Over the weekend, Swimming World reported that FINA has proposed adding ten events—the women’s 800 free and men’s 1500 free, stroke 50s and mixed 400 free and medley relays—to the Olympic program in 2020. That would match the current schedule of the FINA World Championships.
In the coaching community, the reaction to this proposal has been mixed. Some, including Arizona State head coach and 2016 U.S. men’s head coach Bob Bowman, worry that if the IOC chose to add events, the cap on athletes would not be increased, limiting the entry limits in current Olympic events.
“While I think it is highly unlikely that the IOC will expand the event program, I would prioritize adding the men’s 800 and women’s 1500, then the 50s of strokes, and finally the mixed relays.
“I have concerns about adding relay events and also adding individual events while keeping the roster sizes the same. The IOC has been insistent on keeping participant numbers at the same level. It doesn’t make sense to add relay events in this dynamic.” – Bob Bowman, 2016 USA Olympic Head Men’s Swim Coach
USA Swimming National Team director Frank Busch had a similar stance to Bowman, arguing in favor of the distance events but expressing reservations otherwise.
“I would support the addition of the 800 for men and 1500 for women. We have added the mixed relays for the past couple of years at the FINA World Championships and I have not seen any data that suggests one way or another as to its impact.
“I am sure that the 50’s would add a level of excitement to the swimming competition, but swimming is already the most successful sport at the Summer Olympics and not sure why you need to go from an A-plus to A-plus-1.
“The IOC has stated that the games be limited to a certain number of athletes, so unless they decide to go over that limit, something or someone is at risk to be cut in order to compensate for any additions.” – Frank Busch, USA Swimming National Team Director
FINA made the recommendation to the IOC without consulting the FINA Coaching Commission, according to Busch and another member coach, reinforcing the claim made by American Swim Coaches Association Executive Director John Leonard last week that the FINA Coaches Commission is “broken.”
Still, Leonard called FINA’s suggestions “reasonable.”
“The proposed addition of the form stroke 50’s and two more distance events strikes me as quite reasonable considering that they are World Championship Events. In my opinion, a bit more time should go by and more time testing is required to decide if the mixed Relays are appropriate additions to the Olympic Program or should fall into the category of novelty events.
“Adding the two additional distance events seems to me to be the most pressing need, to add balance to the program and move past the point where distance women are disadvantaged as they have been for 100 years. If only 2 events are added, it seems to me that the 800 (men) and 15000 (women) should be those events.” – John Leonard, Executive Director For American Swim Coaches Association
Swimming World also reached out to U.S. women’s head coach David Marsh, but he offered no comments on the proposed changes.