Minna Atherton Sharpens The Blade In Aussie Back Battle : 27.73, Then 27.49 WJRs

Minna Atherton - another new standard - courtesy of Swimming Australia

Minna Atherton, World Junior 100 and 200m champion last year, started with a 27.73 in heats of the 50m backstroke at the Brisbane Sprint Championships. The 15-year-old then tore a strip off that in the final in 27.49: just 0.02sec shy of Seebohm’s Commonwealth record

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Minna Atherton, World Junior 100 and 200m champion last year, started with a 27.73 in heats of the 50m backstroke at the Brisbane Sprint Championships. The 15-year-old then tore a strip off that in the final in 27.49: just 0.02sec shy of Seebohm’s Commonwealth record


Bad Anon

50m back is a non Olympic event, we’ll have to see how that translates to her 100… Fu who has a best of 27.11 has a best time of 59 flat 100back ; Minna would need something really special at trials to get past either Seebohm or Wilson. She should change nationality and represent them Kiwis maybe,;)

Craig Lord

Ha! That’s not going to happen, BA … the significance of the 100 not 50 is what we highlight… it’ll be a terrific tussle.

Bad Anon

The 2 per nation rule hurts many talented athletes especially from USA, Australia and I can spend specifically highlight Great Britain men breastroke ; consider Grevers, Thoman and Plummer ; Seebohm, Wilson and Atherton in question ; Franklin, Ledecky, Schmitt; can go on and on to highlight the somewhat unfair regulations where top swimmers missing out on Olympic solo event selection and yet globally super competitive


I think its great that the competition for Olympic spots is so fierce, and it all comes down to performing on the day at trials, If you are not top 2, you ain’t going! The reason they changed the rules was because the GDR and to a lesser extent the USA were going 123 in a lot of events, think the ones who finished 4th in those races have a right to feel slighted now the rules have changed!


There was plenty of grumbling in the old days when USA & AUS would periodically “podium sweep” but the 1976 East German domination on the women’s side and the numerous US sweeps on the men’s side were the final straw.

I’m actually with Gheko. Swimmers from leading nations go into their respective Trials knowing the score; top 2 or miss out.
Yes, there may be some events where a nation may have the depth for a potential podium sweep but generally these are perhaps one for each gender at any given time. Hardly sufficient grounds to warrant a re-write of the rules.


Actually upon looking at 1976 results, whilst DDR did hoover up almost all the golds they only had the one event where they swept the podium (W200fly) whereas there five on the men’s side for USA.

It was actually the boycotted 1980 games which saw the DDR women’s sweeps (7 in total).

Craig Lord

I understand it at Olympic level, the participation element of the Games an important factor of the festival, CW. But I still think there is terrific scope for changing the game at a global gathering beyond the Games: the world top 20 (say) at a certain cut-off date, wherever they come from should have an automatic ticket to the world championships – European Champs allow 4 but only 2 through to finals. I think a real “world championship” does not just mean ‘the whole world was there no matter how good or not they were’ but ‘I was the best in the world, no argument, on that given day – and everyone who might have beaten me that day was there in the race with me’. If that means ‘i shared the podium with two teammates’ in a final with 5 from my country – so be it – I think that would be exciting – and speak to the word ‘competition’ – FINA boast of their stars, but spend more on themselves than the swimmers and are much more interested in participation – for that plays to the universality card that keeps them where they are – for decades. Time for change 🙂


I understand where you are coming from and maybe there is scope for such an approach in some sports/events but I would oppose it being implemented across the board.

Its certainly no magic pill that will suddenly bring about fairer competition but in some cases it will just further entrench “might is right”.

I could very well go along with the reigning World Champion in the specific event getting their individual “ticket punched” to the Olympics/next World Championships (as long as they are still competing/not out due to injury/illness). However top 20 is several bridges too far.

Realistically lines have to be drawn somewhere. Do we really want say the W100FS to read as the starting list for the AUS Trials; the M110hurdles field to be that of the US Nationals; the M/W10000M to be the Ethiopian Nationals etc etc ?

When it comes to swimming; really how many ARE truly aggrieved by this 2 per nation limit ? TBH, less than a handful. How many nations are really impacted by this; again less than a handful. I’m just not seeing a water-tight case for turning back the clock because lets face it; as soon as we do you’ll hear the same old complaints ….. sometimes from those who are benefitting from it in other events !!

Craig Lord

I hear you, CW. I don’t think it matters a jot who is aggrieved and who is supportive (especially if no-one seems too aggrieved at having a 59 flat swimmer back home during an Olympics while folk trundle out 1:20s in heats at the Games…). It is about providing that opportunity in some form/competition somewhere on the calendar. It doesn’t exist…(W cup doesn’t count, its a festival of mediocrity) and that’s a shame.

Felix Sanchez

I agree with Craig in principle, but agree with CW that top 20 is too many. My personal preference would be for top eight. That helps us aim for the World or Olympic final to actually be the top eight in the world.

In conjunction with this, I absolutely hate the four into two rule at Europeans.


My issue with this top 20 or whatever number you wish to set is at what point do you call “cut-off” ? At the end of the previous year, at the end of Apr/May of the Olympic year/Jun for Worlds ?

With these dates, you run the risk of having the standings distorted by whichever major power had the most recent major meet ……. and not necessarily showing the real state of play and punishing those who may not yet have held their Nationals ?

Even end of year has its problems due to Qld state titles often seeing an influx of fast AUS times entering the standings at a time when its LCM “off season”.

US titles probably cause the greatest problems as they are almost always at the lastest possible/legal date (due to usual “waivers”). There ARE clear logistical reasons for cut-off dates/final ratification of entries and nations are going to be “held up” waiting to know who’s got the “free pass” and who gets to go via their national Trials.

I’m not necessarily against granting a free pass to reigning World Champs or even those who podiumed in the respective events but it needs to be fully thought out.

As for the idea of having international finals with near monopolies from one nation; I’m just “not sold” on the idea that this is a good solution. In seeking to remedy one perceived injustice; are you creating another one ?

Felix Sanchez

Your last point CW is a taste I issue, and many people would agree with you. I can sympathise, but don’t agree. Near monopolies or majorities would still be very rare.

As to when you make the cut off date, there are decisions to be made (as with many other issues of qualifying), but nothing there suggests deal-breaking problems.

Craig Lord

Felix – 4 into 2 is a good development tool for the bigger nations, whose best next tier/juniors wouldn’t otherwise get a look in on senior continental competition. That was the thinking behind the move.

Craig Lord

CW, cut-off would be a relatively easy notion: four weeks out from the major, or something like that… everyone would have had a chance to post through trials etc… and the only ones who would gain are those who are No3, 4 or so in the very biggest of nations. Qualification by such a method would be part of a new world in which independent anti-doping testing, blood passport and X random tests a year would all have to have been checked off. Otherwise, you don’t get in. Certainly there needs to be an end to the current situation in which the gap between folk making world-title finals is “1 test all year before the major” or “6 tests before the major”, as was the case last year in some few standout examples. If progress is to be made, there would need to be an acknowledgement of the current system’s faults and loop holes (far too many) – from that point, you can develop new and best practices. Swimming is falling well shy of that right now, through no fault of the athlete but with little if any resistance from those who lead them in domestic federations and feed into international governance falling a very long way shy of where it should be.

Craig Lord

Felix, I think you’re right. I think we’d never see a 6-from-one-nationa final, let alone 8; and cut-offs would not only be possible but would bring the notion of ‘season’ into swimming in a way the wider audience beyond the fan could understand. Swimming needs to find solutions that make it all easier and simpler to watch and fathom out who the best are – not make it more complex (one of the reasons the world cup is a failure… working out who got which points and why and how they earned their money – no official list of those monetary tallies, and thus no transparency – is that it is way too complex for the average sports audience to want to watch or to care about).


Craig, as you may’ve guessed; I’m fully acknowledge & in principle largely agree that the entire qualification picture needs re-examination and potentially overhauling.

Sadly the “brave new world” that you allude to will NOT eventuate in one “sweep of the magic wand”, much as we would wish otherwise but be a succession of steps … and hopefully not too many “miss-steps”.

Not all lies at the hands of FINA; maladroit as they certainly are. National federations frequently make these selection policy decisions not on the grounds of best practice but all too frequently on the grounds of financial, operational-logistical & often legal expediency.

How DO you balance the real need for widening the global spread of the sport without leaving it exposed to semi-farce ? Sadly the current situation where nations without a swimmer with either A or B time is allowed to send one male & one female has been held up to ridicule. They allow one such quota per event, this has to be re-assessed at very minimum.

The four per nation but only two per final is something I could be “on-board with” for a good number of major meets given that Euros and Pan Pacs operate somewhat along those lines. For Worlds or Olympics …… I’m not fully sold but I may be persuadable !

As regards turning back the clock to 3 per nation; I’m just still not convinced that its just answering one whinge which only has validity in a couple of cases per championships and resurrecting another old area of complaint.

And lets face it, the Americans who will “beef” about a Brit clean-sweep in the M200BRS or an AUS sweep in the W100back will be deafening in their silence when the American men sweep the M100fly …… and vice versa.


The IAAF’s system of giving the defending World Champion automatic entry into the next World Championship without it counting toward national quotas actually seems to work pretty well- the biggest names are rewarded for past success but it’s not messing too much with other aspects of getting a diverse and competitive field.

Swimming is also a sport where the teenagers can make some giant drops in short order, leading to the rankings cut off date being a bit problematic. Think of where Ruta and Ledecky were on January 1, 2012 or even March of that year and where they were a few months later.

Craig Lord

🙂 CW. You’ll have to forgive me the laugh I couldn’t resist when you mentioned ‘sweep of the magic wand’ and succession of steps… these issues have been with us in swimming for as long as I have been covering the sport as a journalist (at the very least) – and that’s 30 years. You are right to note that ‘FINA’ is all federations and that the major nations have done practically nothing of any significance to change the direction and way of governing the sport and deal with the issues at the heart of schism and malaise in the sport. I have minutes of meetings, notes from media gatherings, press conferences and copies of letters sent to FINA and domestic feds from some of the biggest names in the sport going back those 30 years and raising the very issues that still plague us, and suggesting some very fine alternatives… all such things end up in a pile marked ‘not in the interests or worth the effort of those running the show with access to vast budgets’. I won’t begin to list the issues and areas in which the above applies – far too many – and many of them you’ll know about 🙂

Craig Lord

beachmouse, both KL and RM had qualified for their nations for the Olympic Games before any cut off I had in mind.

Personal Best

Swimming has seemingly become much more competitive that I doubt sweeps will be that common. And I don’t think it should be about podium sweeps.

I always look to the 2005 world champs where Trickett (Lenton) had a less than stellar trials for whatever reason, and under the current rules rightfully missed out on selection in the 100m free individual event.

Australia at that stage had 3 of the best in the event, but Mills (ranked world #1 at the time) under-performed in the final and finished out of the medals. Trickett was the standout in the 4×100 relay and took the spot in the medley relay ahead of Henry (who won the individual). Trickett ended up ranking first in the world at the end of the year.

It’s not about second chances either. It’s about realising that the one shot trial is not always the best method to select the best of the best (each nation is different of course), and that when your team mates are among the best in the world (you included), should you be penalised that you live in a country with some of the best swimmers?

Craig Lord

Good question, Personal Best. No, you shouldn’t be penalised, is my view. The individual suppressed by system and nationhood and by birth, which is turned into a disadvantage not by circumstance beyond the control of those who run sport but by the very folk who run sport and write the rules – not very sporting, if you ask me.


Interestingly though the Commonwealth Games still allow 3 per country per event, and from memory Australia has had quite a few sweeps in some events!

Craig Lord

And not only Australia – and no-one seems to mind, either


You have a very good point, I guess swimmers want to compete against the best, What if the best three are from one country, two go and the one left at homes has consistent times 0.2sec faster than the bronze medal winner, you would feel you won the medal on a rule rather than talent!


The “one hot saloon” Trails method is the most common (but not universal) choice for one reason ….. but it has nothing to with efficacy, fairness or the like.

Rather it is the most legally expedient in that its the method that reduces the chance of legal appeal against selectors discretion to the greatest degree !

Gheko, re CommGames you hit on the very reason that they are largely looked upon as a 2nd level event at best …… and a complete joke by many. The fact that “the big boys” can hoover up massive medal hauls against limited competition …. and quite often with performances that don’t cut it in the “real world”.

Craig, if I “went there” with regards to the prospects of FINA reform; the likelihood of WSA being anymore than “mission statements and intent”; we’d probably end up with the thread ot end all threads.

What I will say that major international sports, as against strictly domestic professional sports, are potentially facing one of the biggest ructions in the past 120 years …… namely the potential death of the Olympics.

If Rio fails to go ahead …… or we see athlete & visitor major health issues on a significant scale then the brand may be permanently damaged.

It has already probably became far too big to the extent that very few cities in the world can conceivably host them. The organisation is probably the gold standard when it comes to “the gravy train” and self interest let alone corruption.

To survive, it will probably have to be a case of scale down or die. The process does not promise to be smooth or pleasant ….. and will the organisation itself need to die and then be resurrected ?

THIS may actually be the catalyst for the reform or replacement of the gravely compromised international sporting bodies like IAAF, FINA, UCI

Craig Lord

The catalyst has taken shape, CW… the shape of things to come unknown, of course. Whatever that may be it does not absolve swimming, its leaders and those who go along to get along responsibility for the things they are responsible for, whether directly or by default because they did nothing about it, including massive abuse of young athletes :
As for the WSA, if FINA will not change – and there is absolutely no indication that it intends to – then an alternative with the kind of approach not yet published but in the works is certainly desirable – and I don’t see any obstacle in any such process for the good and the good folk in ‘FINA’ to still be there come the WSA, the genuine new FINA or whatever may be in place by the time we’re writing about 2020. What’s sure is that the status quo cannot continue without the kind of scenario you envisage: death. Human history, of Romans to sport, tells us all we need to know; including the notion that people cannot see what’s in front of their noses, sometimes, and then wonder what happened when the bomb goes off.
Of late, Cornel Marculescu and Co have put out statements in interviews in which they say no-one has been better at the stuff of fighting doping. The very notion is absurd, as the above article indicates. Some of the characters in seats of power back then remain there, remain the people supported by USA Swimming and others who also say ‘we’re against doping and bad things’… so do something about it, if only by standing up to those members of your Fed back home who were beaten to a pulp. Instead, what we get is more golf moments on the course with Marculescu etc and private meetings following by cosy statements that speak to PR not getting the job done. Not good enough; not even close.


Craig, whilst I fully agree that adequate catalysts for action exist in abundance; I cannot help but think of Dr Johnson’s quote “When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully”.

In essence, it is likely to require the “atomic blast” (and the likely public reaction) of their biggest show(s) being potentially taken away from them for national bodies to see that THEIR self interest and survival depends on a wholesale renovation at the very minimum and most likely a complete reconstruction.

Sad but that’s the most likely scenario that I see. Sadly, in any case it will be the athlete, the swimmer, the cyclist etc who will pay the price tags.

Craig Lord

You may be right, CW but it is not for me to use that as an excuse or let-out clause for those who need to change. I will continue to note the things that they do not wish to face – and I have reason to believe that change will, ultimately, not be a question of choice. Meanwhile, apathy, inaction and an inability to see anything but the status quo alive and kicking is fuel to those who would wish it to be so and will do all they can to make sure that’s the case, self-interest to the fore.

Felix Sanchez

The one shot trial method may not always realise the best team when viewed on the micro scale, but I strongly believed that on a macro level it does. One swimmer can be unlucky, but cementing at every level the need to perform on the day, and providing clear and objective tests (which is what the eventual championships are anyway) is more important.

Felix Sanchez

To throw back to the four into two system at Europeans… I understand the intent, but mostly feel sorry for those who end up in a situation of having to race the heats, while some of their rivals are able to cruise through. It skews the playing field a bit.

Craig Lord

Yes, Felix, I know what you mean… but again, that was the intention of those who thought it up, like Bill Sweetenham, who believed that if you couldn’t swim world-class qualification times at European and Commonwealth levels with a level of ease in heats, then the World and Olympic environment was going to be that much harder. There are no nations in Europe who can genuinely look to a top 4 in domestic rivalry in which all 4 are capable of producing fast-at-ease heats at the kind of speed required to make an Olympic final and then go on to win the crown or even make the podium. That, of course, may indeed make the heats a final-like moment of personal top speed for those who need to go that fast to make it through, putting pressure on the faster 2 from the same nation… the skew is what those planners wanted: pressure on the big contenders so that they make a habit of having to produce what they will have to produce come the Olympic environment and a world in which Laszlo Cseh can miss the 400IM final (through miscalculation and circumstance of his heat). The point was another moment, not the European pool.
Of course, if there was aa world level peak-moment meet at which as many from one nation as made it through to a final were allowed, the ‘skew’ would not be there: you’d have the 8 best athletes in the water.


You want more or less fair global competition then stop first of all raising the national flag and playing the national anthem in honor of the winner. Let sponsor’s money to compete and they will chose the best form of competition (or couple of them) that will suit the majority of swimming community including swimmers, coaches, fans, etc. It could be ‘tours’, ‘series’, ‘cups’, ‘chamnpionships’, whatever. If the competition is market fair then all specifics of swimming competition and training processes and attractiveness and popularization, all will be averaged to the best possible solutions. Bad types of competition just won’t survive.
Swimming sport has by its nature two types of ranking factors: whoever touches the wall first and whoever shows best time. World ranking can use either of them – separately or in combination. For example, PGA or ATP moving ranking can be used based on the place in particular qualified tournaments weighted on the strength of the filed. That can be calculated either by the rank of participants or by the shown time. The time ranking is very similar to the season ranking that will allow swimmer to show his/her best whenever she/he feels most ready for that. The time frame should not be necessary the calendar year but the one (fixed or moving) that swimmers have chosen most appropriate, fair and convenient.
Again, take it from the hands of officials that don’t really care about all this stuff unless it endangers their managing positions. As we see they always have been finding plenty of other shortcuts to get out of personal troubles. Make it market free. It BTW will eliminate doping programs sponsored by state.
Nation based competitions conducted by FINA (Fédération internationale de NATATION) or Olympic Games must have the restriction on the number of swimmers per nation. By their status they are associations of nations and all member of association must have a chance to compete if swimmers of this nation meet qualifying times. The particular numbers are just details. BTW, make the podium of one step only and all ‘unfairness’ mentioned in other comments will be resolved. Who needs this ‘silvers’, ‘bronze’ etc. Why starting from the fourth place you are nobody. Let’s have one winner only who represents the particular nation in the best way.

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