What is the Hardest Event in Swimming?

Belinda Hocking showing the strain of another hard set of training. University of Auburn Aquatic Centre, Alabama USA. Australian Olympic Swimming Team are in their final training staging Camp before heading over to the Rio2016 Olympic Games. July 29 2016. Photo by Delly Carr. Pic credit mandatory for complimentary exclusive editorial usage. Thank You.

What is the Hardest Event in Swimming?

By Elise Devlin, Swimming World Intern

There’s nothing worse than getting a wide eyed, worrisome expression from your friend after you answered their question, “So, what event do you have next?” We’ve all been there. Lurking somewhere in your meet lineup is only the worst event to exist. But which event is that? Maybe the 400 IM, with its strict demand of endurance in every stroke, all packed into one race. Or is it the 200 cry…I mean fly? C’mon, who really thinks eight whole laps of butterfly is a stroll in the park anyway? And then of course there is the 1500 freestyle. There is really just no escape in that one.  

Whether you are biased due to the fact that you’re a regular participant in one of these events, or you are the opposite and can’t imagine yourself even getting through one of these events, everyone has an opinion on the controversial question of, “what is the most difficult race in swimming”.  

After surveying my swim team at Towson University, it was clear everyone had different opinions on which event was the hardest. With the winner of this survey being the 400 IM, it could be different for another swim team. However, these six events were the most voted on by my team, and each remain strong contenders for which event in the sport of swimming is the most difficult.

200 Free

So do you sprint this whole race and try not to die? Do you pace the whole thing and hope for the best? The answer is both. This event can be considered one of the most difficult because of the race strategy that comes with it. It’s pretty much hanging out on the border of sprint and mid-distance, leaving you with no choice but to rely on your endurance to hold a fast pace for the entire race. All about that third 50. 


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

200 Fly

One impulsive, “I’m going to pick it up now so I can get ahead,” can ruin you in this event. If you take it out too fast, you’ll never survive the second half of the race, or you will, but it just won’t be pretty to watch. But if you take it out too slow, you could have too hard of a time catching back up the whole eight laps. Meanwhile, the more you get tired doing this stroke, the harder it is to maintain good technique. It definitely takes a different breed of person to proudly call this event their race of choice.  

400 IM

If you aren’t proficient in each of the four strokes, you can kiss this race goodbye. This is right up there in the rankings for being the hardest event in swimming because of its combination of every stroke, the endurance you must have to swim it, and the perfect strategy you must stick to. Also, you are forced to give it your all in every single portion of the race, due to the fact that everyone else’s strategy is different than yours, depending on their strongest and weakest stroke. For all you know, your opponent could be an amazing breaststroker and cruise right past you when you least expect it.  

1500 Free


Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

It still confuses me how some people voluntarily declare themselves distance swimmers, but we really couldn’t get by without them.  Swimming for 15+ minutes while trying to keep a steady pace and stay with your competition is not in the slightest bit easy. Small mistakes will kill you in this race by adding up and creating gained time, which is the last thing you want after finishing this long of a race and giving it your all. This is considered by many to be one of the hardest races in the sport because of the amount of time you must stay mentally strong, and pace yourself correctly for 15 minutes or more.

200 Back

Enjoy the feeling in your legs as much as you can before you swim this race, because I can promise you it won’t be there after.  Underwaters and a powerful, consistent kick are key to staying strong in this race. It’s always important to have a plan of attack, so that your legs don’t give out on you too early. Once this happens, the outcome of your 200 back won’t exactly be promising.  

200 Breast

The difference in pace for a 200 breaststroke versus a 100 breaststroke can be huge. It can be challenging when trying to find that perfect rhythm to carry you through this race, while also maintaining a steady yet fast pace throughout the entire eight laps. But don’t let your technique go or else this event can go downhill from there on.


      • avatar
        Adrian brown

        200 fly but I do enjoy it

    • avatar

      Especially when everyone else is doing 1500 😉

  1. Paul Kaplan

    At NJ states 200fly is 2races from 4IM… at finals u have 20 / 25 minutes recovery

  2. John Dussliere

    All those pool bound answers are cute. Try the 10k or 25k sometime out in the ocean. ?

  3. Jeff Strahota

    Phelps said 200back was the hardest. That and the lung-busting 2brst need more love here. As for the 1500, it sucks, but is it really the hardest??

    • Bill A Davis

      Jeff Strahota I think other events will whip you more in the moment but the tail on a 1650/1500 is far longer.

    • Denise Letendre

      Jeff Strahota I say long course 200 back. That last 50 is so painful on the legs and you have no idea how close you are to finishing because you can’t see the wall.

    • Rich Davis

      Jeff Strahota the 1500 because you have to pace yourself correctly and concentrate on keeping that pace. Probably not as body breaking as the 400IM & 200Fl though.

    • Zlatko Boko

      Jeff Strahota when and where Phelps said that ?

  4. Junior Melendez

    400 IM sin duda… y casi en paralelo el 200 Back…Si no mueren tus piernas, muere tu oxigeno y viceversa…

  5. Steve Taggart

    400 IM LC, followed by 2 BR short course. The underwaters are misery.

  6. Eney Jones

    Any work out that starts at 5 am. But I’d go with John Dussliere ‘s answer

  7. Gary Langhans

    You can swim a relaxed mile. You can swim a relaxed anything for that matter and it won’t be that bad. A 200 Fly hurts whether you are trying to keep it totally relaxed or you are busting out. The last 10 strokes always hurt.

  8. avatar
    Coach Bob

    It’s like saying the 3000 steeple Chase is harder than the Marathon.
    Or saying that a five rounds UFC fight is more grueling than a twelve round boxing match up.
    The distance freestyle events are the toughest.
    The goat MP tried the 400 free at Worlds in his prime in 2005 and did not make the finals. He never tried it again. That should say something about the mid and long distance events.

    • avatar
      Craig Lord - Swimming World Editor-in-Chief

      Fair points, Coach Bob, though fair to note too that 2005 did not represent Phelps at the peak of his power… it was a down season of recuperation and reset: he bypassed the 200 ‘fly at world titles and tried some new stuff… his 3:50 in heats left him well shy, 18th… two places ahead of a certain Paul Biedermann… seasons come, seasons go…
      In general I think the answer to this question is: events are hardest when they’re not yours, Phelps 400 free perhaps (though, lest we forget, he clocked 3:46.73 as an 18-year-old in 2003, third ranked in the world that year behind Mssrs Thorpe and Hackett) but, you know, stuff like 1500m free for Simone Manuel (really tough) – or 100 free for Lotte Friis (tough in race conditions mentally because she, among thousands of others, would not thrive); 200 breaststroke for Ada Kok; 200 ‘fly for Adam Peaty and 400IM for Anthony Ervin… that’s tough 🙂
      And then there’s this: the hardest event can be the one you best excel in – on the day it comes down, the day it doesn’t work, the day that was not what it might and could have been for whatever reason…
      “The hardest swim event?” is a fun question but also very shallow, the richness to be found in the depths of beautiful complexity and the experience of the individual, not the herd 🙂

  9. Cindy Adair

    Open Water 25km, 1500m, 200 Fly, 200 Breast and 400 IM

  10. Spencer Rausch

    Dave Toffy I’m gonna say the 200 fr. that’s not a middle distance event anymore. It’s a full blown sprint. The aerobic conditioning and mental strength needed to hit that 3rd 50 with everything you got knowing you’re about to face the worst pain on the final lap is straight brutality.

    Change my mind.

    • Zlatko Boko

      Spencer Rausch to compare 200 free and 200 fly is …well…just don’t do it…

    • Lucy Lewis

      Vic Stawik I agree. There is something beautiful about the 200 fly but the 200 back is long and a bit boring

  11. Glenn Mills

    They’re all hard if you want to be the best.

  12. Vic Stawik

    That 200 fly and 400 IM those hit you in the core od your being, those make you delirious, make you believe you are going to die and sometimes wish you would to make it stop

  13. avatar
    Bill S

    It all depends on who is going to swim. Is it a sprinter or a distance swimmer. Should it be maximum speed or not, is it in a 50m pool? Is the swimmer is very well trained as a ” top” swimmer?

  14. Grant Forbes

    Open water doesn’t count as there not pure swimming events they are whole different sport all together

  15. avatar
    Caroline Baker

    I am a flier, mostly 200 fly. It never gets easier, you get fast but at the end of each 200 fly you are still completely dead. The worst combination for me is 400 IM trials and finals on Friday, 100 fly and 200 IM trials and finals on Saturday, and 200 fly trials and finals on Sunday.

  16. Zlatko Boko

    200 fly…that is the only one you can not swim slow…

    • Glenn Fenwick

      Zlatko Boko 200 fly against 400 IM no comparison 400 IM wins hands down

    • Zlatko Boko

      Glenn Fenwick this attitude telling me that you never had 200 fly experience…
      Fair enough , agree to disagree…

    • Glenn Fenwick

      Zlatko Boko I might not have 200 fly experiance but the swimmers I coach would say the same

    • Glenn Fenwick

      Zlatko Boko then again a good 10k open water sorts people out which I have experiance ?

    • Zlatko Boko

      Glenn Fenwick you are not competitive (pool) swimmer my dear senor , open water and this subject we are talking about does not have anything in common…there are so many things in open water swimming which makes you tired and have nothing to do with swimming itself…

    • Glenn Fenwick

      Zlatko Boko I coach pool swimmers and from what they say its 400 IM that hurts the most but we all have opinions.

  17. Susan Jane

    My daughter swims 200 breast 200 fly and 400 I.M at the Nationals and she will say the 200 breast is the hardest

  18. Kathleen Christiansen

    So it entirely depends on the swimmer. Some swimmers are built for distance and some swimmers are built for speed. And they each have their “hardest event “.

  19. Sarah Hornby

    200 back! I was an IM’er and a 200 fly and back stroker at almost every meet. Nothing compared to the feeling of pain after a good solid 200bk.

  20. Alan Bruce Gresham

    I’m a drop dead sprinter , 50 & 100 freestyle who bet someone I could do better than his time in the 400 IM. It hurt worse than anything ever….

  21. Tracy Dickey

    My sons best events are 200 fly 400 IM and 1500. He hates the 200 IM because he hates changing the strokes that you r sprinting. He says it hurts.

  22. avatar

    1. 200 Fly LCM
    2. 400 IM LCM
    3. 1500 Free LCM

  23. Chris Driwinga

    Simple way to look at it. What hurts going fast or slow? 200 fly! You can cruse to the finish in all the others if your dead. But your going to feel the pain till you touch that wall in the 200 fly.

  24. Michael Hollowell

    I was a 200 flyer. By the end of the backstroke in the 400IM, I was done.

  25. avatar

    200 Fly

  26. avatar
    Wayne McCauley

    Just look at MP, he came within 0.3 seconds of the world record 200 LCM back. He did a 2:11 200 breast, he held the world record in the 200 fly, and was one of the fastest 200 free men ever. But he was truly happy when he gave up the 400 IM. Of all his records that one is still there!

  27. avatar
    Adrian Montoya

    200back if you have swam it you can’t walk afterward.
    400 Im you can’t breath or walk
    200 fly never
    Mile. Can’t say it sucks

    • Chris Henry

      Patrick J Willey 200 fly over 200 free any day!!!!
      (I’m actually serious)

    • Chris Henry

      Lynette Besonday-Washburn 200 fly is the best!
      Breastroke should
      not even be an event.
      Why, I could have been an Olympian in the IM if it only consisted of Fly, back, free!

    • David Fan

      I feel you man! Always knew I was doomed if I didn’t get far ahead on fly and back!

    • Kelly Spencer Williams

      Lynette Besonday-Washburn my son swims both those events. He LOVES breast, doesn’t love fly (but his fly is beautiful)

    • Katie Wray

      David Fan same. Lol. I relied on my fly and back. PRAYED on breast. And just tried to hold on for dear life in free.

    • Kelly Spencer Williams I’m a breaststroker but the 100 is as far as I want to do. As a teen I did the 200 but now as a masters swimmer at 57 the 200 is a killer☺️

  28. Chris Henry

    200 free.
    Too short to pace and too long to sprint.

    • Evan Townsend

      Chris Henry 200 free (or 200 of any stroke) is a controlled sprint. Now, the 400 IM is too short to pace and too long to sprint.

  29. Amy Feasey

    400 IM LC. Pure pain & I was a distance swimmer!

  30. David Fan

    400 IM if you don’t have a good breaststroke! Nothing like dreading that third 100!

  31. Katie Wray

    When your coach doesn’t realize that the 200 fly follows immediately behind the 400 IM. Then you make finals in both. And he won’t let you scratch…. Legit got out of the water and right back on the block. Worst 200 fly time in a final I ever put up ??

  32. Jessica Cole-Crawford

    400IM is brutal especially if you are like I was with a weak breaststroke leg. Just as painful to watch as it was to swim lol.

  33. Emma Carew

    I’m gonna have to be biased and say 200 brst? there’s nothing like trying to a do a pullout on that last 25 when you can’t feel any part of your body! Not only that but I feel like the pain lasts a little bit longer with it being the slowest stroke? but I also bow down to anyone who swims the mile, 2fly, 2bk, and the 4IM. All are blah?

  34. Sasha Green

    I love the 400IM ?
    I’d have to say… The 200fr

  35. Tim Everds

    The 139 mile four way English Channel crossing by Sarah Thomas. 400 im is a great event. But it’s not even a 10 k.

  36. Anthony J Martinez

    For the races I swam from hardest to easiest: 1650 Fr, 200 Fly, 400 IM, and 500 Fr. I never swam 200 Br because I was terrible at breaststroke that plus my hands would cramp after 150. Even though those races were brutal on me, I regret not continuing after my college years.

  37. 200 fly, if you dont pace right and run out of gas before finish line you are done for. 200 free, have to race the entire thing to do well, as it is most popular stroke. and 10k anything, pool and open water

    • Milena Babic

      Julie Taylor the 400 IM for sure, that 3rd leg…… ?

    • Milena Babic

      Julie Taylor it’s all about the negative split though isn’t it….

    • Milena Babic

      Julie Taylor swimming is a life long learning journey

    • Stella Matthews

      And I’d say 200m fly would have to be the toughest event, at least you get to break up the strokes in an IM

  38. Christopher Sykes

    400IM the true test of each stroke at distance that is not sprint nor distance.

    • Oak Wattanasirakul

      Christopher Sykes i disagree, 25 yard breast is definitely a real man’s event ?

    • Christopher Sykes

      Oak Wattanasirakul ya you would say that. You would 1 full stroke in after your underwater then you’d be at the wall

  39. Scott Vank

    The whole cool down after a race…. How many time do you hear a coach say to a swimmer “finish your cool down”

  40. Danny Gassaway

    200 Breaststroke. The most challenging technique wise. I’d take distance free any day!

  41. Ross Bohlken

    I remember when they introduced the 25 yard events in masters swimming…. Scott you were so excited!! Lol

  42. Nick Daudelin

    50 ya free
    What a wave
    Ocean mile swim 2nd
    Into current.

    • Maya Kaplan

      Michael Hollowell agreed. 200 fly is right up there tho

    • Michael Hollowell

      Maya Kaplan I was a 200 flyer. Tough for sure, but no 400 IM in my opinion. Especially in LC.

    • Maya Kaplan

      Michael Hollowell oh yeah I agree, 400IM is deff the hardest

    • Maya Kaplan

      Michael Hollowell I swam 100 breast so any kind of stroke distance was not for me; I did enjoy the 1000 though

    • Dereck Montgomery

      Leslie Cichocki why it kills you’re legs and people are saying 200 fly but u can glide with that stroke

  43. Kara Muscillo

    I’m gonna say 200 free.or 2 back I could never sprint the whole thing . Lol

  44. Robbert van Andel

    50 freestyle. I cant sprint worth anything. Give me a 400 IM or 1500 free anyday. 200 fly is second hardest though

  45. Jessica Williams

    I would have to say the 50 free. I can’t sprint to save myself. I’m a distant swimmer. Even anything in the 200 range I consider a sprint. The longer the distance the easier for me.

    • Laurie Hug

      That’s the second most fun event after 200 IM. 400IM and 200 fly are WAY worse.

    • Jennifer Crisman Coffey

      Laurie Hug I remember choosing to swim the 400 IM and the 200 fly to avoid the 200 back at a state meet one year!! ??‍♀️

    • Laurie Hug

      Jennifer Crisman Coffey this is an argument my HS assistant coach and I have had. He thinks it is 200 back, and I have countered with if that is true then why do so many more people (well masters swimmers, at least) do the 200 back rather than the 200 fly and 400 IM?!

  46. Amanda Braun

    I think 1500 M or 400 IM but I loved swimming both of those and they were easier than sprints I have done an open water 10k and that is a mentally tough challenge too not sure if it counts or only pool swims. To me the 50M free has to be the most strategic because it is depends so much on your start and finish and all our sprint.

  47. Katy Stevens

    100 or 200 fly. Fly was my weakest stroke when I swam competitively. Especially, swimming both in a 50-meter pool.

  48. Jim Liguori

    The hardest event is the one you don’t train for.

    My primary event in college was the 200 Fly, I swam it in every meet. When I had to do a 100 or 50 free (in the D relay), I hated it; I was so used to focusing on rhythm that I never got up to speed.

  49. John McCormack

    200 back with old school bucket turns… nothing like that burn in the last turn

    • Laurie Hug

      Except for the last 50 of a 200 lcm fly!

  50. Debbie Konarski

    I find 400 IM a bit easier then the 200 IM which in general is not that hard. The 200 fly is a scary thought as I have never done it and can barely get through the 100. The 200s stroke are some of my best events.
    -Hunter Konarski

  51. Chris Como

    As my daughter the distance swimmer said after many 1500 already being completed with great results, she said after her 2nd 200 fly one day “ I would rather do 2 -1500s a week than to ever do another 200 fly”

  52. Patrick Sobkowski

    The mile or the 400 IM. The 200 fly is not as hard as either of them. Honestly I think the 200 free hurts more than the 200 fly.

    • Caleb Reigle

      Patrick Sobkowski 200 free is the most painful event for me to do. Im a distance swimmer so im prime in the 500, 1000, and mile, but the 200 free HURTS

    • Patrick Sobkowski

      Caleb Reigle i was the same. I swam the 500, 1650, and 400 IM in college. Maybe the 2 fly was better Bc of my training. But the 200 free was always horrible

    • Caleb Reigle

      My best events in college are the 500 and mile, and ive been trained pretty much exclusively in freestyle so I domt ever see time in any event that isn’t exclusively freestyle

    • Justin Sabourin

      Patrick Sobkowski that 200 free stings if you didn’t hit the right pace.

  53. Casey Jacob

    200 free..especially as a Master’s swimmer

  54. Sharif Alaoui

    A properly swum 200 fly should feel a lot lighter than most other events

  55. Joe A Volpe

    No question, 200 Fly and 400 IM. I was crazy enough to call them my best 2 events.

  56. Jennifer Paolucci

    No doubt 200 fly I swam all the distance events too and would double on those with 100 fly or relays. Nothing compares in my eyes ? to the piano on the back ?. Agree 200 free sucks too pretty much 8 lengths of sprinting

  57. Lisa Alcorn

    200 Fly final after finishing 1650 final.. just saying

    • John Holst

      Ron Finley I don’t think so. 400m IM was a killer when you couldn’t practice in a 50m facility.

    • Ron Finley

      John Holst what do you think the 200 backstroke is like in a 50m pool?

    • John Holst

      Ron Finley has to be a horrible dream for me!

    • Ron Finley

      John Holst I didn’t exactly look forward to doing a 400m IM either. Truthfully, I don’t know if I ever did one.

    • John Holst

      Ron Finley truthfully I don’t think I ever did 200m backstroke!

  58. Brian Miller

    Listen to the GOAT from at 2014 interview

    He dominated the 400 IM during the height of career, but he vows he won’t swim the grueling event anymore.

    “I’m putting that out there: I am never swimming the 400 IM again,” he said.

    • David Ball

      Dave Waslin incorrect. Its picking the soap up in the showers after ?

  59. Mikael Laakso

    Hardest? All the events are equally hard. But what feels worst? 200fly.

  60. Sofia Skiavone

    My specialty is 200 fly. Everything else is difficult for me

  61. Ja

    50 free is the hardest event. It’s very difficult to improve time after a certain point. You get 1 start, 1 turn (if SC) and 1 finish. Mess any of those up and the race is over. It also has been said that the 50 free creates the most anxiety.

    • Dawn Chivers

      Ja’Von Waters Sr. From a Mom’s standpoint it sure does create anxiety. It was always one of my favorite events to watch, but now my kid has decided she’s a sprinter and I’m a nervous wreck watching this event!

    • avatar

      Ja’Von, if we define ‘hardest event’ as the hardest to actually win, then the 50 free is definitely it.

      For those of you who disagree,
      1: Most competitive – Everybody starts out swimming this event. The fastest always stay and everybody else looks for a new event.
      2: You have to be truly fast. You can’t compensate through conditioning.
      3: It’s not enough to be the fastest swimmer, you also have to be perfect.
      4: No breath – this requires a short-lived but intense determination. Try it sometime if you don’t believe me 🙂

    • Mike Batten

      John Dussliere it’s all a matter of perspective though, right. A distance swimmer might not feel like swimming a sprint. I was not great at backstroke, but had to do it for the IM.

  62. Anthony Mason

    I mean… the mile. Most that would argue otherwise probably never swam it. ?

  63. Frank Sodonis

    200 back at 9am…after dancing and drinking till 2am the night before. Definitely NOT a hangover cure!

  64. Steve Morris

    200 fly when your goggles fill up with water as Phelps’ did.

  65. Mary Frawley

    400IM no contest. Physically and technically difficult

  66. Phạm Minh Triết

    The answer is vary, depend on the level and favourite of every single swimmer. There is not certainly answer for this question.

  67. Mark Urquhart

    10k open water, lets not forget OW is also an Olympic event.

  68. Albert Napast

    What it really comes down to is time! I would rather swim say 3.30mins 200 fly than 7-8 min 400 im or an 18 min 1500 fr!! So i always chose the most pain in the least amount of time!!!

  69. Geoff Wood

    200 breast swim fast. The pain in the legs must be immense

    • Geoff Wood

      Wendy, did she ever swim the 200m Breast fast? 😉

    • Wendy Sanders

      Geoff Wood, Kelly didn’t swim as much breaststroke, back in the day..
      I do remember her swimming 400 IM, 400 free and 1500 free in the same meet, everyone thought she was bonkers ?

    • Geoff Wood

      Wendy Sanders my kind of swimmer as you know

  70. Kellene Coulombe

    The 200 back – the legs and the rotational torque it requires the athlete to maintain takes a lot of power and a very strategic weight to strength ratio… If you look at many of the top backstrokers, I think that’s the reason they are so lean… You have to be extremely fit to make a fast swim happen in that event?

  71. Peter Scott

    If you are trained and putting the effort in each Olympic distance should be equally ‘hard’ or easy…..that said if you are not trained for an event it can be a disaster…..a 200m Fly LC if you don’t swim it correctly you might not finish……other events you should be able to finish in some forrm even if slow….

  72. avatar

    Open water any distance – in the wind with someone swimming over the top of you to get through a tight gap…No black line to keep you straight and freezing cold water.

  73. Mike Mcgowan

    Tell you the worst back to back 400IM /200 fly

  74. Lyle Campbell

    Depends on whether you have been trained for the event

  75. Mike Mcgowan

    Terrible double. 400IM 200fly finals in that order.

  76. Caleb Reigle

    For me, any stroke over 50 that isn’t freestyle (im a distance freestyler)

  77. David Moreno

    200 fly….there is no other and if they claim to be, they are fake.

  78. Dick Simpson

    200 freestyle or 400 IM. Hated both of those. Loved 200 IM. It was my best event.

  79. Scott Young

    The most difficult event is getting in the pool for morning practice when the water is cold. At least for the other swimming events, when the horn goes off the swimmers dive right in!

    • Steve Van Nuys

      I remember Freshman year at SLU my roomate Joe Van S?… having to get up in the freezing am and walk to practice-I would throw stuff at him to get out of bed.

    • Dick Simpson

      Chip Parker Wynn would put me in that one occasionally. Hated it. I was a lousy Butterflyer

    • Chip Parker

      He would put me in the 200im and I would be way ahead after the butterfly and back stroke but totally lose it on breast ?

  80. Danielle M. Daigneault

    My teenage swimmer’s two main events are the 200 back and the 400 IM. She’s a badass!

  81. Rhys Gormley

    You could argue the 100 free and backstroke events are the hardest as they generally produce the highest lactates.

    • Dan Cross

      Steve Greenfield I’m with ya Steve

    • Ian Harber

      Steve Greenfield 200 breast for me would probably have been 1500 but avoided that one ?

  82. Karen Pitre Westerman

    200 Fly, no doubt about it! Any other race, you can just swim slower if you hit a wall.

    • Nancy Rose

      Karen Pitre Westerman, more than once I’ve seen swimmers literally stop and stand on the bottom after hitting that wall. Watching them tighten up is painful.

    • Jennifer Argue Moffett

      John Dussliere especially when Chuck Riggs sprays cold water on you to get your butt in the pool!

    • Paul Divan

      John Dussliere the painful realization that today is one of the 99.9% of morning practices that is not a surprise trip to Dennys

    • John Dussliere

      Paul Divan surprise!!! Now get in the pool!! I loved my 4 person rule. If 4 or less showed up(in a group of nearly 40) we went to Denny’s. Oh, you didn’t know the rule?!! ??? it wasn’t as random as you thought it was.

    • Paul Divan

      Hahaha sometimes we had to settle for sneaking to Royal Donuts during the morning runs.

    • Paul Divan

      Hahaha sometimes we had to settle for sneaking to Royal Donuts during the morning runs.

    • John Dussliere

      Do you not know where “unnamed” coaches disappeared to during certain long sets?! ?

    • Carol Breiter

      Seth Horowitz before US Swimming was formed, swimming was governed by the AAU. Open Water was a separate entity and was called Long Distance Swimming. It was merged with Swimming in 1980 and the name was changed to Open Water. Prior to 1980 I registered for 2 sports – swimming and LDS. The powers that be stripped me of eligibility because I swam Masters in the 19-24 age group from a US National team due to this merger. Yes – I’m still a little bitter…?

    • Seth Horowitz

      That’s bizarre don’t we all benefit from more types of swimming. The competition for control over openwater swimming doesn’t make sense to me. But I swim for the enjoyment vs competition.

  83. Cassandra Elizabeth

    For me (now), any sprint. I perform better at much longer distances these days (1500+).

  84. Dan DiSalle

    2 fly was my event- 400 meter IM was so hard you had muscles that were sore you didn’t even know you had/ all of them and then some were sore

  85. Dan Rogers

    My vote is 400m IM LC. Especially knowing you have another event immediately after. Or maybe the event immediately after the IM. ?

  86. Mark Moore

    I always struggled with the 100m doggy paddle!

  87. Dave Holtman

    Scott is correct. Perhaps that’s why I didn’t swim it. ???‍♂️?‍♂️

  88. Johnny Karnofsky

    400 IM…. for the distance plus the test on all 4 strokes, you have to excel at them all and be able to keep a pace that will carry you through the entire race.

    When the Olympics were held in Los Angeles last, I was able to sit and watch the West German team train through their taper before they went to the athletes village (they used the pool that also hosted my club team). I don’t recall who it was, but I watched one of their women do a 1600 IM….. 4X!

  89. Danny Gassaway

    400 IM SCY bc of turns or 200 Br as I think it’s the most technique focused

    • Chris Derks

      Believe it or not; Manhattan is a pretty easy marathon. You have the current pushing you most of the way. My English Channel swim was only tough because it was 8h30m for me. For my money, the Atlantic City 37K or Magog 45K are the toughest.

  90. John Young

    400IM in the pool but overall the 10km OW

    • Chris Derks

      Lac St Jean in 55 F water and anything else over 25K.

  91. Joel Rittenhouse

    I am not a swimmer but I always love watching the 200 fly. It’s killer for most but to watch the good ones swim it is so cool!!!

  92. Pablo Valedon

    All swimming events are difficult in their own unique way ???‍♂️?‍♀️?

  93. Sasha Kocyk Andrews

    Last year my son (usually a sprinter) swam the Catalina channel in the middle of the night with his relay team. He was the lucky (or unlucky) one to have a freight ship roll through creating massive swells for him. That was pretty rugged. They currently hold the 2019 record. In the pool 400 IM hands down!!

    • Carol Breiter

      Sasha Kocyk Andrews English Channel solo…no start time, no finish line, unpredictable conditions, creatures that sting, fog that can cancel anytime and seasickness. Other than that – walk in the park??

  94. HJ Oxie

    100 free, I puked after almost everyone and still never broke 47…….(SCY). I was a breaststroker but still it was the 100 free…l

    • Christy Marie

      HJ Oxie I recall 200 back being killer on my legs.

    • Ryan Eyman

      HJ Oxie fuck I only ever hit 49.9 I was a 200 free and 200 IMer

    • HJ Oxie

      Christy Marie oh yea that was a Dozy too!!! Especially after/during any of Bill’s practices.

    • HJ Oxie

      Jonny Kourlesis The only thing you were under 47 in swimming was in the number of missed practices.

  95. Ryan Eyman

    400 IM for sure. I did 200 Free almost every meet and it sucked but everyone dreaded the 400 IM

  96. Daniela Gómez

    Zoe Myers-Bochner why is almost every event I swim on this list ??‍♀️??‍♀️ also WHERE’S THE 500 FREE AT

    • Larry Berg

      Liz Mayville Colacino Hey, that’s not nice. ???

    • Liz Mayville Colacino

      Larry Berg You’re a delight to coach! (Most of the time.?) But coaching is harder than it looks.

  97. Mark Honan

    Not one in the pool. Open water is where the real swims are

  98. Bradley Scott

    200 Fly for the masses; 200 backstroke and 400 IM for college athletes

  99. Kim DuBois

    Linda Hiltabiddle Miller Anything with FLY ? !!!
    Lisa Birkinshaw might not agree ?‍♀️?

  100. Leah Lotman

    My son says 500 free. Not short or long enough. He doesn’t like the 200 fly, but he is really good at it.

  101. Carolyn Ellis

    You can’t compare pool with open water so each will have their own hardest events and also fresh water versus sea/ocean swims.
    For me pool was 400M IM but as a non sprinter 100m F/S could stretch me unless I swam in a relay where I produced several sub one minutes which wasn’t too shabby for me lol

  102. Đorđe Kosić

    200 fly. its a pitty it doesnt exsist the 500 fly 🙂

  103. Bob Blaufarb

    I’d rather have teeth pulled than swim a 200 fly

  104. avatar
    James Nickoloff

    My best event (back in the 1960s) was the 200 m butterfly LC, and when I was in really good shape, it wasn’t so hard. In any case, butterfly has a lot to do with technique, not just pure strength. For me swimming the 1500 would have been far worse. Even the 400 free was tough–harder than the 400 IM because in the IM there is variety.

  105. avatar

    Hardest to win: 50 Freestyle
    Most painful in practice: 200 Butterfly
    Most painful in competition: Any 200 (except IM).
    Trickiest Strategy: 200 Freestyle or 400 IM
    Mental toughness: 1500/1650 Freestyle
    Hardest to prepare for: 400 IM and any 100.
    – not enough time in the world to practice every skill you need for the 400 IM.
    – not enough time in the world to properly recover from the lactate sets of the 100s.

    Convince me I’m wrong 🙂

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