Coleman Stewart’s Puzzling Absence From The U.S. Short Course Worlds Roster

After setting the world record in the 100 backstroke less than two months ago, Coleman Stewart was never in position to compete in the event at SC Worlds. Archive photo via Mike Lewis/Ola Vista Photography

Coleman Stewart is the fastest swimmer in history in the men’s 100 backstroke in short course meters, and yet he won’t have the opportunity to vie for a World Championship title in the event.

USA Swimming announced its roster for the 2021 Short Course World Championships on Thursday, and Stewart was one of the most notable absences.

And while top names such as Caeleb Dressel and Lilly King appear to have declined the opportunity to compete, Stewart wasn’t even given the option despite being the fastest swimmer of all-time in one of the events.

The reason is due to the fact that the qualification criteria put in place by USA Swimming is selected off of the National Team roster, which is selected based off of long course times.

Stewart is on the National Team in the 100 butterfly, having dropped a LCM best of 51.54 in the event at the U.S. Olympic Trials, but he wasn’t on the roster for the 100 backstroke. Stewart clocked 53.91 in the event at Trials, and the National Team cutoff sits at the 53.18 done by Matt Grevers in Omaha.

So despite Stewart’s world record-breaking performance of 48.33, set in late August during the ISL season in Naples, he won’t be in Abu Dhabi racing for the world title.

Stewart also spoke to Brett Hawke about being left off, saying he hadn’t heard from USA Swimming and knew based on the criteria he wouldn’t be selected to race the event.

The men’s 100 backstroke will instead feature Olympian Hunter Armstrong and reigning NCAA 100 back champion Shaine Casas, who rank second and third on the National Team roster in the event. Ryan Murphy, who sits first, has opted out of the event.

While those are both great options to represent the U.S., it does beg the question whether the system put in place is outdated—using long course performances to select a short course team. With so many SCM competitions having taken place over the last two months, it seems that would be a logical starting point to build a SC World Championship roster.

Hypothetically, Stewart was the 11th man in line for a spot based on the 2021 LC rankings in the U.S. (though if all 100 back National Teamers declined, the spot would’ve been offered to a swimmer already on the team).

Men’s 100 Backstroke LCM U.S. Rankings, Jan. 1, 2021 – Aug. 31, 2021

Ryan Murphy, 52.19
Hunter Armstrong, 52.48
Shaine Casas, 52.76
Justin Ress, 52.86
Bryce Mefford, 52.87
Matt Grevers, 53.18
Huner Tapp, 53.45
Michael Andrew, 53.59
Daniel Carr, 53.59
Adam Chaney, 53.89
Coleman Stewart, 53.91

Men’s 100 Backstroke SCM World Rankings, 2021

Coleman Stewart (USA), 48.33 WR
Guilherme Guido (BRA), 48.95
Evgeny Rylov (RUS), 49.45
Robert Glinta (ROU), 49.60
Kliment Kolesnikov (RUS), 49.63
Mark Nikolaev (RUS), 49.65
Christian Diener (GER), 49.92
Justin Ress (USA), 50.12
Shane Ryan (IRL), 50.20
Jacob Pebley (USA), 50.26

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