Swimming’s radical plan to fix Olympic nightmare
A radical proposal to hold the next FINA world championships immediately after next year's rescheduled Tokyo Olympics threatens to derail the plans of some of Australia's top aquatic stars.
While an official announcement is not expected until next month, The Daily Telegraph understands the world governing body for traditional swimming, open water swimming, water polo, diving and synchronised swimming, is hatching plans to hold its 2021 world championships in the back half of August, just a week after the Tokyo Olympics end.
The championships are currently locked in for July next year at Fukuoka, but a change of dates is needed to avoid clashing with the hastily rearranged Tokyo Olympics, which will now almost certainly take place from July 23 to August 8, 2021.
World athletics faces the same problem and has already flagged its intention to switch its main event to 2022 but FINA - whose leaders have often been accused of putting money ahead of the wishes of competitors - is determined to go ahead next year.
Highly placed sources have told The Daily Telegraph that FINA has ruled out holding the world titles before the Olympics because that's when most countries will be conducting their trials, and so is preparing to delay them for a month and start in mid August.
That's certainly the most convenient time for the sport's administrators, with Fukuoka just five hours from Tokyo by bullet train, but could present a major dilemma to athletes, whose preparations will all be geared towards peaking at the Olympics.
Many are already planning to retire once the Olympic flame is extinguished while everyone will definitely be wanting to let their hair down and take a well deserved break after a gut-busting build up that will have already been extended by a year.
Instead, they could have to go straight from the medal podium back into hard training, so it's inevitable a lot of top competitors will choose to sit out the world championships, diluting the standard of competition, but giving opportunities to athletes who missed out on qualifying for the Olympics.
Swimming Australia's head coach Jacco Verhaeren, speaking last week, said it was too early to speculate on whether swimmers would do both events but if it came down to a choice the Olympics would win out.
"I'm pretty sure if people want to do a world championship and an Olympics in the same year, depending on when and how, people will prioritise," he said.
"And, of course, the priority for Olympic athletes is the Olympics."
Originally published as Swimming's radical plan to fix Olympic nightmare