Marathon Swimming at the Olympics

Swimming is one of the most popular sports on the Olympic Games program. Most Oylmpic swimming events are held indoors in a 50m 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.

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