World Aquatics Confirms That Relay-Only Swimmers Don’t Get Bonus Events at the Olympics

World Aquatics has provided SwimSwam with clarity regarding the eligibility of swimmers selected as relay-only athletes to race in additional events at the Olympic Games.

In short: relay-only swimmers are invited as just that, swimmers for relays.

The questions became pertinent over the last two weeks with two big pieces of news. One is a World Aquatics letter to member federations foretelling limited spots for Olympic Consideration Time (colloquially “B” standard) qualifiers at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

The other is 23-year-old Penny Oleksiak, a 7-time Olympic medalist, who fought back through a few years of injury to qualify for the Canadian Olympic Team as a member of the 400 free relay.

Oleksiak’s time of 53.66 left her .05 seconds away from the Olympic Qualifying Time (“A” standard), and while that means there’s a chance that there would be room for her in the Games, the individual invitation is not assured.

Oleksiak said after the race that she will look for an Olympic qualifying meet to pursue the “A” standard in an event in which she was the 2016 Olympic co-champion with American Simone Manuel.

Oleksiak has been under the Olympic “A” standard at least 18 times in her career in official competition, but not since the 2022 World Aquatics Championships (52.98), which is prior to the opening of the qualifying period for Paris.

World Aquatics has confirmed that relay-only swimmers, which is Oleksiak’s current status, at least until the end of the qualifying period in late June, are not eligible for additional individual events.

Many swim fans expected they would (or should) be eligible on the basis that the limits on participation are based on the number of athletes – much as was the old qualification system in the NCAA, for example. But instead, relay-only swimmers are only eligible as relay swimmers unless they are also invited in an individual event (which makes sense, because if they were able to add ‘optional’ individual events, then they would no longer be relay-only swimmers, by definition).

World Aquatics also clarified that swimmers with “A” standards (OQT) may also race other events in which they have a “B” standard (OCT), even if the “B” standard swim doesn’t get an invite; and that swimmers with one invited “B” standard swim (OCT) can swim up to one additional event in which they have a “B” standard (OCT), even if that second event isn’t invited.

In both cases, that is within context of the other qualification rules, such as only allowing one swimmer per nation to compete in an event if that swimmer has only the “B” standard.

The full and most current selection criteria can be seen here.

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Xman
28 days ago

Do we have any issues with Americans without A cut and events? I’m just wondering if we’re gonna have a repeat of the 400 free from 2021.

Winter Apple
Reply to  Xman
28 days ago

Still the 400 free but other than no. I would imagine 2 swimmers hit the A time this time as well

danjohnrob
28 days ago

I understand that you have to earn the right to swim individually, but I think swimming A B cut or OCT is enough to earn that right. I’m sorry, it makes no sense to me that we are supposed to cheer multiple heats of non-international level athletes because they are living their “Olympic dream” of representing East Timbuktu, but then prevent athletes from more developed nations who are excited to be at the Olympics, maybe for the only time in their lives, from swimming anything but a prelim relay race. They made it to the Olympics! They are THERE! They are Iin the best shape of their lives! Their entire community is supporting them! AND there is an empty effing… Read more »

Vic Toria
28 days ago

What. S&@t show. Could it be more complicated or esoteric? No wonder swimming rarely draws casual fans. Not even the erudite Swim Swam crowd here seems to fully understand the nuances (being polite). What’s more, in approaching it in this manner, you’re cutting off (potentially) some very interesting storylines for the broadcasters to highlight during the Games…”Oleksiak, making her third Olympics and rallies back from injuries to vie for 100M freestyle win!” Stories like this are always attractive to casual viewers and swimming gets to be front & centre just once every 4 years for an entire week! Just let the swimmers who are there as “relay only” who have B cuts swim the individual events for which they have… Read more »

PineappleNoMore
Reply to  Vic Toria
28 days ago

I agree that the system is unnecessarily convoluted, but this isn’t why swimming doesn’t have a bigger fan base. In commercial team sports like football, every game is consequential because they have playoff implications. And the amount of action per game in the NFL, for example, is only about 15 minutes of true action spread over 3 hours. So to be a football fan you get 17 highly important games to be emotionally invested in (plus playoffs) but only 15 minutes of strict attention to know what’s going on, and the rest of the time you can drink beer and socialize with friends. Swimming is just too much work for a casual person to keep up with. Who’s swimming fast… Read more »

Sub13
Reply to  Vic Toria
28 days ago

I don’t think it’s esoteric. It’s fairly simple, there was just a question of whether relay only athletes could swim individual events, which they can’t.

Countries can enter two swimmers per event if they have A cuts. They can only enter one swimmer if one has at least a B cut. Countries who qualify for relays get a certain number of relay only athletes. Max 2 entries per event, maximum roster size. If an individual swimmer who is already entered has at the least a B cut in another event, they can also enter that if the country hasn’t filled that spot yet. That’s pretty much it.

Also, your argument that they should change the rules using Oleksiak as an… Read more »

Last edited 28 days ago by Sub13
Summer in Paris
28 days ago

Wow.

This changes everything.

PineappleNoMore
Reply to  Summer in Paris
28 days ago

It does??

etsan
28 days ago

Isn’t it always the case? Was there any example in previous Olympics that it doesn’t work this way?

Summer in Paris
Reply to  etsan
28 days ago

It depends on the country’s qualifying system.

In some countries with stricter qualifying times (eg. Japan, GBR, Aus), a swimmer may not qualify for individual events even though they have A time, so they’re selected as relay only but they can swim individual event with A time. But now they can’t.

Sub13
Reply to  Summer in Paris
28 days ago

That’s not quite right. In that case for Australia, they would be selected BECAUSE of their relay performance but they are entered as individual swimmers. They’re not entered as relay only and then later switched.

Troyy
Reply to  Summer in Paris
28 days ago

Those “relay only” athletes that have A cuts are being entered as A cuts instead of relay only.

commonwombat
Reply to  Summer in Paris
28 days ago

Incorrect. The fact that they may have an A time in a particular event means that they CAN then be subbed into an individual event should a team mate decide to drop an event prior to cut-off date for nominations.

Case in point. Emma McKeon finished 2nd in 200FR at Tokyo Trials but decided to forgo the event soon after. 3rd place finisher Madi Wilson had an A qualifier so it was an automatic switch-out/switch-in; with Wilson’s status changing from relay-only to individual event.

If its the case that there are no vacancies; 2 already qualified and not declining the swim; then they stay as relay only regardless of their having a QT. Also, these changes to events need to… Read more »

Last edited 28 days ago by commonwombat
MIKE IN DALLAS
Reply to  etsan
28 days ago

Off the bat, look at swim results for MEXICO CITY 1968 when you’ll see multiple events in both men’s and women’s swimming where TEAM USA won all three medals.

Jack
Reply to  etsan
28 days ago

Yes, but it used to not be an issue because someone with a B cut who won their Trials was almost assured an individual invitation. If this had happened for Tokyo, for instance, everyone would just assume Penny was going to be invited for the individual event.

Viking Steve
28 days ago

Did they get China to sign off before announcing this decision?

Real Ragnar Lodbrok
28 days ago

Lame…let them swim. Makes it more exciting. Big TV always want more viewers right? Dumb.

Summer in Paris
Reply to  Real Ragnar Lodbrok
28 days ago

If they want to swim in individual events, then their swimming federation can enter them as individual swimmer.

Easy.

Dan
Reply to  Summer in Paris
28 days ago

If you enter Penny as a B-cut swimmer and she is not accepted, then she will not be available for relays so to be on the safe side she would be entered as a relay-only swimmer. I completely disagree with this but you do not want to be without 1 of your 4 fastest swimmers for the relays.
I am of the same opinion as many others that if there are at the Olympics (taking up one of the spots) they should be eligible to swim events with B-cuts as long as there are open spots.

swim observer
28 days ago

It’s a win-win situation for Canada, right?
Mary-Sophie Harvey can add 100 free (B cut) if Penny fails to secure A cut by the deadline.

North Sea
Reply to  swim observer
28 days ago

Interesting outcome. MSH, the second place finisher, gets to swim the event, but the first place finisher, Penny O., does not get to swim it.

North Sea
Reply to  North Sea
28 days ago

Is this correct?

Chris Breedy
Reply to  North Sea
28 days ago

Please explain this-
If MSH got 2nd to penny, then she didn’t make the A cut either-?

North Sea
Reply to  Braden Keith
28 days ago

For me, this is getting weird. WA needs to re-think this bonus event thing.

summerbreezin
Reply to  North Sea
27 days ago

if she has an A cut, then she’s allowed to swim in events she has the B cut in if no other Canadian swimmer has an A cut. doesn’t seem that weird to me. it’s not really a bonus event. this is the point of A and B cuts

North Sea
Reply to  summerbreezin
27 days ago

I’m not saying the application of the rule is weird. I’m saying the rule leads to weird outcomes.

ScovaNotiaSwimmer
Reply to  Braden Keith
28 days ago

This scenario makes the entire system lack common sense, IMO. If there’s room for another athlete in the event, and the relay-only swimmer with a B cut is already taking up a swimming headcount, the winner of Trials and faster time in the qualifying period should get that 100 spot.

North Sea
Reply to  Braden Keith
28 days ago

Why would MSH not swim it, if she is eligible? She is a member of the 4X100 free relay, so she is still training for the 100m free.

North Sea
Reply to  Chris Breedy
28 days ago

MSH swam a B cut time.

Summer in Paris
Reply to  North Sea
28 days ago

MSH had A cut in a different event, so she can swim 100 free in Paris if she wants.

Sub13
Reply to  swim observer
28 days ago

Penny is literally first on the list for B cut invites in the world (except Maggie, who would presumably decline). So as long as ANY B cuts get invited, Penny still gets invited over MSH. And I think it’s likely that they will have at least 1 round of B cuts, so Penny is very likely to qualify individually even without the A cut

Summer in Paris
Reply to  Sub13
28 days ago

MSH had A cut in a different event, so she can swim 100 free in Paris if she wants.

etsan
Reply to  Summer in Paris
28 days ago

Here comes the problem. If Penny gets B cut invite, and MSH also wants to swim it, who will eventually get the spot (since only 1 B per country is allowed)? Is it totally up to Swimming Canada, or is there a priority order set by World Aquatics?

Troyy
Reply to  etsan
28 days ago

Penny’s B cut is quicker.

Sub13
Reply to  Summer in Paris
28 days ago

That’s only if no one else from her country with a faster time is entered. If Penny is invited because of her B cut, she should take precedence over MSH.

Dan
Reply to  Sub13
28 days ago

B-cut spots, if any are available, are assigned based on FINA points in all events, not just the 100 free for Women.

Sub13
Reply to  Dan
28 days ago

Every single event gets one entry first though. If 10 people in the 100 back have a B cut with a higher FINA point than Oleksiak, Oleksiak still gets invited before 9 of them. She’s first on the list for the 100 free. So if they have at least 28 spots left over after universality, which they likely will, Oenny gets invited in the first round

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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