The Tokyo Games have been going in reverse for the swimmers who have been chasing gold in the pool at Tokyo Aquatics Centre.
Rather than having their heats and prelims in the morning and saving the finals for primetime, the format has been switched up in Tokyo, which has forced the competitors to adjust from their usual schedule.
"I had a feeling going in a few days prior that this wasn't going to be a race for a time," American Chase Kalisz said after winning the men's 400 individual medley on Sunday. "It was gonna be a battle of who prepared the most through prelims and finals with the order mixed up. This is not something that we're used to. I've done it once in my life and it was at a grand prix meet a few months ago and it didn't necessarily go well for me."
Swimming finals are usually primetime events — especially during an Olympics. At these Games, however, they're held in the morning from about 10:30 a.m.
The reason is simple: money.
In 2011, U.S. broadcaster NBC struck a deal with the International Olympic Committee worth $4.4 billion to air the Games through 2020. A $7.75 billion extension was struck in 2014 that runs through 2032.
If the finals were held in the evening in Japan — which the swimmers are used to and where fans in the host country could watch in primetime — it would put them in the early morning in the United States.
It's better for NBC to have the finals take place in the morning in Japan, so they can be aired in primetime in North America. Thus the format for Tokyo is seen by most as a nod to the U.S. broadcaster. It was the same for the Beijing Games in 2008.
While it works for North America, the Japanese were left with the short end of the stick.
“The Japan Swimming Federation has made our effort to have finals to be held in the afternoon. It is highly regrettable that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics swimming finals were reportedly decided to be held in the morning,” the Japan Swimming Federation said in a statement to Reuters in 2018, just before the format was finalized.
Some at these Games are unhappy with the change.
"Unfortunately, in our world, money decides everything, and they don't pay attention to the interests of athletes," Russian Yulia Efimova told the Australian Associated Press on Wednesday.
"We would have seen better results if we had the finals in the evening. World records would be broken. But it's also interesting because unpredictability increases (in the morning)."
The reversed schedule presents a very quick turnaround for the athletes.
"To come off of a race, a lot of us do need time to process our emotions, what we went through," American swimmer Hali Flickinger said. "Even though it's the prelims, it's important. So to not have as much time is a little difficult."
It's not just a matter of swimming a heat and going straight to bed.
"If you do everything right as far as nutrition, get massages on the table, get all your recovery in and eat, by the time you get back to the village, that leaves you with six hours of sleep, max," Kalisz said before referencing his own experience. "I did not sleep six hours, I was up at 4 a.m.
"It is a very tough challenge to do a (prelim) at night and wake up and do it in the morning, especially a race like the 400 IM. I think that probably should be our focus as a team, just managing these rounds as best as we possibly can."
The conditions may not be ideal, but the swimmers are taking things as they come.
“It has been an interesting change for sure," American Regan Smith said after winning silver in the women's 100-meter backstroke on Tuesday.
"I think Team USA prepared us really well. I have been, surprisingly, sleeping really well. I know the cardboard beds were kind of a funny thing that everyone was talking about, but I have been finding them really comfortable and sleeping really well.
"I think I have been resting and recovering well between sessions. I came into it prepared mentally and physically. I don’t think the flip-flop of semis and finals was an issue.”
For some it's all about preparation.
"I think it just depends if you have a coach who knows how to create a plan for you," Canadian Penny Oleksiak said Monday.
"In Rio, our coach Ben (Titley) gave us a plan. We were training at like 10 p.m. at night to prepare for later finals."
She said the Canadians adjusted accordingly for the finals in Japan.
"Same thing, Ben had a plan for us when we were training for this year too and morning finals," she said. "We had to get ready for that. It honestly depends on the coaching.”
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