Aim of the game
Competitors race over a 10km open-water circuit, with the first swimmer to strike the touch pad at the finish line winning the race
Why should you watch this?
Marathon swimming is a bona-fide test of strength, strategy and endurance, and at the Rio 2016 Games, it will take place against the beautiful backdrop of Copacabana beach
Part of the course just before the finish where buoys and lane lines are used to guide the swimmers towards the finish line
Term used to describe conditions when wind causes lots of waves that can affect the swimmers' performance
When two or more swimmers finish very close together, images from high-speed cameras are used to determine who touched first
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Rock paintings and mythological references show that in prehistoric times, people learned to swim in open waters
Englishman Matthew Webb pioneered marathon swimming in 1875, as the first person to swim the English Channel, completing the 34km in 21 hours 45 mins
The 10km marathon swim was first introduced to the Olympic programme at the Beijing 2008 Games
London 2012 saw a dramatic finale to the women's race when Eva Risztov, from Hungary, beat American Haley Anderson by four-tenths of a second
Also in 2012, 16-year-old Benjamin Schulte (Guam) received a standing ovation after battling through the pain barrier to finish almost 14 minutes behind the winner
Germany's Thomas Lurz is the only athlete to win two marathon swimming medals: bronze at Beijing 2008 and silver at London 2012
Hungarian veteran Eva Risztov retired from the pool in 2004 before making a comeback in open water and winning the London 2012 title
Tunisia's Oussama Mellouli was the 1st to win pool and open water medals at the same Games when he won marathon swimming gold and 1500m bronze in London
Olympic marathon swimming is usually staged in beautiful locations: Shunyi Park at Beijing 2008, Hyde Park at London 2012 and Copacabana beach at Rio 2016
Both the men’s and women’s events feature 25 swimmers who set off in a ‘mass start’. The Rio 2016 course will comprise a circuit, with a minimum depth of 1.4m, marked by buoys that competitors must swim around.
Swimmers are marked with their number for identification and a microchip bracelet on their wrists to record their time. Any swimmer without their chip at the end is disqualified.
The finish line is marked by a touch panel, at least 5m wide, which is suspended above the water. Swimmers must touch this panel to record their arrival.
A team of six time keepers and finish judges are divided between the pontoon and a boat on the opposite side of the finish line. They record the finishing order and provide back-up timings.
Officials on boats follow the swimmers along the course to monitor the race and ensure that competitors are safe. The water temperature is checked two hours before the race and must be between 16ºC and 31ºC.
nedMaarten van der Weijden
Athletes & Teams
|16 - 20||12|
|21 - 25||47|
|26 - 30||22|
|31 - 40||20|