Countdown to the Games
17-25 June 2023

Open Water Swimming

Know your facts:

  • Open water swimming has been a sport at Special Olympics World Games since 2011
  • Unified Sports? Yes
  • Estimated number of athletes participating: 20 athletes + 6 Unified partners

Open water swimming is one of the fastest-growing and most challenging sports. Each year, more than 6,500 open water competitions are held worldwide in open waters such as oceans, lakes, and rivers.

Special Olympics feature:

All competitions are freestyle and any swimming style is allowed, including backstroke, breaststroke, or sidestroke. In Special Olympics open water swimming, the swimmers are allowed to walk and stand in the water during the competition. They may rest and hold on to, for example, boats, paddle boards, ropes, and safety personnel in the water if they are tired, nervous, or need help or encouragement. They may not improve their position in the competition while using any of the above means to rest or recover.

In unified open water swimming, athletes and Unified partners must swim within a maximum of 10 meters of each other throughout the race. They may not cross the finish line more than 10 seconds apart. The time of the last member to cross or touch the finish line will count for scoring purposes.


We have two competitions:

  1. 1500m open water swim
  2. 1500m Unified Sports open water swim

By the way:

In the water the body is only about 1/7 as heavy as it is on land. That's why we feel almost weightless while swimming.


The open water swimming competitions are free to enter.



 All timings of our competitions and award ceremonies.


Spectator Guide

All information for visiting open water swimming.

On the photo, there are two athletes in action during a Open Water Swimming competition.
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The photo shows a scene of the start of an Open Water Swimming competition. The athletes are running into the water.
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On the photo, you can see the back of an athlete right before the competition in open water swimming at the National Games Berlin 2022.
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The photo shows an athlete during an open water swimming competition.
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The photo shows a scene during an Open Water Swimming competition. Three athletes are visible.
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The photo shows an athlete during an open water swimming competition. She looks very concentrated.
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Open water swimming takes place at Grünau.