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Big changes announced for U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials in Omaha
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Big changes announced for U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials in Omaha

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USA Swimming and the Omaha Sports Commission announced Tuesday morning that the trials will be divided into two competitions. Wave I will be June 4-7 with Wave II set for the previously-announced trials dates of June 13-20.

The Omaha Fire Department used a aerial ladder truck to start the process of filling the first of the two Olympic pools being built in the CenturyLink Center Omaha for the Olympic Swim Trials. The two pools will combine to hold 1.7 million gallons of water.

Waves of change are being implemented for the United States Olympic Swimming Trials that are designed to allay concerns of overcrowding in the athlete areas, warm-up pool and athlete seating area related to the current global pandemic.

USA Swimming and the Omaha Sports Commission announced Tuesday morning that the trials will be divided into two competitions. Wave I will be June 4-7 with Wave II set for the previously-announced trials dates of June 13-20.

Both events will be contested at Omaha’s CHI Health Center. Dates in the Wave I timeframe were going to be used for a test meet primarily involving local swimmers.

Now that test meet will be used for competition that will send two swimmers from Wave I to Wave II to compete for berths on the United States team at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. The top two finishers in the Wave II championship races will form the team that will represent the U.S. at the Olympic Games.

The current trials time standard in each event is being adjusted by USA Swimming to the current 41st seeded time. Athletes who have met or bettered that time will automatically advance to Wave II of the Trials.

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These newly adjusted Wave II time standards also factor in a possible modest growth to 50-60 athletes per event in the four months leading into the Olympic Trials. These standards are expected to generate a final field of approximately 750 total athletes.

USA Swimming set the standard at the No. 41 seed through a thorough evaluation and review of performance from the past five Olympic Trials (2000-2016), the last three of which were held in Omaha.

This review revealed that the lowest (slowest) seeded swimmer to make the Olympic Team was the 38th seeded swimmer (in 2000), and the lowest (slowest) seeded swimmer to make an Olympic Trials final was the 41st seeded swimmer (in 2008).

As of January 20, there were 1,305 swimmers who had qualified in at least one event since the qualifying window opened on Nov. 28, 2018.

“We undertook a thorough and methodical evaluation of the trials over the last several months and factored in several critical considerations in our decision,” USA Swimming Chief Operating Officer Mike Unger said. “Our number one priority was to find a way to host trials in the safest possible environment while also giving the athletes the best opportunity to succeed.

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“While selecting the Olympic team for Tokyo is a critical goal for the trials, it is important to note that the experience gained at trials by some of the lower seeded athletes has historically provided a great experience for future Olympic trials (and games), which fueled our desire to host two events.”

Omaha officials are excited about the opportunity to host a second major competition for athletes working to continue their pursuit of an Olympic team berth.

“The Omaha Sports Commission is excited with the new, dual event plan for trials, which provides us with the opportunity to stage not one, but two marquee events in the city of Omaha,” said Josh Todd, president and executive director of the Omaha Sports Commission.

“We are working closely with the CHI Health Center team and are committed to delivering a safe and memorable experience for every athlete coming to Omaha to chase their dreams and to compete for a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team."

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The new Wave II standard will take effect on January 28, 2021, and run through the close of qualifying for the Olympic Trials on May 31, 2021. Athletes who have already achieved the revised time standard do not have to requalify.

Athletes who qualify using the original time standards, but do not meet the Wave II time standards prior to May 31, 2021, will be invited to compete in Wave I of the trials, where they still swim for a chance to advance to Wave II by finishing first or second in the finals of their individual event.

The event Organizing Committee (OC) is working with USA Swimming National Team physicians, along with the Douglas County Health Department, CHI Health (which is providing medical services for the trials), the venue in Omaha and the USOPC in the development of the trials health and safety plans. The OC will also ensure that anti-COVID measures are enforced and widely available throughout the venue.

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