It was announced roughly 6-months ago that the United States swim team would not be sending a youth delegation to this year’s Youth Olympic Games that areto be held in Singapore. The United States coaching staff did not feel as though the level of competition would be elite enough to challenge the American youth swimmers and divers. The Games will feature athletes aged 14-18, which for the United States includes swimmers who could qualify for most nations’ Olympic teams.
This was a bit of a surprise to many, including myself, because surely there was a group of very good youth swimmers (check the depth of quality in American high school swimming) in the United States who was willing to travel to compete in the meet, even if they weren’t the most elite in the country.
The big sticking point for USA-Swimming was the timing immediately before the Pan-American games, and the expectation that the American swimmers would be required to stay for the duration of the games. The games are to be held in August, which is directly before the 2010 Pan-Am games, which is this summer’s top meet for the Americans, and staying for the entire YOG would prevent them from reaching the Pan-Am games on time. The swimming portion of the YOG runs from August 15-20, overlapping with the Pan-Am games which run August 18-22.
FINA and the Youuth Olympic Games organizing committee have been trying to lure the United States to the meet, knowing that the American youth swimmers of today are the Olympic medalists of tomorrow, and that they would help give legitimacy to this, the first YOG. Among the moves they made were naming Michael Phelps the official YOG ambassador.
It seems as though these efforts have paid off, with an agreement being reached to allow the American swimmers to leave the competition early, according to a release on the official Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games website.
With the games rapidly approaching, FINA director Cornel Marculescu is making a final push to lure the world’s top youth athletes to Asia. In an interview with Channel News Asia, Marculescu said that in addition to elite swimmers, there will be world-class divers there as well. He gave 15-year old Brit Tom Daley as an example. Daley is the reigning World Champion in 10-meter platform diving.
The most intriguing hard of Marculescu’s bid to attract the Americans is the mixed-gender relay. The mixed-gender event, which is to be a theme of the Youth Olympic Games, will feature 2 male and 2 female swimmers.
“Probably the mixed relay can be something which may be of interest at the end of the day,” Marculescu said. “It is a very good opportunity to test new ideas which after that may become an event in a world championship or in the Olympic programme.”
The mixed-gender events are reported to be scheduled for several other sports, including cycling and track & field. Other unique formats for the games will include 3-on-3, half-court street basketball, in lieu of the standard version.
The games are shaping up to be quite exciting and could be a very entertaining event. What do you think about the possibility of mixed-gender relays becoming a standard event?