Distance Events and Mixed Medley Relay Added to Tokyo Olympics

In a set of changes that might both excite and frustrate swim fans, the IOC announced today that the men’s 800 freestyle, the women’s 1500 freestyle, and the mixed 400 medley relay will all be added to the swimming program for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

The addition of the women’s 1500 and the men’s 800 free will mean that men and women will finally compete with the same exact event lineup, something for which fans have clamored for years.  Previously the 800 free was the longest women’s event.  Men have competed in the mile or 1500m free in the Olympics since 1904, while the women’s 800m free has been part of the Olympic program since 1968.

This will presumably provide world record holder Katie Ledecky with an opportunity to become the first woman to win an Olympic gold in the event.  Of course, other distance swimmers should benefit as well.  At the 2013 World Championships, Chinese star Sun Yang won both the 800 and 1500 free (along with the 400 free), while Canada’s Ryan Cochrane earned a medal in each event.  Italy’s Gregorio Paltrinieri, the Rio 1500m champion, is another swimmer who has earned medals in both events.

Fans may be less thrilled about the addition of the mixed medley relay.  It has been part of the long course summer world championship schedule since 2015, but it seemed like countries did not take mixed relays as seriously as they did the gender-specific ones.  However, adding the event to the Olympic program may mean that it takes on increased prestige at world championships, including this summer’s competition in Budapest.

There was no indication from the IOC whether or not the additional events would impact any limits on each country’s roster size, currently set at 26 per gender, but given that the same IOC release stated that the overall number of swimmers will decrease by 22, an increase in team size does not seem likely.

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Distance Swimmer
4 years ago

So, will the squad only be allowed 22 men and women instead of 26?!

Todd Kramer
Reply to  Distance Swimmer
4 years ago

I believe that they are allowed 26 swimmers, but that the TOTAL number of swimmers at the Olympics will decrease by 22. That likely means that the swimmers that get in based off of secondary criteria will have a harder time of getting in. Won’t affect the US as all of their competitors will have ‘A’ times.

Rafael
Reply to  Todd Kramer
4 years ago

That will limit the quantity of Invites as many countries will use the A times to qualify.. and it will increase the “fight” over B Times..

Brownie
4 years ago

They put the mixed medley in but no 50s of strokes come on now I think we’d all rather see the 50s

Annie Murer
Reply to  Brownie
4 years ago

I would love to see a 50 fly

Brownie
Reply to  Annie Murer
4 years ago

Because dressel would win it!!!!!!!

Alsmom
Reply to  Annie Murer
4 years ago

Oh man that would be epic!!

Swimmer
Reply to  Brownie
4 years ago

I’d rather see a 400 of strokes

Swammerererer
Reply to  Brownie
4 years ago

at the very worst I’d rather see 200 free and 200 medley relays

RickSwim
Reply to  Brownie
4 years ago

Adding stroke 50’s With heats semis and finals would be hard to add into an 8 day format and with no additional swimmers per team !!! ??? Think about it ?

Yeahboy
4 years ago

Shame not to see any more 50’s introduced!

Dan D.
4 years ago

Ledecky and Peaty are basically guaranteed one more medal each at Tokyo. Can’t wait to watch USA vs Britain vs Australia in the mixed medley relay.

FightingIrish
Reply to  Dan D.
4 years ago

GB need BK(M), FL(F), FR(F). Unless an outstanding BK(F) comes through to use Scott on FR.

Dan D.
Reply to  FightingIrish
4 years ago

I’m predicting Walker-Hebborn (M) for back, Peaty (M) for breast, Marie-O’Connor (F) for fly. Don’t know who they’ll put on free with Halsall retired now, though. I think the Aussies need to be watched–they have a couple great combinations. Larkin (M) on back, McKeown (F) on breast, McKeon/Groves (F) on fly, and McEvoy/Chalmers (M) on free, for example.

commonwombat
Reply to  Dan D.
4 years ago

One prob with your putative AUS line-up is that McKeown is very much a 200 BRS who struggles to get it quite together over the shorter journey. They need to find someone between now and Tokyo. McKeonE would be AUS’s only option for female fly; Groves has never got it together internationally over the shorter trip

Some might put O’Connor on BRS or FS rather than FLY. She’s currently GBR’S only sub54 100 freestyler although they would hope Anderson might fill the gap. Her fly seems to have gone off over the past few years perhaps due to concentrating on other strokes. Thomas seems to be GBR’s current top 100 flyer albeit a long way off being particularly internationally competitive

Dan D.
Reply to  commonwombat
4 years ago

True. But I do wonder if the combination of Larkin and Chalmers/McEvoy on the relay could still make AUS competitive for a medal. I think the medals will include USA (Gold) and GB. I can’t think of any other countries aside from Australia that have enough medley sprint talent on both sides to be a good bet for a medal.

You’re right, O’Connor is a great freestyler. They could go with Walker-Hebborn, Peaty, Thomas, O’Connor. James Guy is a formidable butterflyer, but I don’t think GBR has a lady backstroker who’s fast enough for it to make sense to replace Walker-Hebborn with Guy. Regardless, Peaty could quite realistically go over 2 seconds faster than the second-fastest breaststroker in the field,… Read more »

chebstroke
Reply to  FightingIrish
4 years ago

Kathleen Dawson (20 this year) on 59 backstroke might be an option for GB. You’d have to assume she’s got a drop before Tokyo. It’s very difficult to look past Duncan Scott on the freestyle. He is the 2nd strongest British swimmer after Peaty in my opinion. People in Scotland have been predicting Olympic Gold for him long before his Rio performances. I would be thinking; Dawson, Peaty, O’Connor, Scott

Dan D.
Reply to  chebstroke
4 years ago

That’s a cool idea. Scott would be a huge relay asset for GB.

luke
Reply to  Dan D.
4 years ago

Wheres Peaty’s medal? You think GBR could beat Murphy-King-Shields(?)-Manuel?

Person
Reply to  luke
4 years ago

Wouldn’t have to beat them to win a medal

Dan D.
Reply to  luke
4 years ago

I think GB could get silver or bronze–not sure how realistic taking down the USA is. There aren’t any other countries that have a concentration of talent like the USA has for a mixed medley relay, so I think GB can knock off some other countries to get a medal–especially if Peaty can throw down a 56-low (56.6 in Rio) while other guys are going 58 if they’re really good.

Swimswum
Reply to  Dan D.
4 years ago

USA -Murphy, King, Worrell, Dressel. Gold.

MelRows
4 years ago

This is amazing! I have waited so long for the women’s 1500 to be added. I’m glad the IOC finally caught up with the times.

Swimmer A
4 years ago

I got what I wanted. Men’s 800 and women’s 1500. About time too.

He Gets It Done Again
4 years ago

Ledecky’s winning time in the first women’s 1500 at the Olympics will be faster than the winning time in the initial fifteen men’s 1500s at the Olympics.

meeeeee
Reply to  He Gets It Done Again
4 years ago

Your kidding, right? Her time will be several minutes faster!

Arvenko
Reply to  meeeeee
4 years ago

Read what he said. He said the “first fifteen” times the 1500 was swum.

MarkWorth
4 years ago

Ledecky could take 8 golds if she can get on the Relays

Tea rex
Reply to  MarkWorth
4 years ago

200, 400, 800, 1500, 4 im… That is potentially five individual events.
4×200 is a gimme.
4×100 FR would take a top-6-in-the-USA 100 free. Very possible.
Both MRs would take a best-in-the-USA 100 free. Very unlikely.

I get 7 events, in what would be an insane, Hosszu-ish schedule.

dmswim
Reply to  Tea rex
4 years ago

She would probably only have to be 2nd best in the USA in the 100 free to get a prelims spot for the MR relay, but I agree it’s still unlikely.

Jeff
Reply to  dmswim
4 years ago

Fact check: she doesn’t need to have top-6-in the US or best-in US to make relays, as this past olympics demonstrated for the 4×100 FR (which was a coaching decision).

swimmer24
Reply to  Jeff
4 years ago

Fact check part 2: She did have one of the top-6 100 free times in the US in 2016, but it was just not done at trials. She had the 5th fastest time with her 53.75 from the Austin Grand Prix.

tea rex
Reply to  Jeff
4 years ago

When I say Ledecky needs to be top 6 for the 4×100 FR and top 1 for the MR, I don’t mean she necessarily needs to finish in a certain place in Omaha. Exceptions are made when they are earned.

As always with Katie Ledecky, for all I know she could be throwing down a 51-point 100 free by 2020.

But if a hypothetical USA depth chart is:
52. Manuel
53. Ledecky
53. Weir
53. Neal
53. Franklin

… it is hard to justify using the swimmer who is also swimming ALL THE DISTANCES.

Nelson
Reply to  Tea rex
4 years ago

She won’t win gold in the 400 IM. Yes, she had a great scy IM this year but her long course time is far from the world’s best.

tea rex
Reply to  Nelson
4 years ago

Who knows? Janet Evans was not supposed to win the 400 IM either.

Every single time I have expected Ledecky to have peaked, she has not. It’s awesome, like watching Michael Phelps in 2003-2005.