguing that his positive test came “‘potentially contaminated rice balls’ the day before.” Now, his ban will end on Jan. 1, 2021, opening the door to Olympic qualification, pending the schedule of qualification events.