Simone Manuel poses for a portrait during the Team USA Tokyo 2020 Olympics shoot on Nov. 21, 2019 in West Hollywood, Calif.
Inside the Numbers presented by DeVry is a series that gives fans a peek at the numbers behind what it takes to qualify for Team USA and other incredible facts about Team USA sports.
Next month, hundreds of U.S. swimmers will dive into the pool at Omaha’s CHI Health Center Arena (formerly CenturyLink Center) for the U.S. Olympic Trials—Swimming. From teens who have set age group records to Olympic gold medalists, they are aiming for a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team competing in Tokyo.
The competition will be fierce as everyone brings their A Game to trials. Swimmers often say that it’s as difficult to make the U.S. Olympic team as it is to win a medal at the Games—perhaps even harder.
In every race except the 100-meter and 200-meter freestyles, the top two finishers will earn a trip to the Tokyo Games. In those two freestyle races, the top six can qualify (to fill out the 4x100 and 4x200 freestyle relays in Tokyo).
With trials just around the corner and the Games themselves not far behind this summer, here’s a closer look at swimming by the numbers presented by DeVry University.
The U.S. Olympic Trials—Swimming are typically one big event held over eight days. Hundreds of swimmers who have met qualifying time standards in each stroke and distance enter their respective races and hope to advance to the finals.
But this year is different. Due to the coronavirus pandemic and continued concerns about overcrowding indoor spaces, USA Swimming decided to host 2021 Olympic Trials in two meets—or two waves. Athletes who have met the Wave II time standards (set at the 41st seed time* per event as of January 28, 2021) are invited to compete in Wave II Trials, held from June 13-20. Swimmers who qualified using the original time standards but are below the 41st seed will compete in Wave I (June 4-7). Then the top two swimmers from Wave 1 races are invited to compete in Wave II, which remains the final qualifier for the U.S. Olympic Swimming Team.
Three new events debut at the Olympic Games Tokyo: men’s 800-meter freestyle, women’s 1,500-meter freestyle, and the 4 x 100 mixed medley relay. The U.S. won a silver medal in the mixed medley relay at the 2019 world championships—with Ryan Murphy leading off the backstroke leg, Lilly King as the only woman swimming breaststroke, Caeleb Dressel taking over in butterfly, and Simone Manual bringing home the team in the freestyle (the order of genders is up to each country).
In the 1,500, five-time Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky is a heavy favorite to qualify, then win gold in Tokyo.
As for the men’s 800, open water swimmer Jordan Wilimovsky is hoping to compete in the pool as well in Tokyo. At the Rio Games, Wilimovsky finished fourth in the 1,500 freestyle and fifth in the 10-kilometer open water swim.
Omaha has hosted U.S. Olympic Trials for swimming four times (2008, 2012, 2016, and 2021) at its huge downtown arena and convention center. Not an aquatics facility, a temporary 50-meter-long pool has been installed for each Olympic Trials (see “2,500,000” below for more details on the temporary pool).
Until the IOC added three new events to the 2020 Olympic Games program, swimming had not had a new pool event in 24 years. The women’s 4x200 freestyle relay made its Olympic debut at the 1996 Atlanta Games. Jenny Thompson anchored the U.S. to gold in that race.