Olympics 2021: Why swimming finals are being held in the morning

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Kyle Chalmers, pictured here at a Swimming Australia training camp ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.
Kyle Chalmers at a Swimming Australia training camp ahead of the Tokyo Olympics. (Photo by Delly Carr/Swimming Australia via Getty Images)

Olympics organisers have done away with tradition for the Tokyo Games, switching the swimming heats to night time and the finals to the morning.

Swimming heats are always held in the morning session at Olympic Games, followed by the finals in the evening session on the same day.

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However the heats will be held in the night session this year, followed by finals the next morning.

And there's a very simple reason for the switch - the American TV audience.

While the time difference is perfect for the Australian audience, it's not exactly ideal for Americans.

Swimming finals would be broadcast in the early hours of the morning in the States if they took place in the night time in Tokyo.

So organisers have made the change to satisfy the billion-dollar TV networks in America.

The same situation occurred 13 years ago at the Beijing Olympics when broadcasters wanted to show Michael Phelps’ chase for eight gold medals in prime time in America.

“We did the same thing back in 2008 - flipped the prelims and finals in the spring meet right before trials,” Lindsay Mintenko, managing director for the US national team said. 

“It feels important to give them a practice run with the format so they aren’t doing it for the first time at the Olympic Games.”

Aussie swimmers prime for Olympic battle

Australia looks set to shine in the pool in Tokyo and could topple the American powerhouse in the process.

Of the 14 individual Olympic swimming races, an Australian ranks top in seven and an American top in five.

And Australia boast exceptional strength in relays, led by a women's 4x100m freestyle team seeking to win gold for a third Olympics in a row.

"On paper, it looks like we are (looking good)," head coach Rohan Taylor said ahead of Saturday's first session at the pool.

"But you know when you come to this competition, it's about who has the competitive IQ to perform under pressure.

Cate Campbell, pictured here before the Tokyo Olympics swimming event.
Cate Campbell looks on before the Tokyo Olympics. (Photo by Delly Carr/Swimming Australia via Getty Images)

"The American system breeds competitive athletes, their whole college system, the best competitive people come out of the top.

"But we believe this year we have some really strong competitive, strong mentally competitive athletes."

Taylor isn't keen on making predictions about Australia's potential medal tally.

The nation's best Olympics at the pool is eight golds at Melbourne's 1956 Games.

For all Australia's strengths, Taylor is wary of the US flexing its muscles.

"The Americans have proven historically at the Olympics that they perform," Taylor said.

"So for us, you know they're the standard that were striving for. And they rightly so have deserved that."

Sprinters Emma McKeon and Cate Campbell, backstroker Kaylee McKeown and middle-distance freestyler Ariarne Titmus are among those with world-best times entering the Tokyo Games.

Australia's 4x100m freestyle relayers - Cate and Bronte Campbell, McKeon and Madi Wilson - are also overwhelming favourites.

with AAP

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