2012 Olympic Team - How Did They Get Here?


Mens 4x200 free relay Olympics (medium)By Matt Barbini//National Team High Performance Consultant

With the Minnesota Grand Prix taking place last weekend, we at the National Team Division are turning the page on a successful London Olympics and are beginning to look forward to 2016. As such, rather than the usual discussion of something technical you can do in the water, this article is going to focus on the path by which our 2012 Olympic athletes came to qualify for and compete at the games.


Part of my job here at USA Swimming for the past few months has been to perform and refine research on the progression of athlete performance at our highest levels and draw conclusions to help us develop our Elite Athlete Programming services. While this process has involved more counting than my former English major brain can normally handle, the results have been both interesting and illuminating.


Of our 49 2012 Olympians:

  • 16 (33%) attended a National Select Camp
  • 29 (59%) were on a National Junior Team
  • 42 (86%) were on a previous National Team
  • 42 (86%) competed on a previous international competition team (World Champs, Pan Pacs, Pan Ams, etc.)
  • 21 (43%) competed at a previous Olympics (18 from 2008, 9 from 2004, and 3 from 2000)
  • 2 (6%) had never made a roster of any kind prior to making the Olympic Team

So what does this mean? As you can see, there is no perfect “pathway” to making an Olympic team or medaling at the games. There are many routes by which athletes in our sport can reach their goals, and not achieving certain perceived benchmarks along the way does not necessarily mean that an athlete will never make an Olympic or other international team. However, these numbers also tell me that our developmental system is strong and that being introduced to international competition and other aspects of the National Team certainly has value for our athletes. Expanding upon this information, in the coming months I will continue to post articles regarding the research that we’ve done on our Elite Athlete Programming, including some interesting statistics on our Olympic medalists, National Junior Team athletes and National Select Camp athletes.

ArenaBMWMarriottMyrtha PoolsOmegaPhillips 66SpeedoTYR