Roster Crunch: Will Anyone Miss the Cut for the Olympic Team?

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Roster Crunch: Will Anyone Miss the Cut for the Olympic Team?

Just two days of finals (and six total individual finals) remain at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha, and there’s still a lot of uncertainty about who will make it onto the Olympic team for Tokyo. Only 26 women and 26 men can actually be named to the U.S. roster, while the top two in each event plus the top six in the 100 and 200 free adds up to 36 slots. That means 10 doubles are required for everyone to make it on.

It took until the fifth and sixth days of the week for doubles to start piling up, but even now, the women’s Olympic team is in much better shape than the men’s. Let’s take a look at the specifics.

Women’s Olympic Team

  • So far, there are six official doubles. Katie Ledecky has qualified in three events (400 free, 200 free, 1500 free), so she has two of those doubles. Paige Madden (400 free and 800 free relay), Hali Flickinger (400 IM and 200 fly), Regan Smith (100 back and 200 fly) and Lilly King (100 breast and 200 breast) account for the other four.
  • Allison Schmitt is qualified in the 200 free, and she was also sixth in the 100 free, so that spot would not need to be filled.
  • The only swimmers who are not secure in their spots on the team are the fifth and sixth-place finishers in the 200 free, Bella Sims and Brooke Forde, respectively, and 100 free fifth-place finisher Catie DeLoof. However, only three more doubles are required for all those swimmers to clinch.
  • Expect to see at least two of those three doubles accounted for in Saturday’s finals: Ledecky is the enormous favorite in the 800 free, as is Smith in the 200 back. That will get Sims and DeLoof officially on the team.
  • It seems logical that there will be at least one more double: Rhyan White could get second in the 200 back, Sims or Erica Sullivan could be second in the 800 free, or someone already on the team (Abbey WeitzeilClaire Curzan or Torri Huske) could qualify in the 50 free. Only one of those scenarios would have to occur for every potential qualifier to make the cut.

Men’s Team

  • The men only had two doubles prior to Friday night: Kieran Smith in the 400 free and 200 free and Andrew Wilson in the 100 breast and 200 breast. But then, Ryan Murphy added the 200 back to his earlier win in the 100 back and the already-qualified duo of Michael Andrew and Chase Kalisz went 1-2 in the 200 IM. So that makes five doubles.
  • One more double will officially get all second-place finishers onto the team. Expect that one when 100 free winner Caeleb Dressel swims the 100 fly final Saturday, where he is a virtual lock to win and where he could clip his own world record.
  • Zach Apple is officially qualified for the team in the 100 free (where he was second), but he was also fifth in the 200 free. Since he is already on the team, that only leaves three relay qualifiers in position to be added: Bowe Becker (fifth in 100 free), Ryan Held (sixth in 100 free) and Patrick Callan (sixth in 200 free).
  • All three relay qualifiers will still be in limbo heading into Sunday’s finals, which includes the 50 free and 1500 free. However, Dressel is the heavy favorite in Sunday’s 50 free, and so is Bobby Finke in the the 1500 free. That would get two of the relay alternates on, Becker and one of the sixth-place finishers.
  • Another double could come if Andrew or Held took second in the 50 free or if 800 free runnerup Michael Brinegar qualifies in the 1500. However, if not, one of the sixth-place finishers would likely be left out.
  • If the team had room for only one of the sixth-place alternates, the nod would go to Callan over Held because Callan’s finals swim in the 200 free (1:46.49) ranks higher in USA Swimming’s modified world rankings (that only include two swimmers per country) than Held’s finals swim in the 100 free (48.46).

One More Twist

Beyond the 26 women and 26 men, only 12 swimmers are allowed to be taken to the Olympics as relay-only swimmers (including those automatically selected as top-four finishers). But right now, assuming the number of doubles allowed all fifth and sixth-place swimmers to make the team, the Americans have 13: Drew KiblerAndrew Seliskar, Callan, Katie McLaughlin, Sims, Forde, Blake PieroniBrooks Curry, Becker, Held, Olivia SmoligaNatalie Hinds and DeLoof.

If any of those swimmers qualified for an individual event (as mentioned above, both Sims and Held still have chances to do so), they would no longer count toward the 12 relay-only swimmers. But if not, one swimmer would not be able to go to Tokyo. If needed, the swimmer dropped would be the one whose finals swim ranked the lowest in the two-per-country modified world rankings. In that case, it would be Held’s 48.46 100 free that would be left out.

Held can help his own case by finishing second in the 50 free, but if not, he will need help to earn his spot in Tokyo.

Details on the official selection procedures are available from USA Swimming.

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