/ swimming

Olympic Swimming 101: Preparing to Cheer on Team USA

The 2021 Olympic Games are being held in Tokyo, Japan, and swimming events begin on Saturday, July 24th. We pulled together some basics for watching swimming in the Olympic Games to help your family cheer on Team USA in the pool and to put into context what your swimmers are learning at Big Blue!

  • Olympic swimming takes place inside a 50-meter-long swimming pool and is divided into eight lanes for racing. A Big Blue level swimmer would have to swim about 8 laps in a Big Blue Swim School pool to swim 50 meters.
  • Swimmers race each other at varying distances, swimming one (or all, for medley events) of four strokes: freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, and butterfly. Big Blue Swim School swimmers start learning back float in our Baby Blue 1 level and short distances of freestyle in our Baby Blue 2 level. They continue to work on longer distances of freestyle and backstroke throughout the Bright Blue and Bold Blue levels. We introduce breaststroke and butterfly kicking in Bold Blue 3, and our Big Blue level swimmers practice all four strokes in every lesson.
  • Swimmers start simultaneously from elevated starting platforms called "blocks" (with the exception of backstroke races, which start in the water) at the sound of a tone, and the winner is the first to touch the wall of the pool after swimming the race's set distance, which can be as short as 50 meters (one lap in an Olympic-sized pool) or as long as 1,500 meters (30 laps in an Olympic-sized pool).
  • While the events have changed since swimming was first introduced to the Olympic Games in 1896, there are currently 17 total Olympic swimming events for both women and men. New to the Olympic program this year is a mixed medley relay, which will include teams of two female and two male swimmers per country.
  • Every country sends their top two swimmers in every individual event, and a team of four swimmers for each of the seven relays (women's and men's 4x100 meter freestyle, women's and men's 4x100 meter medley, women's and men's 4x200 meter freestyle,  and a mixed gender 4x100 meter medley).
  • The United States has historically dominated Olympic swimming. The United States has won 553 total medals in swimming (246 gold, 172 silver, 135 bronze), the most of any country. Australia has the second most at 188 total medals. Similarly, we love celebrating Big Moments in the water every day with kids, like with ribbons when a swimmer completes a swim level.

We hope this information gives you a beginning foundation for what to look for and talk about with your kids when cheering on Team USA during the swimming events, and that the Olympic swimmers give kids some inspiration for their next weekly swim lessons!