2 Aug 2016

Swimming - a Quintessential Olympic Sport

1:32 pm on 2 August 2016

Olympic Disciplines - Olympic swimming is one of the most enduring and popular Olympic sports and has the most events (34) on the Olympics' programme.

Glenn Snyders is among the NZ team competing at the Pan Pacific champs that are chasing an improved performance in the wake of the Commonwealth Games.

Glenn Snyders is among the NZ team competing at the Rio Olympics. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

It has a rich Olympic history with the sport being included in the very first modern Olympic Games in 1896.

Pool events are held in freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly or a medley of all four over distances that range from 50m to 1500m.

There are also relay events featuring teams of four swimmers, and one open water event - the men's and women's 10km marathon.

Lauren Boyle is New Zealand's highest ranked swimmer since Danyon Loader, while at the other end of the spectrum are several young swimmers who will be looking to get the most out of Rio as they progress to their major goals in Tokyo 2020.

Swimming is arguably one of the most competitive sports globally and swimmers will need to overcome a considerable challenge with afternoon sessions for heats and finals that will stretch past midnight to fit with television audiences in North America.

Competition at Rio

When: The Rio Olympics swimming competition will take place from Saturday 6 August to Saturday 13 August, with the marathon swimming events taking place over 15/16 August.

Where: Olympic Aquatics Stadium, Barra Olympic Park (Pool)

Fort Copacabana, (Open Water)

A total of 900 athletes will compete in 32 events in the pool, covering the four different strokes - freestyle, butterfly, breaststroke and backstroke - the medley and relays.

Sixteen events for both men and women in the pool:

50m Freestyle

100m Freestyle

200m Freestyle

400m Freestyle

800m Freestyle (women only)

1500m Freestyle (men only)

100m Backstroke

200m Backstroke

100m Breaststroke

200m Breaststroke

100m Butterfly

200m Butterfly

200m Individual Medley

400m Individual Medley

4x100m Freestyle Relay

4x200m Freestyle Relay

4x100m Medley Relay

Swimmers compete in heats of up to eight swimmers.

In 50m (freestyle only), 100m and 200m events, the fastest 16 swimmers progress to two semi-finals, then the winner of each semi-final and the next six fastest swimmers join them in the final.

The middle lanes in the semis and finals are assigned to the fastest qualifiers.

In events over longer distances, or in relay events, the eight fastest finishers in the heats move straight to the finals.

Relay - teams of four swimmers from each nation take turns swimming a 'leg' of a race. A relay may be in the same discipline, eg, 4x100m freestyle, or a combination of the four disciplines, eg, 4x100m medley. In each race, subsequent swimmers may not start until the previous team-mate has completed their part.

Medley - the order is butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle.

The open water events are a straight final.

The Stars of Swimming

Still a teenager, Katie Ledecky from the USA is the most dominant woman in distance swimming.

She already holds three individual world records - in the 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyle - and won gold as a 15-year-old over 800m in London.

While there is no 1500m event for women at the Olympics, Ledecky could still be chasing multiple gold medals in Rio, with the 200m freestyle and 4x200m freestyle relay both likely targets and the 4x100m relay a possibility.

New Zealand's Lauren Boyle is set to provide Ledecky with some of her toughest competition.

Boyle came second to Ledecky at the 2015 FINA World Championships in both the 800m and 1500m freestyle events.

The Americans should again dominate the medals in the pool - US swimmers won 31 medals in London including 16 gold.

Their team contains many of the greats including 18-time gold medalist Michael Phelps, who is attending his fifth Olympics.

There is also Missy Franklin, who as a 17-year-old won four gold medals in London.