Swimming The Same Event In Five Olympics: A Feat For Few

During the Italian National Championships in Riccione last week, Federica Pellegrini confirmed her Olympic roster spot in the women’s 200 free. She will make her fifth straight appearance in the event at the Olympic Games.

Pellegrini will join an exclusive club of 10 who have competed in the same swimming event five times at the Olympics. Instagram’s Swimming Stats page has published the complete list, Pellegrini included.

It took 25 Olympics before a swimmer managed to accomplish this feat for the first time: Brazil’s Rogerio Romero, who raced the men’s 200 backstroke from 1988 to 2004. Interestingly, in 2004, Romero, Denmark’s Mette Jacobsen, and Great Britain’s Alison Sheppard became the first swimmers to compete in five Olympics. Only Romero, however, managed to swim the same event all five times.

Also appearing on the list are Turkey’s Derya Buyukuncu and Sweden’s Therese Alshammar. They both made six Olympic appearances, appearing in the same event in five of them.

Michael Phelps is the only swimmer to appear in five finals of the same individual event: the 200 fly, from 2000 to 2016.

There is the case of Great Britain’s Mark Foster, who swam the men’s 50 free in 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, and 2008. A silver medalist in the event at the 2003 FINA World Championships, he was not added to the British Olympic roster in 2004 in what was regarded as a controversial call. Otherwise, he could have became the first swimmer to appear in the same event six times at the Olympics.

And then there is the case of Dara Torres. She made five appearances in the women’s 4×100 free relay, from 1984 to 2012. If it wasn’t for two retirements, she could have made eight appearances. Anyhow, she is the only swimmer in history to win five Olympic medals in the same event.

Of course, there are other swimmers who can join the list next summer.

Chile’s Kristel Kobrich has swum the women’s 800 free in four Olympics and is already qualified for her fifth appearance at the Games this summer – though she has only hit the FINA ‘A’ cut in the 1500 free so far. Tunisia’s Oussama Mellouli has swum the men’s 1500 free in the last four Olympics, but still has to hit the qualifying standard in order to compete in Tokyo. American Ryan Lochte will have two shots at the U.S. Olympic Trials, having raced the men’s 200 IM and 4×200 free in the previous four Olympic Games.

But, as for today, the only swimmer confirmed to make her fifth appearance in the same event in Tokyo is Federica Pellegrini, maybe the greatest swimmer of all time in the women’s 200 free.

Will any swimmer, some day, compete in the same event at six different Olympics?