Revamped Rules, New Contenders: How Paris 2024 is Shaking Up Olympic Open Water Swimming

Revamped Rules, New Contenders: How Paris 2024 is Shaking Up Olympic Open Water Swimming

With the 2024 Paris Olympic Games on the horizon, the 22 open water swimmers, both men and women, who have already qualified through World Aquatics and IOC, are getting ready to be put to the test. The athletes will compete for Olympic glory and one of the three iconic Olympic medals in a race that is more unpredictable than ever before.

Let’s see how these athletes have qualified and who they are.

Starting with the rules, World Aquatics and the IOC decided to change the game and set new rules two years ago. This means that at the Paris Games, we see 22 open water swimmers instead of 25 who have qualified from open water races. The reason for this change was to reduce costs. The reduction in the number of participants has affected all the sports of the Olympic Games. However, there is a twist here: the IOC and World Aquatics, in an unexpected move, have allowed pool distance swimmers from countries that don’t have more than two open water swimmers qualified in the 10k for the Games to swim the marathon in Paris if they already have the A’ Olympic Standard times either in the 800 or 1500 freestyle or in both. This will definitely change the dynamics of the race as less experienced but fast swimmers will enter the waters of the French river and could possibly disrupt the outcome of the race.

The qualification rules for the Olympics up until now were: The top 10 finishers from the World Championships the year prior to the Olympics. Then, these 10 athletes who have taken the spots would “lock” any other available spots for swimmers from their country. A few months later, the remaining contestants for the next 15 available spots would be decided from an Olympic qualification race, where the first 10 swimmers and then 5, one for each continent, would win the Olympic ticket.

For the Paris Olympic Games, the swimmers who have qualified first through the open water criteria are the three medalists from the 2023 World Championships which took place in Fukuoka, Japan. For the men’s race, these are Florian Wellbrock of Germany, Kristof Rasovszky of Hungary, and Oliver Klement of Germany.

For the women’s race, the first three tickets were given to Leonie Beck of Germany, Chelsea Gubecka of Australia, and Katie Grimes of the USA. The rest of the spots come from the 2024 World Championships in Doha.

The rules state that the top 13 athletes who finish automatically win an Olympic ticket unless they already have one, in which case the spot goes to the next in line. Then, 5 tickets go to representatives of each continent, one for every athlete representing their continent. Finally, France gets a ticket for one of their athletes as the host nation.

The qualified athletes are:

MEN

Top 3 from Fukuoka

  • Florian Wellbrock (Germany)
  • Kristof Rasovszky (Hungary)
  • Oliver Klement (Germany)

Top 13 from Doha

  • Marc-Antoine Oliver (France)
  • Hector Pardoe (Great Britain)
  • Nicholas Sloman (Australia)
  • David Bethlehem (Hungary)
  • Domenico Acerenza (Italy)
  • Dario Verani (Italy)* – Gregorio Paltrinieri (Italy)
  • Kyle Lee (Australia)
  • Matan Roditi (Israel)
  • David Farinango (Ecuador)
  • Athanasios Kynigakis (Greece)
  • Ivan Puskovitch (USA)
  • Tobias Robinson (Great Britain)
  • Jan Hercog (Austria)

Host-Nation Spot

  • Logan Fontaine (France)

Continental Spots

  • Africa: Phillip Seidler (Namibia)
  • Americas: Paulo Strehlke (Mexico)
  • Asia: Taishin Minamide (Japan)
  • Europe: Martin Straka (Czech Republic)
  • Oceania: Michael Brinegar (USA)*

WOMEN

Top 3 from Fukuoka

  • Leonie Beck (Germany)
  • Chelsea Gubecka (Australia)
  • Katie Grimes (USA)

Top 13 from Doha

  • Sharon van Rouwendaal (Netherlands)
  • Maria de Valdes (Spain)
  • Angelica Andre (Portugal)
  • Moesha Johnson (Australia)
  • Ana Marcela Cunha (Brazil)
  • Mariah Denigan (USA)
  • Caroline Jouisse (France)
  • Arianna Bridi (Italy)
  • Lisa Pou (Monaco)
  • Airi Ebina (Japan)
  • Bettina Fabian (Hungary)
  • Angela Martinez (Spain)
  • Viviane Jungblut (Brazil)
  • Jeannette Spiwoks (Germany)

Host-Nation Spot

  • Oceane Cassignol (France)

Continental Spots

  • Africa: Amica de Jager (South Africa)*****
  • Americas: Martha Sandoval (Mexico)
  • Asia: Xin Xin (China)
  • Europe: Leah Crisp (Great Britain)
  • Oceania: Emma Finlin (Canada)*

As we can see, there are some asterisks for situations that are a little bit more complicated and some undefined situations that we will try to make as clear as possible for the fans of the sport.

The first case is the Verani – Paltrinieri situation. The explanation for this is that despite Verani swimming the race in Doha, Paltrinieri will represent Italy at the Olympics. While Verani technically qualified based on his top 13 finish in February, the Italian Swimming Federation opted to place Paltrinieri, a faster swimmer, in his place. Since the IOC rule states “every athlete can secure a spot for their country and not themselves,” it is within their right to do so. Therefore, in Paris, we will see Paltrinieri instead of Verani.

The second case is the lack of Oceanian countries taking advantage of the continental spot. Since Australia has taken their spots from the 2023 World Championships and from the top 13 in Doha, there are no other countries from Oceania to send athletes as representatives. As a result, the spot goes automatically to the next fastest athlete in line despite the fact that their country or continent might already have an athlete at the Games. This is why there are non-Oceanian swimmers in the Oceanian spots.

Last but not least, there is the case of the South African swimmer Amica de Jager. De Jager managed to qualify from Doha by winning the African continental spot. However, the RSA federation did not accept the spot given to the country, and as a result, the swimmer is no longer eligible to swim in Paris. This is something truly heartbreaking and extremely unusual at the same time. Also, we are still not aware of what will happen with this empty spot and who will take it.

As mentioned before, there is a plot twist for the 10k in Paris: the entry of pool swimmers into the open water world. Some big names expected to swim might be:

  • Daniel Wiffen (Ireland)
  • Felix Auboeck (Austria)
  • Henrik Christiansen (Norway)
  • Victor Johansson (Sweden)
  • Mykhailo Romanchuk (Ukraine)
  • Guilherme Costa (Brazil)

And the list goes on… Realistically, we can expect another 10-20 swimmers to be added to the list. The final day for entries is the 30th of June, so not too long until we know which athletes will be added to this fascinating race. Their addition will certainly make the race very different, and taking into account other factors such as the narrow layout of the venue, the high number of participants, and the variety of open water skills and backgrounds of every athlete, we could potentially witness the most unexpected Olympic race of all time.

All that’s left is to wait until then.

Photo credits: Paris Olympics 2024

Asterios Daldogiannis