The men's and women's 10km open water swimming event, also known as the marathon swimming event, is the longest swimming race in the Olympic Games. This is the equivalent of 6.214 miles. The event made its debut as an Olympic event at the Beijing 2008 Games.

The winner of the first gold medal for the men's event was Dutch swimmer Maarten van der Weiden (born 1981). The winner of the first women's race was Larisa Ilchenko (born 1988), a long-distance swimmer from Russia.

Due to the length of race, contestants may pause for water or food. This is provided by officials, who are located at stations along the course. They pass food and water to swimmers in cups attached to a long pole known as a feeding stick. So they do not lose time, most swimmers continue to race as they consume the water and food.

Unlike indoor swimming events, changing tides and currents can affect a competitor's performance. It is not always the fastest swimmers that win, but rather those who are able to adapt to the environment and use the changing conditions to their advantage.

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