New Events To Add To The Swimming Schedule

Courtesy: Corey He

As competitive swimmers, we know all the races on the swimming program by heart. In fact, in all likelihood, we’ve raced every single event at least once in our lives. Though I personally haven’t raced in quite some time, I do remember wishing — as a young age-group swimmer — that certain events could be added to the competitive swimming program.

And so we have it: here are a few events that I think, if added to the swimming schedule (especially at high-level meets), could make our sport a bit more exciting. As always, let me know if you have any other ideas — or if you think my event suggestions are moot, redundant, or even boring…

200-Meter (4×50) Relays

This one, in my opinion, requires little explanation. If the Short Course (25 m) World Championships features such relays, why shouldn’t they be featured at Long Course Worlds? In fact, I think that these would be some of the most exciting relays because there are so many world-class pure sprinters out there — meaning that these relays would come down to very fine margins.

Here’s another way to think about it. Many countries often use a ‘B’ squad during the preliminary heats to secure a lane in the 400-meter relay final, opting to rest their ‘A’ team. However, I think that using any sort of ‘B’ team could backfire because so much can happen in a 4×50 meter relay — and if one thing goes wrong, there’s very little chance of coming back from that.

This paves the way for upsets and overall unpredictability — we could see certain relay teams who are favorites yet failing to advance to the final, and vice versa. Add in a mixed version of these relays, and you get an even crazier toss-up (and a lot more to consider as either a swimmer, coach, or fan).

If the addition of such races fares positively at the World Championships, I could see them being something that one day shows up on the Olympic schedule.

Underwater Races

Ever since swimming’s rule changes limited athletes to just 15 meters underwater, I’ve always wondered if swimming could establish an event where athletes swim exclusively underwater. Maybe it’s because I grew up training in short course, where the walls were always essential.

It’s always said that you are faster under the water than you are on top of the water. That gets me wondering how fast swimmers can achieve the 50-meter and 100-meter underwater sprints. In all likelihood, I can’t imagine there being a 200-meter underwater event simply because I can’t imagine someone having to hold their breath that long while sprinting underwater.

At least I would never be able to do that.

Some More Food For Thought…

I’ve always found it quite interesting how even though the World Championships — in both the short course and long course formats — feature the 50-meter sprints, the Olympic swimming schedule does not. It’s left me wondering why the 50 freestyle is always a mainstay on the schedule, while the other 50s of stroke get left out (so unfair!).

Frequently, athletes are at their best during an Olympic year simply because of the increased pressure, intensity, and significance that the Olympic Games carry — and since it only comes around once every four years, making it extra special. By this logic, I feel that the world records in the stroke 50s could see a lot more progression if they were featured in every Olympiad.

In fact, now that I think about it, if you exclude the recently-set 50 backstroke world record (by Kliment Kolesnikov) and the super-suited 50 freestyle world record (by Cesar Cielo), the world records in the 50 breaststroke and 50 butterfly have not been broken for six and seven years, respectively. Having these events on the Olympic program could definitely cause some records to come off the books.

And, above all, 50-meter sprints always promise to be unpredictable, exciting, and very close. Who doesn’t want to see more close races — and, with that, more potential upsets?

Final Thoughts

If I had to rank these events in order of how much I’d like to see these races implemented to the program, I’d say this: first would be the 50s of stroke; then we have the 200 freestyle relay; then comes the 200 medley relay; and then, finally, the underwater races.

And if you’re not fully sold on the idea of having these 50-meter stroke sprints, here’s another way to think about it. Until the Tokyo Olympics, the distance freestyle events only featured the 800 for women and the 1500 for men. Now, men and women get to race both distance events at every Olympics. If distance swimming is expanding its repertoire, so should sprint swimming!

Well, that’s my take. Let me know if you agree, disagree, or just want to see some exciting, competitive racing this summer.


Corey is a current junior at the University of Pennsylvania, studying biology and healthcare management on a pre-medicine track. Originally from New Jersey, he first jumped into the water when he was 4 years old and swam competitively all the way through high school. Prior to college, he swam for Fanwood-Scotch Plains YMCA. He hopes to pursue a career in sports medicine.

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4 days ago

More events for the speciallty strokes ?
Come on .
People outside the swimming community liken these non freestyle events as akin to having track races for running backwards or a hopping or skipping race.
Mayby acceptable at a children’s fun day but that’s about it

Follow my bubbles
5 days ago

This is a bit radical… what about changing the structure itself? In dual meets, perhaps the events are unstructured and there is a coinflip for the winning team to determine the first event. The winner of that event (by points) would then determine the next event, and so on.

The teams could be restricted in total numbers of splashes for their swimmers, so they’d have to be strategic in where/how they’d want to score points.

This would make the flow of the meet to be more like a game where there are momentum shifts and strategy involved. If a team stole an event, they’d then get to pick their preferred next event to try to stack points or disadvantage… Read more »

5 days ago

I really think we she see dedicated multi-event meets. Similar to decathlon or heptathlon but for swimming. Definitely a 50 free, 200 free, 1500 free. Then maybe 100s of each stroke. The final event should be the 400IM.

Give swimmers points based on finishing positions (heat decides winner). After the first event, seeding is based on current rank, circle-seeded, 3 heats maximum. For the final 400im event use fastest heat.

I think it would probably needed good scheduling, with other events in-between to give adequate recovery time but part of the challenge would be managing your energy throughout the day and the TV coverage could make a big deal out of that. Have all the swimmers have to do their… Read more »

Tea rex
5 days ago

2x 2x 100 MR. For example:
Bk – Regan Smith
Br – Kate Douglass
Fl – Regan
Fr – Kate


Bk – Kaylee McKeown
Fly – Emma McKeon
Br – McKeown
Fr – McKeon

Could even do it mixed. There’d be some real strategy in how hard to take your first 100, since you get about 1 min rest.
Other potential teams:
Knox/Kharun (or Acevedo)

Reply to  Tea rex
5 days ago

Like the idea but you couldn’t make it down to the other side in time.

Just Keep Swimming
Reply to  ZThomas
5 days ago

It’s 2 x 2 x 100, meaning 4 x 100s, so there is no getting to the other side of the pool

5 days ago

Maybe they could bring the 200m obstacle race back to Olympic competition though..

Reply to  Oceanian
5 days ago

Yes, and I train for that, trying to swim laps in my local pool! 🙂

5 days ago

No new events are needed, especially 4×50 relays. Would rather see a 4×200 medley if any relay was to be added.

Robert Ruth
5 days ago

Without doubt, my fav addition would be an 800 IM relay. (I know what I’m saying, IM, not medley)
Featuring IM in relay means a lot of lead changes. More strategy. Above all, more emphasis on all-round develoment- from age-group to Olympics.

Other than that, I’d like 300yd relays occasionally. Maybe 600 relays. Different psych & physically. Fun. Also slightly diff skill set

Reply to  Robert Ruth
5 days ago

800 IM relay >>>> mixed relay.

1650 Onetrick
5 days ago

I think some of these could work depending on the level of the meet.

Like everyone else has said, the Olympic program is already too much so prolly shouldn’t add events there, but I could see 200 relays at Worlds if we removed semis from the 200-length events.

But I think age group meets, especially for 12 and under, could benefit from underwater races, off-distance races (like the Edie Reese invite), or one-stroke non-free relays. It would make it more exciting for everyone involved and hopefully keep people engaged with the sport longer