Every year, when the United States releases event lineups for the World Championships, there are notable gaps in the 50 meter stroke events. That’s because of the way that USA Swimming chooses their rosters for most major international meets – often using 100 meter races to pick the swimmers who make the roster and extending their lineups to 50 meter events rather than using 50 meter stroke events.
One of the first swimming editorials I ever wrote (shoutout The Swimmers Circle) discusseded the American struggle and attitude vis-a-vis stroke 50s.
Things have changed a bit since then – the fastest available swimmer from finals in each of the non-Olympic stroke 50s makes the team this year (and in most recent years), but if that swimmer declines their spot, they are not replaced. The 2nd spot must be filled by someone already on the roster in another event.
Because the 50 strokes are so often overlooked at US meets, swimmers often choose not to swim them – even if there is a financial incentive to do so (see Regan Smith in the 50 back at the Pro Swim Series in Westmont last week).
While this hurt the US at the 2022 Short Course World Championships with empty lanes (Kate Douglass couldn’t swim the 100 IM where she would’ve been a gold medal contender), the US did fill up their stroke 50 slots at the 2022 FINA World Aquatics Championships.
The results were pretty good on the men’s side, where Americans won all three stroke 50s and also picked up a silver in the 50 back (Hunter Armstrong) and bronze in the 50 breaststroke (Michael Andrew). The women didn’t have the same luck, taking only one medal in the three non-Olympic events: US National Champion Katharine Berkoff‘s silver medal in the 50 back, .08 seconds behind Kylie Masse of Canada.
And of course not all Americans cop an attitude toward 50 strokes. Michael Andrew for sure doesn’t, and as financial rewards for these races have increased (circuits, Worlds prize money, ISL), interest has increased.
The US World Championship Trials fall outside of the World Aquatics dates to hit qualifying standards. World Aquatics requires qualifying times to be hit between March 1, 2022 and June 11, 2023, and US Trials don’t start until June 27.
World Aquatics says that for meets that begin after June 11, countries must apply for exceptions from World Aquatics (all World Championship qualifiers must be applied for anyway), and that the US, Australia, and France have been granted exceptions this year.
- If Regan Smith wins the 50 back, there’s some chance that the 2nd spot goes unfilled. Rhyan White or Isabelle Stadden might make the team in the 200 back, Gretchen Walsh might make the team in the sprint frees, Abbey Weitzeil will probably make the team in the sprint frees – but might decline a spot in the 50 back if offered
- While the women’s 50 breast list is short, it’s also more-or-less the contenders in the 100, so it’s probable that two of those make the team. Miranda Tucker has an outside shot at spoiler in the 100, but if she drops that much time in the 100, she probably gets the 50 cut too.
- The women’s 50 fly list is long – 7 active swimmers. It’s pretty easy to see a path to the team for Huske, Curzan, Walsh, Hinds, and Weitzeil, so no real concerns there.
- The men’s 50 backstroke is also in good shape. 2 of those 9 guys will come in 1-2 in the 100 back, and lots of them (Casas, Murphy, Andrew) have great chances at the team in other races as well. No real concerns there
- The men’s 50 breaststroke list is short, and there’s a non-negligible spoiler chance here. Michael Andrew has been up-and-down in the 100 breast, and Josh Matheny is still improving (but doesn’t have the cut in the 50 – his best is 27.96 and the cut is 27.33). If he clips MA in the 100 breast, and doesn’t find another six-tenths in the 50 between now and June, that could leave USA Swimming in a pickle. The good news is that Andrew, even on his roller-coaster, still seems likely to make the team in something else – especially the 50 free. So the US is probably good here, but there’s still enough to pay attention to.
- We don’t know what Caeleb Dressel‘s summer looks like yet, but again it seems likely that Michael Andrew and Shaine Casas will both make the team in something (if Dressel doesn’t swim or isn’t in form, that improves MA’s chances in the 50 free even further). Still, it’s a boulder balanced on a ledge – there’s a non-inconceivable scenario that leaves the US with only one qualifier here (CD doesn’t swim, MA has a bad meet, Casas wins the 50 fly). Indiana Hoosier Finn Brooks was 2nd in Westmont in 23.50, a pleasant surprise under the “A” cut.
Americans with “A” Standards in the Stroke 50s
During the March 1, 2022-June 11, 2023 qualifying period.
|Women’s Races||50 Back||50 Breast||50 Fly|
|1||Katharine Berkoff – 27.12||Lilly King – 29.76||
Torri Huske – 25.38
|2||Regan Smith – 27.25||Lydia Jacoby – 30.20||
Claire Curzan – 25.43
|3||Olivia Smoliga – 27.33||Kaitlyn Dobler – 30.34||
Kelsi Dahlia – 25.65 (retired)
|4||Rhyan White – 27.45||Annie Lazor – 30.89||
Sarah Thompson – 25.91
|5||Gretchen Walsh – 27.78||
Gretchen Walsh – 25.97
|6||Isabelle Stadden – 27.80||
Natalie Hinds – 26.07
|7||Abbey Weitzeil – 27.95||
Abbey Weitzeil – 26.26
Beata Nelson – 26.30
|Men’s Races||50 Back||50 Breast||50 Fly|
|1||Hunter Armstrong – 23.71||Nic Fink – 26.45||
Caeleb Dressel – 22.57
|2||Justin Ress – 23.92||Michael Andrew – 26.52||
Michael Andrew – 22.79
|3||Shaine Casas – 24.00||Kevin Houseman – 27.22||
Maxime Rooney – 23.25 (retired)
|4||Ryan Murphy – 24.57||
Shaine Casas – 23.31
|5||Michael Andrew – 24.64||
Finn Brooks – 23.50
|6||Adam Chaney – 24.78|
|7||Jack Aikins – 24.81|
|8||Daniel Carr – 25.03 (retired)|
|9||Jack Alexy – 25.16|
|Non-Qualifier Meets||Will Modglin – 25.11||
Daniel Wilson – 23.52
Daniel Wilson makes the team by winning the 50 fly, heard it here first
Personally I find their criteria a good one! And I am against the 50s anyways! Just being honest!
50s add excitement to the sport and an opportunity for sprinters. Not sure why swimming wants to be “inclusive” in political ways but not in appreciating different types of physiology.
How many more opportunities do sprinters need though? They have the 100’s of each stroke and seemingly more and more relays each year!
Elaine wants 42 year olds to stay in sport and train 3x per week for 1500 and go to gym! Move on! There are a lot of events and a lot of relays and only 26 athletes per sex can make it. That is a lot of slots without 50s. Basketball gets one medal for a two week competition!
No but they’ll have issues winning any of the events..
And “we” – as in, USA Swimming leadership – won’t (or at least will pretend) not to care at all.
Not Olympic events, might as well not exist harumph harumph.
Australian trials start after the qualifying period as well. I’m sure WA must be making some kind of exception.
But then…why have the deadline set where it is? What does the deadline mean if exceptions are granted at every request?
Why does WA do anything? Asking them any logical questions is opening up a can of worms haha
Not sure here. But do you know if World Aquatics’s deadline where set before or after the US & Australians decided when to host their trials? Or did WA come up with the deadline after the US & Australians decided when to host their meets?
If USA Swimming does not exceed the roster limit (26) per gender, what’s the issue?