Swimming is one of the most popular sports on the Olympic Games program. Most Oylmpic swimming events are held indoors in a 50 meter pool, and over a maximum distance of 1500m. In 2008, a 10km Open Water Swimming event was added to the Olympic program. Open water swimming events, sometimes called marathon swimming, are conducted outdoors in natural water bodies like lakes, rivers and oceans, and held over a long-distance.
Although not over a long distance, the swimming events at the early Olympic Games were held in the open water too. The swimming events were held in the sea (1896), the River Seine (1900), and a little lake in St. Louis, USA (1904). Consequently, the athletes had to contend with ice-cold water and currents, as do the marathon swimmers of today.
The marathon swimming event at the Olympics is a 10km open-water swimming race for men and women. No preliminary heats are held, with only the single mass-start race being contested. This race is held using the freestyle swimming stroke, though a feeding stations the swimmers can change to a more appropriate stroke.
- The swimming coaches can provide drinks and advice to their athletes at four drinking stations along the course, however, if the coach falls in the water his or her athlete is immediately disqualified.
- The first women's event in 2008 included South Africa's Natalie du Toit, an amputee who had lost her leg below the knee from a motor scooter accident in 2001. She finished in a highly respectable sixteenth place.
- The winner of the 2012 men's open water 10km was won by Tunisia's Oussama Mellouli, who became the first-ever swimmer to win Olympic titles in both the pool and open water. He had won the 1500m in 2008.
- The 2016 men's open water swimming event produced one of the most exciting finishes ever. After nearly two hours in the water, Dutch swimmer Ferry Weertman defeated Greek swimmer Spyridon Gianniotis in a photo finish. Gianniotis's medal was the first medal for Greece in swimming since the inaugural 1896 Summer Olympics in Athens. The race for bronze also resulted in a photo finish to separate the athletes.
- About the sporting discipline of Aquatics at the Olympics
- Olympic Games Swimming Quiz
- ABout Open water swimming
- See more on the Greatest Swimmers at the Olympics.
- Do women have an advantage in open water swimming?
- More information about the sport of swimming
- See also marathon swimming at the Commonwealth Games
- About swimming at the FINA World Swimming Championships
- List of Olympic Sports