This article originally appeared in the 2024 Olympic Preview issue of SwimSwam Magazine. Subscribe to SwimSwam Magazine here.

Overall, swimming has continued to improve and become faster in the three years since Tokyo, with five world records already broken in 2024 and another eight (in Olympic events) broken in 2023.

But under the bright lights of the Olympics, with all the outside noise that comes with it, not to mention the generally less than ideal conditions athletes face during the Games, winning times can sometimes be a little slower than we might expect.

In Tokyo, only two individual events were won at world record level: the men’s 100-meter butterfly and the women’s 200-meter breaststroke.

Caeleb Dressel‘s record of 49.45 in the 100 butterfly still stands three years later, while Tatjana Smith(Schoenmaker)’s 200 meter breaststroke record of 2:18.95 has been smashed by Evgenia Chikunova in 2:17.55, although Chikunova, a Russian, will not race in Paris.

In the past six months alone, we have seen swimmers in 16 of the 28 individual Olympic events post faster times than they won gold with in Tokyo, which shows how quickly things have moved in recent years.

And while we expect things to move faster in Paris overall than in Tokyo (in some cases much faster), it remains to be seen how much faster things will move relative to what we’ve seen over the past 18 months.

Below are the times it took to win gold, bronze, and what it took to reach the final (8th in the semifinals or preliminary rounds of events 400 and above) at the Tokyo Games. What do you think it will take to win, reach the podium, and make it to the final in Paris?

MEN – TOKYO OLYMPIC GAMES

EVENT GOLDEN MEDAL BRONZE MEDAL TO THE FINAL
50m freestyle 21.07 21.57 21.78
100m freestyle 47.02 47.44 47.82
200m freestyle 1:44.22 1:44.66 1:45.71
400m freestyle 3:43.36 3:43.94 3:45.68
800m freestyle 7:41.87 7:42.33 7:47.73
1500m freestyle 14:39.65 14:40.91 14:52.66
100m backstroke 51.98 52.19 53.20
200m backstroke 1:53.27 1:54.72 1:56.69
100m breaststroke 57.37 58.33 59.18
200m breaststroke 2:06.38 2:07.13 2:08.76
100m butterfly 49.45 WR 50.74 51.30
200m butterfly 1:51.25 1:54.45 1:55.31
200m change 1:55.00 1:56.17 1:57.64
400m medley 4:09.42 4:10.38 4:10.20

WOMEN – TOKYO OLYMPCIS

EVENT GOLDEN MEDAL BRONZE MEDAL TO THE FINAL
50m freestyle 23.81 24.21 24.32*
100m freestyle 51.96 52.52 53.11
200m freestyle 1:53.50 1:54.70 1:56.58
400m freestyle 3:56.69 4:01.08 4:04.07
800m freestyle 8:12.57 8:18.35 8:20.58
1500m freestyle 15:37.34 15:42.91 15:58.96
100m backstroke 57.47 58.05 59.30
200m backstroke 2:04.68 2:06.17 2:08.76
100m breaststroke 1:04.95 1:05.54 1:06.59
200m breaststroke 2:18.95 WR 2:20.84 2:23.73
100m butterfly 55.59 55.72 57.19
200m butterfly 2:03.86 2:05.65 2:09.07
200m change 2:08.52 2:09.04 2:10.59
400m medley 4:32.08 4:34.90 4:37.37

*Tie for 8th place, eliminated, no swim-off

The relays are a different story. In Tokyo we saw four world records fall, while in two other distances (the 400m freestyle and the 800m freestyle for men) the absolute records were approached considerably.

RELAY – TOKYO OLYMPIC GAMES

EVENT GOLDEN MEDAL BRONZE MEDAL TO THE FINAL
Gentlemen 4x100m freestyle relay 3:08.97 3:10.22 3:13.13
4x200m freestyle relay 6:58.58 7:01.84 7:07.73
4x100m medley relay 3:26.78 WR 3:29.17 3:32.38
Women 4x100m freestyle relay 3:29.69 WR 3:32.81 3:35.93
4x200m freestyle relay 7:40.33 WR 7:41.29 7:56.16
4x100m medley relay 3:51.60 3:52.60 3:57.70
Mixed 4x100m medley relay 3:37.58 WR 3:38.95 3:43.94

The women’s 400 and 800 metre freestyle world records were significantly improved by Australia in 2023, while the men’s individual medley record (United States) and the mixed medley record (Great Britain) still stand.