Katie Ledecky is a forced to be reckoned with in the pool. Image: @SwimmingWorld. Twitter

Long distance events and relays are exciting parts of a stacked swimming program at the Olympics. Tokyo 2020 is no different as a chaotic nine days of competition awaits.

There are 2 individual long-distance swimming events and 4 relay events, including 2 Olympic debuts that will take place at Tokyo 2020. Stay tuned to The Inner Sanctum’s Olympic hub and the Olympics Central for all your Olympic coverage.

Whenever an Olympic Games rolls around, the swimming events are always at the centre of attention.

And it will be no different in Tokyo, with plenty of blockbuster events to look forward to.

Familiar rivalries will resume, and fresh rivalries will begin, while there will be an exciting mix of familiar and fresh faces in both Australia’s swim team and the rest of the competition. 

Tokyo 2020 will see the debut of the newest Olympic relay event – the mixed medley relay which will see men and women from different countries team up in the pool for the first time at the Olympic games. 

The Tokyo 2020 games will also see the introduction of the women’s 1500m event for the first time at the Olympic Games.

What to watch? 

American superstar Katie Ledecky is a distance specialist. Taking home 4 gold medals in Rio in the 200, 400, and 800m, including 2 world records in the 400m and 800m events.

Much like the short distance events, the battle with emerging Australian superstar Ariarne Titmus, also a distance specialist looms as one of the must-watch head-to-head battles in the pool for Australia over swimming, with the pair firming to add further chapters to their growing rivalry.

Titmus qualified fastest for Australia at their Olympic trials for the 800m event, posting a qualifying time of 8:15.57.

Kiah Melverton also qualified for Australia with a strong time of 8:19.05. Both will be chasing Katie Ledeky for a Gold Medal.

Maddie Gough and Kiah Melverton will be the Aussies looking to make history in Tokyo by competing in the first-ever women’s 1500m freestyle event.

For the men, Jack McLoughlin will be the lone Aussie male competing in the distance events, with both the 800m and 1500m. All eyes will be on defending 1500m Gold Medalist, Italy’s Gregorio Paltrinieri who arrives in Tokyo after collecting 2 silver medals at the European Championships held in Budapest earlier this year in the 800 and 1500m events.

However, Ukrainian Mykhailo Romanchuk has sent an ominous warning by claiming gold in both distance events at the Championships. After missing the final of the 1500m in his debut Olympics, he will have the fire in his belly claim his first Olympic gold.

All three women’s relay events, the 4x100m freestyle, 4x200m freestyle, and 4×100 medley should all be hotly contested between Australia and the United States. With generational greats competing on both sides in what appears to be the last Olympic games for some of them, the relays will be must-see events in Tokyo.

Medal Chances 

Women’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay: Australia’s women’s 100m relay team will be the heavy favourites to win gold in Tokyo following their triumph in Rio.

The team will likely consist of Cate Campbell who has won gold twice in this event, Emma Mckeon, Bronte Campbell, and Madison Wilson who were all part of the Rio 2016 gold medal-winning team which set a new world record.

This has been one of Australia’s strongest events, medalling in the event in every Olympics since 2004. The only major competitor to the Australian team will be the United States. 

Women’s 4x200m Freestyle Relay: Much the same as the 100m team, the Australian 200m freestyle team are also favourites to win gold however the field will be much more competitive.

The United States swimmers likely to compete include Katie Ledecky and Allison Schmitt who specialise in 200m plus events and therefore will be strong over the distance. Both women were part of the United States gold medal team in Rio 2016. Ledecky also won gold in the individual 200m in Rio 2016, while Schmitt won gold in London 2012.

The Australian team should feature Ariarne Titmus, part of the 2018 gold medal-winning team in the Commonwealth Games, Emma Mckeon and Leah Neale, who were both part of that same team, and the Rio 2016 silver medal-winning team and either Bronte Campbell or Madison Wilson.

This is an event that could go either way and should be extremely exciting to watch.

Women’s 4x100m Medley Relay: While no one has been officially named as part of the medley relay team for Australia, the women’s team should again be competitive in this event.

They will have their work cut out for them against the always strong United States outfit however with potential swimmers such as Bronte Campbell for the freestyle, Emma McKeon for butterfly, either Kaylee McKeown or Emily Seebohm for backstroke, and either Chelsea Hodges or Jessica Hansen rounding out the team for breaststroke, the Australian women should pick up another medal.

In Rio Australia won silver, coming second to the United States. 

More Tokyo 2020 News

Tokyo 2020 Preview – Back in the swim of things Part 1

Tokyo 2020 Preview: Who will throw their way to gold in Judo

Who is going to win a gold medal? Tokyo 2020 individual events

Men’s 4x200m Freestyle Relay: The 4x200m will be the men’s strongest chance of securing gold in a relay in Tokyo. A medal has eluded the men in this event since the 2008 Beijing games where Australia won bronze.

Not since that famous victory at the 2000 Sydney Olympics has Australia won gold in this event however Tokyo could be the year. With Kyle Chalmers, Thomas Neill, Cam McEvoy, and Elijah Winnington predicted to be the relay team, Australia should be favourites especially with a much weaker United States team than past games.

Both 2016 Rio 4x200m United States swimmers Michael Phelps and Connor Dwyer have retired from swimming and Ryan Lochte will enter these games at 36 years of age and is no longer the swimmer he was in his prime.

A lot will rest on the shoulders of Townley Haas to carry this United States team which may be too much of an ask against a well-rounded Australian outfit. 

Mixed 4x100m Medley Relay: A new Olympic event debuting in Tokyo, the mixed 4x100m medley offers plenty of intrigue. It appears that yet again the United States and Australia will be the two favourites in this event, with the United Kingdom expected to round off the podium.

With only two males and two females selected in the team, choosing the right swimmer based on the stroke is imperative. Most likely Caeleb Dressel and Kyle Chalmers will take the freestyle for both countries.

Emma McKeon should be Australia’s butterfly swimmer but the other two strokes are more up in the air. Australia has strong choices in both the male and female backstroke with Mitch Larkin, Kaylee McKeown, and Emily Seebohm as possible choices.

Therefore selection will be difficult and may be predicated on performances in the individual events. 

Important Dates

Long Distance Events 

Women’s 1500m Freestyle Final28 July
Men’s 800m Freestyle Final29 July
Women’s 800m Freestyle Final31 July
Men’s 1500m Freestyle Final1 August


Women’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay Final 25 July
Men’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay Final26 July
Men’s 4x200m Freestyle Relay Final28 July
Women’s 4x200m Freestyle Relay Final29 July
Mixed 4x100m Medley Relay Final31 July
Women’s 4x100m Medley Final1 August
Men’s 4x100m Medley Final1 August

The Swimming will run from July 24th until August 1st and will take place at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre. 

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