Ariarne Titmus looks to snatch gold from American Katie Ledecky in Tokyo Photo: Australian Olympic Committee/Quinn Rooney

Short distance swimming is a highlight of any Olympic calendar. Tokyo 2020 is no different as a chaotic nine days of competition awaits.

There are 24 individual short-distance swimming events that will take place at Tokyo 2020. For all your Olympic coverage, stay tuned to The Inner Sanctum’s Olympic hub and the Olympics Central.

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

And it will be no different at 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 should see the birth of a new rivalry, as Australia’s Ariarne Titmus contends for Gold in the Women’s freestyle ahead of five-time Olympic gold medallist Katie Ledecky from the U.S. 

Titmus nearly snatched Ledecky’s world record in the 400m freestyle at the Australian Olympic Swimming Trials last month, foreshadowing what could be a thrilling new rivalry as the two go head-to-head in the 200m, 400m and 800m freestyle events at Tokyo.

There will be another Australian debutant to watch in the women’s backstroke too, who rocketed into favouritism in the 100m event after breaking the world record at the Australian Olympic Swimming Trials.

Kaylee McKeown, who will be 20 by the time she takes to the pool at Tokyo, eclipsed the previous world record by 0.12 seconds to swim a 57.45 in the 100m backstroke event at the Trials. 

In the men’s events, Kyle Chalmers will defend his Rio gold in the 100m freestyle, while Mitch Larkin will be competing at his third games, representing the Aussies in the 100m backstroke and 200m individual medley.

Reflecting on Rio

Australia won five medals – two gold, two silver and a bronze, in individual swimming events at Rio. 

Kyle Chalmers will have the chance to defend his gold in the men’s 100m freestyle at Rio, however, Mack Horton, who won Gold in the men’s 400m freestyle, will not be competing in the event at Tokyo, but will feature in the relays. 

Mitch Larkin won silver in the Men’s 200m backstroke in Tokyo, but will not be competing in the 200m event at Tokyo, instead of contending for a second Olympic backstroke medal in the 100m discipline. 

Australia’s Emma McKeon will also have a chance to improve on her Bronze medal in the women’s 200m freestyle at Rio, while she will also compete in the 50m and 100m freestyle events and the 100m butterfly. Madison Wilson also won a silver medal in the women’s 200m butterfly at Rio, but won’t get the chance to aim higher at Tokyo, having qualified solely for the relays.

Katie Ledecky from the U.S won three gold medals in the women’s freestyle events, while Hungary’s Katinka Hosszú claimed gold in both the women’s individual medley events. 

U.S. Olympic legend Michael Phelps won gold in the men’s 200m butterfly and 200m individual medley, and silver in the men’s 100m butterfly at Rio, his final Olympic Games. Phelps’ U.S. teammate Ryan Murphy won gold in the men’s 100m and 200m backstroke as the only other dual gold medallist at Rio. 

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A deep dive into the swimming fixture

July 24 marks the beginning of nine days in the pool and is the only day where a medal will not be awarded. 

Day one consists of various heats and from then on, it is eight straight days of red hot competition with swimmers from across the globe all vying for the same goal – to bring home Olympic gold for their country. 

There are plenty of Aussies in with a chance of writing their name into the record books, but they will have to overcome a myriad of elite competitors to do so. 

So you don’t have to, we have taken a look at each day’s competition and picked out a couple of must-watch competitors that will line up as favourites in their respective events. 

July 24 

Although no medals are on offer, nobody wants to miss opening day in the pool. 

It has been a long road for these athletes, particularly given the delayed Olympics, so being able to dip their toes in the water on July 24 will be euphoric for the competitors.

July 25

The morning’s action kicks off with a bang as the men’s 400m medley final will decide who takes home Olympic gold in one of the most difficult events in the pool.

Rio bronze medallist, Daiya Seto, is the strong gold medal favourite heading into the games and definitely one to keep an eye on.  

The other gold to be decided on the 25th is the men’s 400m freestyle, with former Olympic Champion Mack Horton a notable absentee, leaving the field wide-open. 

July 26

Day three in the pool plays host to the first women’s gold medal opportunity with both the 100m butterfly and 400m freestyle to be decided. 

Canadian Maggie Macneil will head into the butterfly as the heavy favourite with her 48.89 swim earlier this year a remarkable effort. 

The 400m freestyle is one of the most mouth-watering events of the entire Olympics as decorated champion Katie Ledecky will look to defend her crown against the up-and-coming Aussie, Ariarne Titmus

Titmus has shown extraordinary form in the lead-up to the games but knocking Ledecky off of her perch will be a tough task for the 20-year-old. 

For the men, it’s the 100m Breaststroke final with the crowned jewel of British swimming, Adam Peaty, who is as close to a lock as you can get to bringing home gold. 

July 27

Tuesday marks the beginning of the “we’re not playing around anymore” stage of the competition as four individual gold medals will be decided. 

Kyle Chalmers is set to feature in the 200m freestyle final with reigning champion Sun Yang unable to defend his title due to a highly publicised doping scandal barring him from competition in Tokyo.

Also competing for gold on the 27th will be Aussie Mitch Larkin as he looks to bring home a medal in the 100m backstroke

July 28

Wednesday plays host to, you guessed it, more gold medal opportunities, but Aussies might be more inclined to watch the heats in the evening than the finals in the morning. 

Newly minted Australian Flagbearer Cate Campbell takes to the pool for the first time this Olympics as the Women’s 100m freestyle heats get underway. 

In the medal races, we get another chance to watch Titmus vs Ledecky but they may both be pipped to the post in the 200m Freestyle by highly respected Italian, Federica Pellegrini. 

July 29

Thursday represents a chance for Adelaide boy Kyle Chalmers to back up an incredible debut Olympics and retain the Gold Medal in the 100m Freestyle

Snapping at his heels will be Caeleb Dressel, the lightning-fast American looking to go one better than his sixth-place finish in 2016. 

Also in action will be Zac Stubblety-Cook in the 200m breaststroke, fresh off of an Australian Record swim at the Olympic trials. 

He will need to be at his best to knock off Russian competitor, Anton Chupkov, who won bronze in 2016 and has only improved. 

July 30

Friday morning brings with it a number of medal opportunities, most notably the women’s 100m freestyle event where Cate Campbell will once again hunt for gold. 

In Rio, Penny Oleksiak and Simone Manuel tied for the gold medal in this event, meaning that Cate will have to pull out a very strong swim in order to finish first. 

Also in action are the men competing in the 200m individual medley, where once again, Daiya Seto of Japan will be the one to beat. 

July 31

It’s a super Saturday in the pool with four gold medals on the line, three of which in the individual events. 

For the men, the 100m butterfly final is the pick of the day, with Caeleb Dressel again the strong favourite. 

The women’s 200m backstroke will be decided on the penultimate day of competition, with Katinka Hosszú of Hungary looking to go one better than her silver medal finish in Rio. 

August 1

The first day of the new month means the final day of competition in the pool for the Tokyo Olympics. 

As for short-distance swimming, don’t blink, because the day will be over quickly with the 50m freestyle events for both men and women the only two events on the card.

Cate Campbell will be the only Aussie swimming as she looks to take down Swede Sarah Sjostrom

Sjostrom missed the European Championships earlier this year with an elbow injury but will be looking to make up for lost time when she takes to the water in Tokyo.

Short distance swimming set to make a splash

It has been a long five years since Olympic swimming graced our screens and with Rio an underwhelming hunting ground for the Aussies, there is a lot to prove.

Of Australia’s 152 total Olympic gold medals, 60 of them have come in the pool, so for Mack Horton and Kyle Chalmers to be the only men to bring home gold in Rio, as well as the women’s 4x100m freestyle team, it was a disappointing year.

But, Tokyo represents a brand new opportunity for the Aussies to strut their stuff, though the field is once again full of incredible swimmers.

Katie Ledecky continues to improve which is a scary thought for anyone else daring to take her on. The 24-year-old already has such a full trophy cabinet and she will look to add to that in Tokyo.

Caeleb Dressel has been named a captain of the USA team and will be looking to live up to lofty expectations as he heads into many of his races as odds on favourite.

With Michael Phelps retiring from Olympic competition following Rio 2016, men’s swimming is now on the hunt for a new poster boy.

While we may not see a career quite like Phelps’ ever again, the stage is set for someone to take on the mantle.

It all kicks off on July 24 and from then on, right through to August 1, there is barely a chance to come up for air as the swimmers will light up Tokyo for nine straight days.

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