The world’s biggest swim meet takes center stage on the opening week of the Tokyo Games, with past Olympic stars looking to cement their legacies and young up-and-comers eager to take their places atop the medal podium.

A total of 111 swimming medals will be handed out in 37 events with new distances, a new relay and a flipped competition schedule ramping up the intrigue in Tokyo.

Here’s what to know about swimming at the Tokyo Olympics.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Where will the Olympic swimming take place?
  • How is the schedule format unique?
  • What are the new events?
  • Who are the U.S. athletes to watch?
  • Who are the international athletes to watch?
  • What about China’s Sun Yang?

Where will the Olympic swimming take place?

Tokyo’s newly built Aquatics Centre will host all of the indoor swimming events. The venue has a capacity of 15,000, but because of restrictions related to the coronavirus, it won’t hold any spectators during the Summer Games.

The facility is one of eight venues built from scratch for these Olympics. It was originally scheduled to open in March 2020 but wasn’t unveiled to the public until October. The high-tech pool has movable walls and flooring, which means the size and depth of the pool can be adjusted for future competitions.

How is the schedule format unique?

The time-honored swimming schedule at meets big and small calls for preliminary qualifying heats to take place in the morning, followed by event finals in the evening. But these Olympics will feature a flipped schedule, and swimmers will be tasked with waking up and tackling finals in the mornings in Tokyo.

That format will allow for the competition to air live during prime time in the United States, which means NBC won’t have to broadcast one of its most popular Olympic events on tape delay. The only other time swimmers were asked to race morning finals at a big meet was the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, where Michael Phelps won eight gold medals.

Swimming is the only sport at the Tokyo Olympics that has adjusted its schedule in this manner.

What are the new events?

The men have swum the 1,500-meter freestyle at the Olympics since 1908. The women have competed at the distance for decades, but it wasn’t added to the FINA world championships program until 2001. The Tokyo Games will mark the first time women will swim the distance at an Olympics, and Ledecky, owner of the world record and the 11 fastest 1,500 times in history, is a heavy favorite.

To keep the opportunities equal among the genders, swimming officials are adding the 800-meter freestyle race for men. Previously, the men had no options between the 400 and the 1,500.

The Tokyo Games also will feature a new relay: the mixed 4x100 medley. The competing countries will field teams that include two men and two women, and each swimmer will race a single stroke — backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly or freestyle. The relay made its debut at the 2015 world championships and has proved to be a fan favorite.

Who are the U.S. athletes to watch?

Freestyle specialist Katie Ledecky, already a five-time Olympic gold medalist, will be competing in her third Games and will be a podium favorite every time she jumps in the pool. The 24-year-old is set to race in the 200-, 400-, 800- and 1,500-meter races and the 4x200 freestyle relay.

Caeleb Dressel will be the face of the men’s team and will tackle a busy schedule that could have him in line for at least six medals. Dressel won seven gold medals at the 2017 world championships and then claimed six in 2019. In Tokyo, he could challenge world records in the 50- and 100-meter freestyle races, in addition to the 100-meter butterfly record he set in 2019. Dressel will also be a key piece of three Tokyo relay teams (the 4x100 freestyle, 4x100 medley and 4x100 mixed medley) with an outside shot at the 4x200 freestyle, too.

Simone Manuel won four medals at the 2016 Olympics — two of them gold — but nearly missed qualifying for the Tokyo team, as she was out for three weeks of critical training in the spring because of overtraining syndrome, a condition that she says drained her physically and mentally. After failing to qualify in the 100-meter freestyle race at the U.S. trials, Manuel was the first to reach the wall in the 50-meter sprint and punched her ticket to Tokyo.

Just 17 at the time, Michael Andrew barely missed out on making the 2016 Olympic team. Five years later, he’ll have a busy schedule in Tokyo and will be a podium contender in multiple events, including the 100-meter breaststroke, 200-meter individual medley and the 50-meter freestyle.

Lilly King, one of the breakout stars from the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, is back and as strong as ever. The 24-year-old will be looking to defend her 100-meter breaststroke title and this time around should also be a contender in the 200.

There will be plenty of new American faces in the Olympic pool this summer too. Regan Smith, 19, set a world record in the 100-meter backstroke at the 2019 world championships and will be a podium favorite in Tokyo, where she’ll also compete in the 200-meter butterfly. And 18-year old Torri Huske, fresh off high school graduation, benefited from the year-long Olympic postponement and should be a contender in the 100-meter butterfly after setting an American record at trials. Her time of 55.66 seconds is the third fastest ever.

Who are the international athletes to watch?

How dominant is Great Britain’s Adam Peaty in the 100-meter breaststroke? At the 2019 world championships, the world record holder touched the wall in 56.88 seconds to become the first man to finish in less than 57 seconds. Nobody else has been below 58 seconds. Peaty owns the 18 fastest times ever posted in the event.

If all eyes are on Ledecky in the freestyle events, expect Australia’s Ariarne Titmus to be in the same frame. She beat an under-the-weather Ledecky in the 400 meters at the 2019 world championships and sent a warning shot at Australia’s swimming trials last month. She nearly broke world marks in the 200- and 400-meter races there and will be a favorite in those events at Tokyo. She’ll also square off against Ledecky in the 800 and the 4x200 freestyle relay.

Perhaps the most surefire Tokyo prediction: Daiya Seto will have the host country behind him. The Japanese star won bronze in the 400 individual medley at the 2016 Olympics but took gold at the 2019 world championships and has posted the fastest time in the world this year.

With 17 world championship medals, Sarah Sjöström is already one of the most decorated female swimmers. The 27-year-old Swede will try to defend her Olympic title in the 100-meter butterfly. She’s the world record holder in that event, along with the 50- and 100-meter freestyle races. There’s some uncertainty surrounding Sjöström’s fourth Olympics, though. In February, she slipped on ice and fractured an elbow, hampering her training and limiting her competition schedule entering these Games.

With five Olympic medals to her name already, Australia’s Cate Campbell also will be competing in a fourth Olympics and will again be battling Sjöström for the top of the podium. She took bronze in the 50-meter freestyle at the 2019 world championships and silver in the 100. She’ll face stiff competition from fellow Australian sprinter Emma McKeon, who has posted the world’s three fastest 100-meter times of the year.

Katinka Hosszu took home three gold medals from the Rio Games and, at her fifth Olympics, she’s looking to add to her impressive résumé. She’ll try to defend her Olympic title in the 400 individual medley, but at 32, she might have a hard time matching her world record time from the Rio pool.

Fellow Hungarian Kristóf Milák will make his Olympic debut with big expectations. At 19, he broke Michael Phelps’s record in the 200 butterfly at the 2019 world championships and will be a heavy favorite to win the event in Tokyo.

What about China’s Sun Yang?

Sun Yang is a six-time Olympic medalist and China’s most accomplished swimmer. He won the 400-meter freestyle at the past four world championships and at the Rio Olympics took gold in the 200 and silver in the 400. But since then he has been ensnared in a doping scandal.

In 2018, Sun ordered a security guard to smash a vial containing his blood sample. The World Anti-Doping Agency took the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which issued an eight-year ban in February 2020. Sun appealed the decision to Swiss federal court, which in December kicked the case back to CAS.

The 29-year-old had hoped for a last-minute reprieve to a years-long doping inquiry, but a new panel of judges ruled in June that Sun would be banned for four years. That means he’ll miss the Tokyo Games but will be eligible before the 2024 Paris Games.

What is the schedule of Olympic swimming events?

Each of the nine days of indoor swimming events will be divided into morning and evening sessions. To accommodate U.S. television, preliminaries will be held in the evenings in Tokyo, and the finals will be held the next mornings in what some swimmers are calling “The Tokyo Twist.”

All times U.S. Eastern.

Saturday, July 24

Morning USA Network (live)

6:02 a.m. Men’s 400 individual medley preliminaries

6:28 a.m.: Women’s 100 butterfly preliminaries

6:48 a.m.: Men’s 400 freestyle preliminaries

7:30 a.m.: Women’s 400 individual medley preliminaries

7:55 a.m.: Men’s 100 breaststroke preliminaries

8:15 a.m.: Women’s 4x100 freestyle relay preliminaries

Evening NBC (live)

9:30 p.m.: Men’s 400 individual medley final

9:40 p.m.: Women’s 100 butterfly semifinals

9:52 p.m.: Men’s 400 freestyle final

10:12 p.m.: Women’s 400 individual medley final

10:33 p.m.: Men’s 100 breaststroke semifinals

10:45 p.m.: Women’s 4x100 freestyle relay final

Sunday, July 25

Morning USA Network (live)

6:02 a.m.: Women’s 100 backstroke preliminaries

6:22 a.m.: Men’s 200 freestyle preliminaries

6:59 a.m.: Women’s 100 breaststroke preliminaries

7:19 a.m.: Men’s 100 backstroke preliminaries

7:39 a.m.: Women’s 400 freestyle preliminaries

8:10 a.m.: Men’s 4x100 freestyle relay preliminaries

Evening NBC (live)

9:30 p.m.: Women’s 100 butterfly final

9:37 p.m.: Men’s 200 freestyle semifinals

9:50 p.m.: Women’s 100 breaststroke semifinals

10:12 p.m.: Men’s 100 breaststroke final

10:20 p.m.: Women’s 400 freestyle final

10:31 p.m.: Men’s 100 backstroke semifinals

10:53 p.m.: Women’s 100 backstroke semifinals

11:05 p.m.: Men’s 4x100 freestyle relay final

Monday, July 26

Morning USA Network (live)

6:02 a.m.: Women’s 200 freestyle preliminaries

6:29 a.m.: Men’s 200 butterfly preliminaries

6:56 a.m.: Women’s 200 individual medley preliminaries

7:32 a.m.: Women’s 1,500 freestyle preliminaries

Evening NBC (live)

9:30 p.m.: Women’s 200 freestyle semifinals

9:43 p.m.: Men’s 200 freestyle final

9:51 p.m.: Women’s 100 backstroke final

9:59 p.m.: Men’s 100 backstroke final

10:17 p.m.: Women’s 100 breaststroke final

10:35 p.m.: Men’s 200 butterfly semifinals

10:58 p.m.: Women’s 200 individual medley semifinals

Tuesday, July 27

Morning USA Network (live)

6:02 a.m.: Men’s 100 freestyle preliminaries

6:28 a.m.: Women’s 200 butterfly preliminaries

6:50 a.m.: Men’s 200 breaststroke preliminaries

7:17 a.m.: Men’s 4x200 freestyle relay preliminaries

7: 37 a.m.: Men’s 800 freestyle preliminaries

Evening NBC (live)

9:30 p.m.: Men’s 100 freestyle semifinals

9:41 p.m.: Women’s 200 freestyle final

9:49 p.m.: Men’s 200 butterfly final

9:57 p.m.: Women’s 200 butterfly semifinals

10:21 p.m.: Men’s 200 breaststroke semifinals

10:45 p.m.: Women’s 200 individual medley final

10:54 p.m.: Women’s 1,500 freestyle final

11:26 p.m.: Men’s 4x200 freestyle relay final

Wednesday, July 28

Morning USA Network (live)

6:02 a.m.: Women’s 100 freestyle preliminaries

6:25 a.m.: Men’s 200 backstroke preliminaries

6:52 a.m.: Women’s 200 breaststroke preliminaries

7:15 a.m.: Men’s 200 individual medley preliminaries

7: 34 a.m.: Women’s 4x200 freestyle relay preliminaries

Evening NBC (live)

9:30 p.m.: Men’s 800 freestyle final

9:44 p.m.: Men’s 200 breaststroke final

9:53 p.m.: Women’s 100 freestyle semifinals

10:04 p.m.: Men’s 200 backstroke semifinals

10:28 p.m.: Women’s 200 butterfly final

10:37 p.m.: Men’s 100 freestyle final

10:54 p.m.: Women’s 200 breaststroke semifinals

11:08 p.m.: Men’s 200 individual medley semifinals

11:31 p.m.: Women’s 4x200 freestyle relay final

Thursday, July 29

Morning USA Network (live)

6:02 a.m.: Women’s 800 freestyle preliminaries

6:50 a.m.: Men’s 100 butterfly preliminaries

7:02 a.m.: Women’s 200 backstroke preliminaries

7:28 a.m.: Mixed 4x100 medley relay preliminaries

Evening NBC (live)

9:30 p.m.: Men’s 100 butterfly semifinals

9:41 p.m.: Women’s 200 breaststroke final

9:50 p.m.: Men’s 200 backstroke final

9:59 p.m.: Women’s 100 freestyle final

10:16 p.m.: Men’s 200 individual medley final

10:35 p.m.: Women’s 200 backstroke semifinals

Friday, July 30

Morning USA Network (live)

6:02 a.m.: Men’s 50 freestyle preliminaries

6:24 a.m.: Women’s 50 freestyle preliminaries

6:48 a.m.: Men’s 1,500 freestyle preliminaries

8:36 a.m.: Women’s 4x100 medley relay preliminaries

8:50 a.m.: Men’s 4x100 medley relay preliminaries

Evening NBC (live)

9:30 p.m.: Men’s 100 butterfly final

9:37 p.m.: Women’s 200 backstroke final

9:46 p.m.: Women’s 800 freestyle final

10:11 p.m.: Men’s 50 freestyle semifinals

10:32 p.m.: Women’s 50 freestyle semifinals

10:43 p.m.: Mixed 4x100 medley relay final

Saturday, July 31

Evening NBC (live)

9:30 p.m.: Men’s 50 freestyle final

9:37 p.m.: Women’s 50 freestyle final

9:44 p.m.: Men’s 1,500 freestyle final

10:15 p.m.: Women’s 4x100 medley relay final

10:36 p.m.: Men’s 4x100 medley relay final

Who won the most medals in Rio?

The United States has been dominant in the Olympic pool and a regular atop the medal podium. At the 2016 Rio Olympics, the U.S. squad won 16 gold medals. Australia and Hungary were the next closest with three apiece.

Five years ago, the Americans won five of the relays — taking silver in the sixth — and brought home 33 swimming medals in all. That was more than three times more than the Aussies, who were second.