Top 10 Swim Meets to Watch in 2022: World Championships Highlight Busy Calendar

MACNEIL Margaret CAN Women's 100m Butterfly Abu Dhabi - United Arab Emirates 21/12/21 Etihad Arena FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) Photo Andrea Masini / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto
Canada's Maggie MacNeil will headline many of 2022's top competitions -- Photo Courtesy: Andrea Masini / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

Top 10 Swim Meets to Watch in 2022: World Championships Highlight Busy Calendar

One year after international swimming competition returned with an exciting Tokyo Olympics, the year 2022 will be an especially busy one on swimming’s calendar. That’s because the calendar was shifted to accomodate the rescheduled Olympics, with the FINA World Championships pushed back one year. But this year’s Worlds will be held in May, while the rest of the summer will feature regional competitions that typically highlight the even years between Olympics.

This shortened “quadrennium” that leads up to the 2024 Paris Olympics kicks off with a lot of chances for veterans and newcomers alike to show their abilities on big stages. Here are the 10 competitions to keep an eye out for this year.

1. Women’s NCAA Championships, March 16-19 — Atlanta

This year’s college championship season should be an exciting one as the defending-champion Virginia Cavaliers face off against the team that won the three prior national championship meets, Stanford. Virginia’s roster will include three swimmers who won individual medals at the Tokyo Olympics, Alex WalshKate Douglass and Emma Weyant, while Stanford adds three Tokyo medalists from last year’s group (Regan SmithTorri Huske and Taylor Ruck) to its squad led by fifth-year senior Brooke Forde. Expect an intense dual between those two squads. Michigan senior’s Maggie MacNeil, the Olympic and world champion in the 100-meter butterfly and the fastest swimmer ever in the 100-yard butterfly, will look to conclude her college career in fine style while U.S. Olympians such as Rhyan WhitePhoebe Bacon and Erica Sullivan should all be in contention for individual titles. Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas figures to enter NCAAs among the favorites in the mid-distance and distance freestyle events.


2. Men’s NCAA Championships, March 23-26 — Atlanta

carson-foster-texas-horns

Carson Foster will lead the Texas Longhorns at the men’s NCAA Championships — Photo Courtesy: University of Texas Athletics

One week after the women’s meet, the men’s NCAA Championships should be a Texas Longhorns show. Olympian Drew Kibler and Short Course World Championships medalist Carson Foster lead a group stacked with talent in virtually every event except the butterflys (including Caspar CorbeauDanny Krueger, Carson’s older brother Jake Foster and emerging swimmers like Cameron Auchinachie). But the California Golden Bears never go down without a fight, and they will look to continue their streak of top-two finishes which goes back to 2010. Florida will have a pair of stars in U.S. Olympic medalists Kieran Smith and Bobby Finke, and those two figure to give the American record books a real shake.


3. Australian Swimming Championships, April 4-9 — Adelaide, South Australia

The World Championships qualification meets will kick off in full force in April, and Australia’s meet is always a big one, particularly following Australia’s resurgent performance at the Tokyo Olympics. Expect to see all three of Australia’s double individual gold medalists from Tokyo, sprinter Emma McKeon, mid-distance star Ariarne Titmus and backstroker Kaylee McKeown, in action, and we will get a chance at this meet to see how Australia’s team is looking for the first post-Tokyo global championships. A lot can change over the course of a three-year stretch between Tokyo and Paris, and this will be the first chance to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the Aussie team.


4. USA Swimming International Team Trials, April 26-30 — Greensboro, N.C.

The past four quads have seen the first major U.S. squads selected at Nationals in Indianapolis, but this year sees a change as a major selection meet heads to Greensboro for the first time. The U.S. stars of the Tokyo Olympics figure to be back in action, from five-time gold medalist Caeleb Dressel to the legendary Katie Ledecky and many more. No top Americans have declared their intention to retire or to skip the 2022 championship season, so we should expect most familiar faces to be in town. We will also see plenty of college-aged swimmers trying to break onto the No. 1 U.S. squad for the first time as the new Olympic cycle begins. USA Swimming’s non-Olympic selection meets follow a five-day, prelims-finals only format, unlike the eight-day Olympic Trials which include semifinals, so this one will go by quicker with the World Championships set to follow less than a month later.


5. FINA World Championships, May 22-29 — Fukuoka, Japan

TITMUS

Ariarne Titmus will aim for more gold medals at the 2022 World Championships — Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr/Swimming Australia

Make no mistake, this is the big one for 2022. The best swimmers in the world will gather for an eight-day showcase, the stakes slightly lowered from the Olympics but still with valuable World Championships hardware on the line. Legacies are made at the Olympics, but in the grand scheme of swimming, World Championship honors matter, too. So this will be the first chance to see how all of the world’s top swimmers stack up in this new quad leading up to Paris. Some veterans may be a little off in the post-Olympic year as they begin a slow build-up toward the next Games, while plenty of young swimmers will be eager to fill their spots and take away medals. Expect to see individual Olympic champion from Tokyo competing in Fukuoka. And if you need a reminder of the importance of the post-Olympic World Championships, remember this: the 2017 World Championships saw Caeleb Dressel emerge as a star for the first time as he won seven gold medals, while future Australian stars Ariarne Titmus and Kaylee McKeown both earned fourth-place finishes in individual events in the first major international meet of their careers.


6. Commonwealth Games, July 29-August 3 (swimming) — Birmingham, England

The World Championships will not be the lswimast major meet of the year for most of the world’s elite swimmers, and the stretch of the late-summer championships kicks off with the Commonwealth Games in England. This meet features swimmers from the Commonwealth nations of England, Scotland, Wales, Australia, Canada, South Africa and more. Three swimmers per country can race in each event, leaving open the possibility for one country (typically Australia) to sweep all three podium spots. Note that Great Britain competes as three different nations here, so Duncan Scott will represent Scotland while Adam PeatyTom Dean and most other big-name British swimmers swim for England.


7. European Championships, August 11-17 (swimming) — Rome

The best swimmers in Europe will race at the Foro Italico, the iconic outdoor venue that hosted the 1994 and 2009 World Championships. Europe’s top men’s swimmers were dominant at the Olympics, with Russian and Italian swimmers taking a notable step forward, while Europe’s women will be looking for a significant bounce-back this year after they won just four medals (none of them gold) in Tokyo. This is typically the most prestigious meet of the summer for European swimmers in the middle year of the quad, but because of the World Championships happening just a few months before, we’ll see if any of the top swimmers on the continent choose to skip this meet or perhaps swim off-events. The participation of top British swimmers is especially questionable since they will have already raced at both the World Championships and the Commonwealth Games before the European meet.


8. Asian Games, September 11-16 (swimming) — Hangzhou, China

HAUGHEY Siobhan Bernadette HKG Gold Medal and New World Record Women’s 200m Freestyle Abu Dhabi - United Arab Emirates 16/12/21 Etihad Arena FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) Photo Andrea Masini / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

Siobhan Haughey could star at the 2022 Asian Games — Photo Courtesy: Andrea Masini / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

This is typically a significant championship affair for the top swimmers in Asia, so we should expect top swimmers from China and Japan to highlight the Asian Games along with stars such as Siobhan Haughey of Hong Kong and Hwang Sunwoo of South Korea. China’s swimmers, in particular, tend to excel while racing in home waters, so this could be a huge meet for that squad. Tokyo gold medalists Zhang Yufei and Wang Shun of China and Yui Ohashi of Japan should be expected to compete, along with star Japanese IMer Daiya Seto. We should also expect to see Rikako Ikee back in top form by this point following her battle with leukemia. She could win an individual medal at the World Championships, but she may star at the Asian Games after she captured six gold medals at the 2018 edition of the meet.


9. FINA Short Course World Championships, December 17-22 — Kazan, Russia

For the first time ever, FINA will hold its signature World Championships featuring all aquatic sports and the Short Course World Championships in the same year. Short Course Worlds will also be held in back-to-back years for the first time since 1999 and 2000. As we saw with the recent edition of Short Course Worlds in Abu Dhabi, the top swimmers in the world do not always show up for this meet, but we should see a greater turnout than we did in 2021 in the immediate aftermath of the Olympics. Siobhan HaugheyMaggie MacNeil and Florian Wellbrock all set individual world records at the 2021 edition of the event.


10. International Swimming League, TBD

The ISL has announced plans to return for a fourth season in 2022, but it is unclear when and where that will take place. We might not know details for a while as the league only announced the location and date for the 2021 final about one month in advance. Energy Standard captured the 2021 league title in a close final against the Cali Condors, and Cali will certainly be out for revenge in 2022, while the league will be looking for some parity after the same four squads (Energy, Cali, London Roar and LA Current) have qualified for the final in each of the league’s first three seasons. The ISL is still looking for some stability, but it has been an exciting edition to swimming’s calendar over the past three years for both athletes and fans.