Busy schedule: The global swimming calendar has become a traffic jam
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Over the past two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has treated the world with myriad challenges, with the health of millions of individuals at the forefront of this ongoing crisis. On a much smaller scale, when measured against medical impact, the pandemic has thrown schedules into chaos, including the upcoming agenda for our sport.
Going into 2022, the plan was for the next edition of the World Championships to be held in Fukuoka, Japan. However, this competition, already delayed by a year when the Tokyo Olympics was pushed back 12 months, has been pushed back further by COVID-19 factors, with 2023 its most recent date. For many athletes, this latest postponement was not too much of a concern, as many regional events around the world were scheduled: Commonwealth Games, European Championships, Asian Games.
Yet for the United States, there was a sudden problem.
Without the world championships in Fukuoka, the American stars would not have an appointment for the summer. How would they measure their progress? Would they lose sponsorship opportunities? How would they sharpen their racing chops on the road to the 2024 Olympics in Paris? There were obvious concerns.
Then, as soon as Caeleb Dressel covered the 50m freestyle, there was a surprise response. In a statement in early February, FINA revealed that it would – indeed – be hosting world championships in 2022, with Budapest as the venue. Has the decision been made to welcome the United States, the indisputable superpower of the pool? These points can be connected.
“As an aquatic community, we are finding solutions around the pandemic, and the announcement (from Budapest) is an important step in that process,” FINA said. “We know we need to be imaginative in our approach to get through the current health crisis for our athletes. (This) agreement testifies to this work. FINA also recognizes that the pandemic evolves differently depending on time and place.
“We are extremely fortunate to have event hosts who share our passion for aquatic sports and who have the will, ability and flexibility to host FINA’s most prestigious event. We are deeply grateful to all of our hosts and know that aquatic athletes feel the same. With four FINA World Championships and the Paris 2024 Olympics over the next four years, we are maximizing racing opportunities and earning potential for established and emerging aquatic athletes. »
While there has undoubtedly been relief in American corners, FINA’s decision to hold “extraordinary” world championships in Budapest does not offer comfort to athletes in other places. On the contrary, the addition of this global event only complicates the schedule for this summer. Which event should I prioritize? Should I skip any of the competitions? If I participate in all competitions, how will this affect my long-term training? All of these questions make sense.
This summer’s slate will now include several major competitions, and it’s likely that swimmers – with ties to each – will choose where to race. These decisions will no doubt lead to less than full fields, with some swimmers running in top form in one place and in less than ideal form in another.
For athletes, tough decisions have to be made. Additionally, the International Swimming League’s decision to play its fourth season over a six-month period adds to the scheduling dilemma. Additionally, with World Championships scheduled for 2022-25 every year (and with Olympics as well), these competitions will have less prestige than in the past. The old biennial approach to the World Championships held more cache.
FINA’s decision to add world championships this summer may have been a plus for American swimmers, but the sport’s schedule is a traffic jam, akin to an age-group warm-up with insufficient lane space. . Where will the swimmers go? How will they perform? How will the medals be perceived? Time will tell us. If nothing else, prepare your agenda. You are going to need it.
All comments are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine or its staff.