Few countries are as dominant in a sport as the United States of America is in swimming. Just a year ago at the Rio Olympics we amassed 33 medals — 23 more than any other country. So why don’t we compete in the FINA World Cup — the only place where pro swimmers can actually make a decent amount of coin? They even recently upped the prize money!
College swimming is certainly the main reason we see such a lack of American swimmers parading around China, Japan, Qatar, Singapore, and Hong Kong. Katie Ledecky, Caeleb Dressel, Simone Manuel, Blake Pieroni, Kathleen Baker, Townley Haas, and Lilly King are all college amateurs. Not only can they not make money but they also have to focus on their education and the college season. This is understandable.
But what about Ryan Murphy, Katie Meili, Matt Grevers, Kelsi Worrell, Kevin Cordes, Olivia Smoliga, Chase Kalisz, or Leah Smith? Why aren’t they participating? They don’t like to travel? They don’t like the chance to make tons of cheddar? Is it because that many of these swimmers are still training under college coaches on college campuses? Do they have to go overseas by themselves and figure out all of the logistics: flights, hotels, pool time? What college coach is able to travel with them? I assume none of them as they are in the middle of the ridiculously busy NCAA season.
Tom Shields has made $69,050 thus far throughout the 2017 FINA World Cup Series. I’ll go out on a limb and suggest that is probably more than his National Team stipend. Relays also pay dividends but you can’t secure those investment dollars if you are the only professional American to show up. It’s counter intuitive for elite, professional athletes to stay away from the pot of gold. Beefy T is probably lonely counting all his cash.
Some suggest the fact that the FINA World Cup is raced in short course meters deters Americans from participating. I believe this is hog wash. In fact, swimming short course is a massive advantage for USA because there is nobody better underwater. On top of that, the World Records in SCM are more likely to fall. This increases a swimmer’s chances of making even more money via breaking World Records. Bet you didn’t know that 16 current SCM World Records were set at FINA World Cup meets…
The Pro Swim Series is kind of like the American version of the FINA World Cup except it pays out far less money and lacks pretty much any and all international swimmers. At least you get all the big name college swimmers to participate. Oh, wait, didn’t we all just watch a years worth of college swimming culminating in the Men’s and Women’s NCAA Championships? Oh, that’s right, we did.
USA Swimming has zero FINA World Cup coverage on their home page. Regan Smith is seeded first going into the 200 Back ahead of the Iron Lady? Rikako Ikee just broke her second World Jr Record? Apparently, those stories are not newsworthy. But, at least we got the “SwimSquad Battles” to look forward to!
It almost feels as though USA Swimming has a certain disdain for the FINA World Cup; or, is it just me?