The artistic swimming program at the Tokyo Olympics begins with the duet competition. All 22 qualified pairs – no more than one per country – first perform a preliminary free routine of up to three minutes in length. During a free routine, athletes can perform any combination of figures and movements they choose – so long as they remain in synch – with an emphasis on creativity and difficulty. The following day, the same 22 duets perform a technical routine of up to 2 minutes 20 seconds. The pairs must perform six required elements in sequence throughout the routine, with an emphasis on execution. Scores from the technical routine are combined with scores from the preliminary free routine to rank the competitors, and the bottom 10 are eliminated.
The remaining 12 duets advance to the final day of competition. Each performs their free routine again. The scores of the final free routine replace the scores from the preliminary routine, again in combination with the technical routine scores, to achieve a final ranking of duets.
The team competition comprises groups of eight athletes per country. Only 10 nations qualify for the event, and there are no eliminations during competition. Each team first performs a technical routine of up to 2 minutes 50 seconds, where athletes must execute seven required elements in sequence.
The following day, each team performs a four-minute free routine. The large size of the teams allows for spectacular visuals and high throws in this stage. The scores of both routines are combined to construct the final ranking of teams and award medals.