World Aquatics Updates Paris 2024 Universality Rules; Strikes World Championship Requirement

World Aquatics has modified its universality requirements for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, removing the requirement for athletes to have competed at either the 2023 or 2024 World Aquatics Championships in order to be eligible for Universality for the Olympics. The Universality program allows countries without swimmers who have hit Olympic “A” or “B” standards to send up to 1 male and 1 female swimmer to the Olympic Games.

In a memo sent out to federations earlier this week says that “the removal of such requirement now ensures, subject to exceptional circumstances assessed by the World Aquatics Executive, that the fastest athletes from each national federation represent their country in the Olympic Games.”

The decision to repeal comes after the conclusion of the 2023 and 2024 World Aquatics Championships, meaning that the benefit of this requirement for participation numbers has already been received by the global federation.

This is the latest piece of a general overhaul to the most robust universality system in the Olympics.

Other changes include the “obligation” to send the athletes with the highest FINA Points Table score is designed to mitigate frequent calls of domestic corruption where certain athletes favored by (or related to) national federation officials were perceived as receiving preferential treatment in universality selection.

The other big change ahead of the Paris Games, as announced in July 2022, is limiting who is eligible for universality. Namely, universality athletes can only compete in up to two Olympic Games in their career and must not be older than the age of 30 as of December 31st, 2024.

This rules out swimmers like Malaysia’s Phee Jing En, as memorialized in this article from The Star.

This refocuses the initiative on domestic development of young swimmers who might still break through and achieve Olympic qualifying times. Some nations with less-developed swimming programs would send certain athletes to the Games many times, even past the point of expecting any significant drops, rather than focusing on developing a new generation.

Universality athletes continue to occupy a higher spot in the Olympic priority than swimmers with “B” standards under the 852 athlete quota for the Games. That is a 26-spot reduction from Tokyo.

Universality applications are due by June 24th, 2024.

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1 month ago

Just some feedback, Braden. Not everyone knows what a universality athlete is. I’ve been in the sport for 40 years and can only guess at what it means.

Reply to  Robbert
1 month ago

At Worlds and Olympics about 1/2 athletes in 50 and 100 free are universality athletes. At Olympics each country that doesn’t have A/B qualifiers can send 1 female and 1 male athlete to swim 1 event each. The most common events are the 50 and 100 free. Some of these athletes are fairly close to B times and some are a long way off. At Worlds these countries can send 2 male and 2 female.

1 month ago

Some countries have a bunch of people on a similar level and competing for that one coveted spot. Making this decision NOW is a bit sucky for those individuals who could’ve had a shot at being their country’s universality reps but didn’t go to worlds… reason being they have already stopped training for that goal and so wouldn’t be in a position now to suddenly peak, or even organise to get into meets.

Old Bruin
1 month ago

What is this word salad??? I’ll take a dumbed-down synopsis of this article in the comments please and TIA

Last edited 1 month ago by Old Bruin
Reply to  Old Bruin
1 month ago

WA waited until now to say “meh, Doha didn’t really matter”

Reply to  Old Bruin
1 month ago

I could be entirely wrong as I kind of skimmed this as it didn’t really catch my attention.

Universality athletes are those that have the opportunity to compete to ensure representation from countries even if they do not hit the qualifying standard. Think of the people in heat 1 or 2 if you watch prelims, that swimmer who doesn’t even come close the the minute barrier in the 100 Free.

There used to be a requirement for participation in the World Champs leading up to it to show that this is a person indeed trying to improve and not just taking a free ride to the Olympics. However, they are changing some of the requirements to help keep this spot… Read more »

Old Bruin
Reply to  SwimCoach
1 month ago

Thank you!

Reply to  SwimCoach
1 month ago

Eric the Eel in Sydney 2000!

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of 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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