Why Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky And Others Are Not On USA’s Short Course Worlds Roster

Michael Phelps

Photo by Delly Carr

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado, October 2. WHILE looking over Team USA’s roster for the short course world championships, many might be wondering why some of the America’s top swimmers, including Michael Phelps, are not on the list.

Unlike the long course world championships, the short course meters meet is not a high-priority meet for the United States. Therefore, it has not been viewed as a required competition for the national team. Phelps has only attended the short course world championships once, and that was in Indianapolis in 2004 after the Olympic Games. It is believed Phelps was pressured to compete there, and he only swam one individual event before withdrawing.

Selection for the short course worlds is open to the top-ranked American in each Olympic event from long course competition. Prelim swims are not factored in the decision, so Phelps’ 51.17 that leads the world rankings would not count. That would put him in a tie for the fastest man in the 100 fly with Tom Shields. Phelps is not the fastest American in any other event this year.

As is the case for every international roster, USA Swimming’s selection procedures for short course worlds states that athletes must accept the invitation from USA Swimming as part of the process of being picked for the team. It’s not always a “mandatory” selection, but certainly an invitation to the top international meet of the year (Olympics, long course worlds, Pan Pacs) carries an air of mandatory acceptance. The federation is more lenient in allowing its star athletes to decline invitations to short course worlds, as can be seen in the list. College athletes do not often attend this meet, as it falls in the middle of the NCAA season.

By our count, 11 athletes who rank as the fastest American in their events will not swim in Doha. Four of them (Simone Manuel, Missy Franklin, Kendyl Stewart and Nicolas Fink) are collegiate athletes. Katie Ledecky is the only high school swimmer at the top of the U.S. rankings while the remaining six who declined the invite – Jessica Hardy, Micah Lawrence, Maya DiRado, Anthony Ervin, Nathan Adrian and Connor Jaeger – are postgraduate swimmers.

But many of the second-fastest swimmers are attending in their spot, and others who have great international experience fill out the rest of the roster. It’s notable that Darian Townsend was selected for the team to compete as part of the 400 free relay. Though he had Tweeted earlier that he was picked to race in next year’s Pan American Games, the short course world championships will mark his first international meet as an American citizen. Townsend became an American citizen in July after representing South Africa at three Olympic Games, winning gold in the 400 free relay in 2004.

Ryan Lochte and Matt Grevers are the only returning reigning champions in individual events for Team USA. Lochte won the 200 free, 100 IM and 200 IM in addition to gold in all three relay. Grevers was the 100 back champion in 2012 and led off the USA 400 medley relay that took gold.

Katie Hoff returns to the international racing squad three years after her last appearance at the 2011 long course world championships. Food poisoning kept Hoff from the potential of qualifying for the 2012 Olympic team, and she has been making a comeback that has led to selection to the short course worlds team.


  1. avatar

    How did Katie Hoff get on the team? she didn’t even compete at Nationals. she is taking someone’s place who earned the spot! I thought that only happened in countries like Hungary where the federation is run by a dictator

    • avatar

      Yes, she did compete at nationals..