Update to Olympic Relay Qualification: Times From 2023 and 2024 Worlds Will Count for Paris

Kaylee McKeown, Jenna Strauch, Emma McKeon, Meg Harris of Australia, silver, Kate Douglass, Torri Huske , Lilly King and Claire Curzan of United States of America , gold, Taylor Ruck, Margaret Macneil, Sydney Pickrem, Ingrid Wilm of Canada, bronze, show the medals after compete in the 4x100m medley Women relay during the FINA Swimming Short Course World Championships at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre in Melbourne, Australia, December 18th, 2022. Photo Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto
The medalists in the women's 400 medley relay at the Short Course World Championships -- Photo Courtesy: Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

Update to Olympic Relay Qualification: Times From 2023 and 2024 Worlds Will Count for Paris

World Aquatics has updated the qualification procedures for swimming at the 2024 Olympic Games, and a widely-criticized element of relay qualification has been changed. Swimming’s governing body, known as FINA until last week, had previously held that only three teams would qualify for the Olympics in each relay based on the results of the 2023 World Championships while further selections would be made based on the results the February 2024 edition of the meet, but that is no longer the case.

Now, World Aquatics will still select the top three teams from Worlds as automatic qualifiers for Paris while the remaining 13 squads in each event “will qualify on the basis of the fastest times from the preliminaries and finals performances of both the World Aquatics Championships Fukuoka 2022 and the World Aquatics Championships Doha 2024.”

Thanks to the shuffle of the international swimming calendar due to COVID-19, long course editions of the World Championships are scheduled to be held in the July 2023 (Fukuoka) and again in February 2024 (Doha), and an “extraordinary” Worlds was inserted to the calendar in June 2022. The decision to keep the early 2024 meet on the calendar despite the Paris Olympics beginning less than six months later has been blasted by key figures in the swimming community, including British swimmers Adam Peaty and James Guy, British coach Mel Marshall and USA Swimming National Team Managing Director Lindsay Mintenko.

Basing relay qualification off the early 2024 meet has been called unfair since it would provide advantages to countries such as the United States and Australia, which typically win medals in most or all of the relays at major competitions. The thinking went that countries needing to qualify for a relay would have to prioritize a competition at a time typically dedicated to heavy training while nations who had already qualified could skip the meet without penalty.

However, the change to taking the 13 best times (excluding the medal-winners) from the 2023 and 2024 meets combined should alleviate some of that pressure to perform in early 2024. Given recent trends, countries that qualify a relay team for the finals at the 2023 Worlds in Fukuoka should be in good shape to earn a spot for Paris without issue.

Read the clarification of Paris 2024 qualifying procedures here.