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Katie Ledecky returned to Olympic competition in typically dominant fashion, cruising to a win in her heat of the women’s 400m freestyle — the event she holds the world and Olympic records in. #NBCOlympics #Tokyo2020 #Swimming
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Each swimming event is broken up into rounds with the purpose of trimming the field of competitors (which can sometimes number upwards of 90+ for individual events) down to a final race of eight. Individual events at distances of 200m and shorter require three rounds: preliminary heats, semifinals, and a final. Each athlete participates in one of several preliminary heats in hopes of recording a top-16 time, thereby advancing to the semifinals.
From there, the eight fastest swimmers across both semifinal heats advance to the final. Individual events at distances of 400m or longer, along with all relay events, do not include a semifinal round. In these events, only the top eight swimmers or teams across the preliminary heats advance to the final. In the event of a tie for the final lane in a semifinal or final round, tied competitors swim an additional head-to-head race to determine who advances. This is also known as a “”swim off””. Olympic swimming competition days generally contain two sessions: one for only preliminary heats, and a second for semifinals and finals. The exceptions are the first day of competition, which lacks a semifinal/final session, and the last day, which does not contain a heats session.
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Katie Ledecky makes her Tokyo debut with win in 400m free heat | Tokyo Olympics | NBC Sports