It is time for a Women’s Olympic 1500 meter Freestyle

by SwimSwam 62

August 14th, 2015 International, News, Opinion

SwimSwam welcomes reader submissions about all topics aquatic, and if it’s well-written, we might just post it under our “Shouts from the Stands” series. We don’t necessarily endorse the content of the Shouts from the Stands posts, and the opinions remain those of their authors. If you have thoughts to share, please send them to [email protected]

This SHOUT FROM THE STANDS is courtesy of an anonymous college swimming coach

The Robin Williams movie Jumaji is an absolute classic (R.I.P., sweet prince). Now you may have just read that line and thought “He’s not wrong, but what on earth does this have to do with swimming?” One of the most memorable lines in the movie (thanks to the popularity of an internet meme) is when Robin Williams’ character Alan is finally released from the game and he begins asking frantically “What year is it?!”

What year is it? It’s 2015. We have things like pizza topped with mini pizzas, wristwatches that can connect to the internet and make phone calls, and cars that can drive themselves. Gay marriage is legal nation-wide. We have elected a black President…twice. So why, in a world where we seem to be progressing and evolving so profoundly in a variety of ways, are we still having our men and women compete in different lengths of distance freestyle events?

What year is it?!

It’s not 1912, when Women’s swimming was finally added to the Olympics after 18 years of only Men’s events in the Games. They were “allowed” to compete in only two freestyle races, the 100m freestyle and the 4 x 100 freestyle relay. Meanwhile, the Men’s events included the 100m, 400m, 1500m freestyle, the 100m backstroke, the 200m and 400m breaststroke and the 4 x 200m freestyle relay. I guess they didn’t want any of those gals’ dainty little arms to get tired. Yes, 1912 was a different time back then. We were still 8 years away from the 19th Amendment in the US, giving women the right to vote. But come on, two events?!

It’s not 1920, when Women’s events were expanded to include the 300m freestyle. (Oh…a third event!) Still 100m shorter than the men’s freestyle equivalent of 400m. They just can’t quite give them that extra 100m in case they started to cry. I guess after Sybil Bauer broke the men’s 440m backstroke world record in 1922 they realized they better give the women another stroke to compete in because in 1924 backstroke and breaststroke were added to the women’s lineup. Still, the event total was 6-5 in favor of the Men. Because 6 events would have gotten too difficult for those lasses.

It’s not 1956 when butterfly was included as an Olympic event. And it was so nice of them to add butterfly as an option for both men and women in the same Olympics. Except for the fact that they added it as a 200m race for the men and a 100m race for the women. Wouldn’t want them to get too tired now, would we?

It’s not 1968 when the women were finally awarded a freestyle race over 400m long in the form of the 800m. A little more than half of the length of the Men’s longest freestyle event. Still, it wasn’t until 8 years later in the 1976 Games that the number of events offered to both Men and Women was first made equal at 13 a piece. It would stay this way each until 1984 when the number of events went back in favor of the Men at 15-14 with the difference being an additional relay. By 1996, after the addition of the Women’s 4 x 200m Freestyle relay as well as the 50m Freestyle for both sexes, the number of events was even at 16.

In 2008 we adopted the 10km marathon swim and the 34-event lineup that we operate with today was finalized. And so now, in 2015 Men and Women have the same event program with only one exception: the Men swim the 1500m freestyle while the Women compete in the 800m Freestyle.

But, why? What year is it?!

In a sport that is constantly evolving and a society that is progressing before our eyes, why have we somehow managed to retain one of the most ridiculous disparities in our sport? Are we trying to protect our women from something? Is it because Women can’t physiologically handle the extra 700m? Tell that to Katie Ledecky, whose current 15:25.48 would be ranked 90th in the world for men. Let me remind you she is an 18-year old woman. I bet she was really struggling through that final 700m.

How do we fix this problem?

Just nix the 800m and open the 1500m to all competitors? Possibly. But maybe a better idea would be to keep both events and allow both Men and Women the option to swim the 800m as well as the 1500m. Because after all, it’s 2015. And let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want to see Katie Ledecky in one more Olympic event? That’s what I thought.

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Teara Ray
6 years ago

With swimming so popular in the Olympics, they could expand interest that much further by adding the1500m for women and 800 for men. It is hard to explain to young girls why even though the 1500m is their best event, it can’t be a goal or dream to swim it in the Olympics. How do you explain to young girls that they are important in athletics, when clearly they are being told they do not matter as much as the men who are allowed to swim the longer 1500m in the Olympics? With 12 & 13 year olds posting extremely fast times in the 1500m, the excuse that women can’t handle the race, just highlights the sad reality of discrimination.… Read more »

Jon Cristofer Miller
6 years ago

Back in the late 1950’s, I was the last man on a minor sport at a small college [Pomona], but I had a great time as an amateur. After the 1956 Olympics, three Olympians became freshmen on a USC with seemingly too few others to field a full team. Back then, varsity and frosh competed separately. Of course, USC was stronger, but we had some good swimmers on both our teams. However, our freshman team was especially good and was tied until the freestyle relay at the end. Watching the Australian Olympian [ ] – from just a few feet away – swim so effortlessly though off his world record time of 4:22 in the 440 yds [~400 meters] was… Read more »

Terri Ray
7 years ago

Imagine how sad it was for my 12 year old to find out that her best event is not an Olympic event for girls – just for boys. How do I explain such blatant discrimination and teach her she can be anything she works hard enough to become – except that only men get to do the 1500m in the Olympics. Amazing to me that it is possible that it might not change. The 800m and 1500m should be events for both men and women and there will be plenty of viewers and money for the Networks. The time for change is now for Katie Ledecky to swim it at the 2020 Olympics as she certainly has earned it. We… Read more »

BG in HTown
7 years ago

Mixed -Tshirt Beer Medley Relay

Think of the sponsorship opportunities! This could be the last race at the end of the entire swim competition, and would immediately become the most prized, competitive, and fun relay event for both competitors and viewers. Especially if you have to factor in legal drinking age for the given country when making up the team! Each relay team might also have to have the oldest member of a given country’s Olympic swim team as a mandatory member, this would keep Phelps and Lochte trying to make the team well into their 40s! Dara Torres might even come out of retirement!

Or..for those not wanting to do the beer thing..could just be a TShirt relay as… Read more »

BG in HTown
7 years ago

Mixed Beer Relay.

Oh yes. Think of the sponsorship money.

Jim C
7 years ago

We don’t need 2 IMs. but we need 6 freestyle races?

Jean Marie
7 years ago

I would like to see the 800f included for men and the 1500f for the women, and possibly remove the 200im. Do we really need both IMs? The 400im is considered the “decathlon” of swimming. In track & field there is only one decathlon and not another smaller version of it. In addition, I would like to see the relays evened out by including a 4×50 medley to give the 50m specialists something to compete in.

Your boy
7 years ago

Phelps could’ve probably won the 400 free and 1500 at Beijing if he’d had swam it

Reply to  Your boy
7 years ago

1500… thats funny…