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USA Swimming targets August return for meets, sets tentative schedule

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USA Swimming is targeting regional meets in mid-to-late August in a return to competition from the coronavirus pandemic.

“These regionally focused events will limit the need for travel and promote a safer competition environment for athletes, families and everyone involved,” according to the organization.

Specific meets, which have not been announced yet, must still be approved, subject to local health guidelines and directives.

After that, USA Swimming’s targeted major domestic meets begin Nov. 5-8 with a Tyr Pro Swim Series stop in Richmond, Va. That’s followed by the Toyota U.S. Open in Atlanta (Dec. 2-5) and Speedo Juniors East (Atlanta) and West (Austin) from Dec. 9-12.

In 2021, Pro Series meets are tentatively scheduled for Knoxville (Jan. 13-16), San Antonio (March 3-6), Mission Viejo, Calif. (April 8-11) and Indianapolis (May 12-15).

That all leads up to the U.S. Olympic Trials, previously rescheduled to June 13-20, 2021.

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USA Swimming urges Olympic postponement; USOPC believes IOC should be afforded more time, advice

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USA Swimming requested the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee advocate to Tokyo Olympics decision-makers to postpone the Games by one year.

In response, USOPC leaders, while prioritizing athlete safety and health, said the IOC, World Health Organization and the Japanese government should be given more time. The Opening Ceremony is July 24.

“They [the IOC] believe that it is premature to make a final call on the date of the Games,” USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland and Chair Susanne Lyons said in a joint statement, “and we believe that we should afford them the opportunity to gather more data and expert advice before insisting that a decision be made.”

USA Swimming CEO Tim Hinchey III, in a letter to Hirshland on Friday morning, urged for a postponement to 2021.

“There are no perfect answers, and this will not be easy; however, it is a solution that provides a concrete path forward and allows all athletes to prepare for a safe and successful Olympic Games in 2021,” Hinchey wrote. “We urge the USOPC, as a leader within the Olympic Movement, to use its voice and speak up for the athletes.”

Hirshland and Lyons responded by saying they have “complete and total empathy” for athletes amid the coronavirus pandemic. Many can’t train properly, including swimmers unable to find open pools.

“We understand that the athletes have concerns about training, qualification and anti-doping controls, and that they want transparency, communication and clarity to the full extent possible,” Hirshland and Lyons said. “The USOPC has made it clear that all athletes should put their health and wellness, and the health and wellness of the greater community, above all else at this unprecedented moment. At the same time, and as it relates to the Games, we have also heard from athletes that they want the Olympic and Paralympic community to be very intentional about the path forward – and to ensure that we aren’t prematurely taking away any athletes’ opportunity to compete in the Olympic and Paralympic Games until we have better clarity.

“The USOPC is in constant communication with senior leadership of the IOC and IPC [International Paralympic Committee] – and they have also expressed that their focus is on the health and well-being of athletes, and communities around the world, and that they will continue to rely on advice from the World Health Organization as they determine if it is necessary to adapt their position as the situation evolves.”

Hinchey noted swimmers’ worlds have been “turned upside down” after training facilities across the country were closed.

“Our world class swimmers are always willing to race anyone, anytime and anywhere; however, pressing forward amidst the global health crisis this summer is not the answer,” Hinchey wrote. “The right and responsible thing to do is to prioritize everyone’s health and safety and appropriately recognize the toll this global pandemic is taking on athletic preparations. It has transcended borders and wreaked havoc on entire populations, including those of our respected competitors. Everyone has experienced unimaginable disruptions, mere months before the Olympic Games, which calls into question the authenticity of a level playing field for all.

“Our athletes are under tremendous pressure, stress and anxiety, and their mental health and wellness should be among the highest priorities.”

Earlier Friday, Lyons assured, “There is no circumstance when the USOPC would send our athletes into harm’s way if we did not believe it was safe.”

IOC President Thomas Bach has repeated the Olympics will not be canceled.

“Of course, we are considering different scenarios,” Bach said Thursday, according to The New York Times. “While we do not know how long the tunnel we are all in at this moment will be, we would like the Olympic Flame to be a light at the end of this tunnel.”

Hirshland and Lyons said the IOC, ahead of an executive board meeting next week, is polling National Olympic Committees on the impacts on athletes’ training.

“Rest assured we are making your concerns clearly known to them,” the USOPC leaders said. “The USOPC will be leaders in providing accurate advice and honest feedback, and be unfailing advocates of the athletes and their safety, and the necessity of a fair platform for the Games. You have our promise.”

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Greg Meehan, Dave Durden named USA Swimming Olympic head coaches

Greg Meehan, Dave Durden
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Stanford’s Greg Meehan and Cal’s Dave Durden were named USA Swimming’s Olympic head coaches on Monday.

Meehan, 42, will guide the women’s team in Tokyo. Durden, two days younger than Meehan, coaches the men. Both are first-time Olympic head coaches and were assistants for David Marsh and Bob Bowman, respectively, for the 2016 Rio Games. They are the youngest U.S. Olympic swim head coaches since Mark Schubert in 1992.

A four-person committee unanimously nominated each coach, U.S. national team managing director Lindsay Mintenko said.

“[Meehan and Durden] have earned a great deal of respect among our national team members and other coaches around the country,” Mintenko said in a press release. “Our staff looks forward to collaborating with Dave and Greg over the next 18 months to put a plan in place to guide Team USA to continued success in Tokyo.”

Meehan has been Stanford’s women’s head coach since 2012, leading the Cardinal to NCAA titles in 2017 and 2018 with Olympic champions Katie Ledecky and Simone Manuel. Meehan continues to coach Ledecky and Meehan, who turned professional after last season.

Durden, in his 12th season as the Cal men’s head coach, counts Olympic gold medalists Ryan Murphy and Nathan Adrian among his pupils.

Meehan and Durden coached the U.S. men and women at the 2017 World Championships to 38 medals, most by one nation in a single worlds in history.

U.S. Olympic head coaches receive the most scrutiny for relay-lineup decisions, which can be made with input from to-be-named assistant coaches. They also work with swimmers’ personal coaches leading up to the Games, including at domestic and international training camps between trials and the Olympics.

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