Different Swimming Schedules at Worlds and Olympics: The Good and the Bad

Analysis by Jeff Commings

PHOENIX, Arizona, January 9. THE organizers of the 2013 FINA long course world championships released the official swimming racing schedule yesterday to coincide with the opening of sales for spectator tickets. While the worlds racing schedule remains unchanged from the 2011 edition, it presents new challenges to multi-event swimmers who tackled tough programs at the London Olympics.

Though worlds and the Olympics are both eight-day meets, the schedules for both meets vary somewhat, since FINA needed to shift events around to accommodate five non-Olympic events: the 50 fly, back and breast, as well as the women's 1500 free and the men's 800 free.

With Michael Phelps now retired, three top-notch swimmers will likely head into the Barcelona world championships with the potential to race more than once in a finals session, as they did in London. Ryan Lochte, Missy Franklin and Alicia Coutts left London with multiple gold medals after tackling some tough doubles, and each will experience the same issues this summer, though with varying degrees of difficulty.

Lochte always does well at the world championships because his intense schedule of events doesn't present as many conflicts there as it does at the Olympics. We all remember the tough 200 back/200 IM double he tackled in 2008 and 2012, and Lochte has never faced that at worlds. Looking at the schedule, Lochte's only major concern in Barcelona will be the sixth day, when he could race in the 200 back final followed by the 800 free relay, a double that reaped double gold for him in 2011. If Lochte qualifies for the team in the 100 back, the third day could be tough as well, as he'll swim the 200 free final, with the 100 back final at least 30 minutes later.

Franklin only swam two individual events at her world championships debut in 2011: the 50 and 200 backstrokes. The 50 back came 10 to 15 minutes before the 800 free relay, when she posted the fastest 200 free of the meet. Franklin could encounter the same double again in Barcelona if she swims the 50 back in Barcelona, but judging by her performance in Shanghai, it won't be a difficult double.

Franklin will have much more breathing room in handling the 100 back final/200 free semifinal than she did in London. The 100 back final is the second swim in the finals session on the third day, and there are three events between that and the 200 free semifinal, including the women's 1500 freestyle.

As for Coutts, she encountered the least amount of difficulty of the three at the Olympics, with a 100 fly semifinal and the 400 free relay final on the first day. At the world championships, she'll be the busiest person in the pool, at least on the first two days. The 100 fly and 200 IM semifinals fall on the first day — as does the final of the women's 400 free relay. The Aussies were unable to snag a medal in the relay, but Coutts recouped her losses the following day with silver medals in the 100 fly and 200 IM.

Why do the schedules for the world championships and Olympics need to differ so greatly? Instead of rearranging existing events to fit the five non-Olympic races, FINA should keep the same schedule for both meets, and do the best they can to fit the five additional events into the worlds schedule where they can. It should not be a difficult change to make, and it might be a change for the better. Some will say the simplest solution is to remove the non-freestyle 50s, and get rid of the extra distance events. But if we do that, what distinguishes the Olympics from the world championships?

If I were a multi-event swimmer like Lochte, Franklin or Coutts, I wouldn't mind doing a different racing schedule the year after the Olympics. I'm sure Lochte is grinning from ear to ear knowing he doesn't have to think about that 200 back/200 IM double for three more years. But when the world gathers again in 2015, many swimmers will likely be testing out some events they want to race in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, and whatever results they gain from worlds in Kazan will not be easy to use in Olympic preparation.

What if you're a male swimmer wishing to test the viability of doing the 100 fly/50 free double in the 2016 Olympics? What meet do you have before Rio to use as a trial run? The 2015 world championships would be a great opportunity for this male swimmer to attempt the double at a high-intensity meet, where the competition, intensity and stakes are much higher than they would be at a national meet that might choose to run the Olympic schedule.

Below is the evening swimming schedule for the 2013 world championships. The finals of eight events at worlds are on different days than they are at the Olympics, and those are noted below:

Day 1: Sunday, July 28
-women's 100 fly semifinals
-men's 400 free final
-women's 200 IM semifinals
-men's 50 fly semifinals
-women's 400 free final (Swum on day two at Olympics)
-men's 100 breast semifinals
-women's 400 Free Relay final
-men's 400 Free Relay final (Swum on day two at Olympics)

Day 2: Monday, July 29
-men's 100 breast final
-women's 100 fly final
-men's 100 back semifinals
-women's 100 breast semifinals
-men's 50 fly final
-women's 100 back semifinals
-men's 200 free semifinals
-women's 200 IM final (Swum on day four at Olympics)

Day 3: Tuesday, July 3
-men's 200 free final
-women's 100 back final
-men's 50 breast semifinals
-women's 1500 free final
-men's 100 back final
-women's 200 free semifinals
-men's 200 fly semifinals
-women's 100 breast final

Day 4: Wednesday, July 31
-men's 100 free semifinals
-women's 50 back semifinals
-men's 200 fly final
-women's 200 free final
-men's 50 breast final
-women's 200 fly semifinals
-men's 200 IM semifinals
-men's 800 free final

Day 5: Thursday, August 1
-women's 100 free semifinals
-men's 200 IM final (Swum on day six at Olympics)
-women's 200 breast semifinals
-men's 100 free final
-women's 200 fly final
-men's 200 breast semifinals
-women's 50 back final
-men's 200 back semifinals
-women's 800 Free Relay final

Day 6: Friday, August 2
-women's 100 free final
-men's 200 back final
-women's 200 back semifinals
-men's 50 free semifinals
-women's 200 breast final
-men's 100 fly semifinals
-women's 50 fly semifinals
-men's 200 breast final (Swum on day five at Olympics)
-men's 800 Free Relay final (Swum on day four at Olympics)

Day 7: Saturday, August 3
-women's 50 fly final
-men's 50 free final
-women's 200 back final
-women's 50 breast semifinals
-men's 100 fly final
-women's 50 free semifinals
-men's 50 back semifinals
-women's 800 free final

Day 8: Saturday, August 3
-men's 50 back final
-women's 50 breast final
-men's 400 IM final (Swum on day one at Olympics)
-women's 50 free final
-men's 1500 free final
-women's 400 IM final (Swum on day one at Olympics)
-men's 400 Medley Relay final
-women's 400 Medley Relay final

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