Coaches React to FINA Proposal to Add Olympic Events


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.


  1. Jeff Salomon

    I am inclined to agree that the 1500 women’s and 800 men’s are the most important to add.

  2. Laura Riddell

    David. Pretty much what I said. . .

    • David Stern

      What you say makes sense swimming-wise. They may be thinking of ways to up the ratings (although I believe swimming is typically #1) and thus ad revenue. Sad but true….the Olympics is big business

  3. Rhonda Horton Miller

    Yes because with the 50 – 100 – 200 – 400 – 800 & 1500 there certainly aren’t enough opportunities for those who swim freestyle { sarcasm }.

    Adding 50’s of stroke ( fly / back / breast ) would do more to level the field of opportunities for others IMO.

    • Peter Scott

      Yes far too many freestyle events already

    • Billy Nicholson

      The 50 form strokes are no different to the 50 freestyle so they should be considered at an olympic level

    • Kristyn Albrant-Textor

      Distance freestyle swimmers don’t swim the 50, 100, 200 or even the 400 free. So they only get one event. 800m for women and 1500m for men. Please add the distance events, long overdue.

    • avatar


  4. Peter Scott

    Reality the chances of any new events being approved by IOC is very small unless they ask for others to be removed from the program

    • Matthew Aungst

      I like all of it. There needs to be something different.

    • Chris Belair

      I agree with Bowman and Bush although the article got it wrong. Adding the men’s 800 and the women’s 1500 is fine. Not thrilled about the 50s unless you up the numbers on the team. Mixed relays are fun, but not relevant for the olympics.

    • Cameron Narimanian

      I know the distance events I get. Relays I think are just kinda irrelevant. But 50s would be fun to watch

    • Karin Bockrath

      I agree with you Chris. There are already a lot of events but they should add the 800 and 1500. The 50s are ridiculous and not real events for adults. The 50 free is that one exception and it’s enough.

  5. Our Fam


  6. Kimberly Hoodin

    The mixed relays would be fun to watch, but let’s get the distance races added first.

  7. Marco Foelske

    I would argue that Mixed Relays bring very much excitement to the audience, because often it can be last swimmer who decide who will win! Tactical game often plays with that!

  8. Collette Sappey

    50s stroke! Yes! That’s just fun to watch.

    • Holden Bank

      And even better to swim…;)

    • Russ Marsh

      Adding the 50’s wouldn’t add excitement?! He must not watching very closely.

  9. Holden Bank

    And better to swim… 😉

  10. Hamish Meachem

    Jamie Watson
    Watch this space…could be interesting when you go in to review our program of events…

  11. Brian Williamson

    Why not ,great for swimmers and spectators alike .and great television .we need this for our sport .Coach Brian

  12. Swim Giggles LLC

    It will be interesting to see how it shakes out. However, there is no reason why not to have both the 800 and the 1500 for men & women. The 50’s would be fun. If there is the 50 free, why not the 50 strokes?

  13. avatar

    Given that my summer league has the identical events for girls and boys in the early 1970s, I have never understood why the IOC has not had the same events for men and women at the Olympics. Like most here, I think that both men and women should compete in the 800 and 1500, which are, after all, much different races just like the 100 and 200 are much different races.

    But, if the IOC is not going to increase the number of swimmers on each team, then adding the 50s is going to create a number of problems. And, while the mixed relays are great fun at masters meets, adding them should be a really low priority for the Olympics.

  14. Hannah Davies

    Yes to mixed relays and 50s no to distance- they have these already.

  15. Kristyn Albrant-Textor

    Adding the women’s 1500 and men’s 800 meter free should be first priority, long overdue.

  16. avatar
    Paul Murphy

    I agree with Bob and his comments. Although,in my opinion,the relays could be added in the first day or the last day of the games.

  17. avatar

    It is well known that biologically the men are going to be faster and if there are mixed relays it will come down to who has more men and probably only one women so no relays yes distance and 50’s

  18. Eric R. Jaeger

    Katie will establish a record for the 1500 that will never be equalled.