USA Swimming is devoting unprecedented resources to its youth national team, but you won’t see a single U.S. swimmer in Singapore next August for the inaugural Youth Olympic Games, a grand, global event designed to mimic the real Olympic Games for boys between ages 16-18 and girls 15-17.
With the expectation that the first Youth Games would be more about promoting friendship and peace than real competition, and knowing the U.S. Olympic Committee would not be able to send athletes in every sport because of caps on delegation size, USA Swimming offered to sit out the global event, USA Swimming Executive Director Chuck Wielgus said.
“The Youth Olympics … is really set up more as a world-youth peace and educational program than it is as a high-level competition,” Wielgus said. “We went to the USOC and said we would volunteer not to go … We’ve invested heavily in our youth team. We have a four-year plan for our youth team program, and this meet is not part of that plan.”
No snub, Wielgus said, was intended.
Wielgus said USA Swimming would direct its elite youngsters to seek qualification for either the senior Pan Pacific Championships in Irvine, Calif., in August, or the junior Pan Pacs in Maui, Hawaii. Many youth team members are also expected to compete in the Mel Zajac Jr. Swim Meet next May in Vancouver, B.C.
Even if USA Swimming wanted to participate in the event conceived by International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge, it would be allowed to send only four boys and four girls in swimming as per rules limiting entrants.
And the USOC, which sent more than 600 participants to the Beijing Summer Games, is limited to sending a total of about 100 competitors — 70 individual athletes along with two teams.
Cycling and shooting have also decided not to attend.
“We will have some [national governing bodies] that will not be represented, swimming being one of them,” USOC spokesperson Lindsay DeWall said in an e-mail. “In order to make these difficult decisions, our Sport Partnerships Division worked with each NGB, focusing on their pipeline development. This provided us with greater insight as to which NGBs the [Youth Olympic Games] are more important than others. ”
Last year, USA Swimming allocated $2 million its youth program through 2012 and hired a full-time youth team coach, Jack Roach, to try to increase high-level training and competitive opportunities for its up-and-coming stars.