by: Nikole ST.George

What is swimming?

Swimming, in recreation and sports, the propulsion of the body through water by combined arm and leg motions and the natural flotation of the body. Swimming as an exercise is popular as an all-around body developer and is particularly useful in therapy and as exercise for physically handicapped persons. It is also taught for lifesaving purposes. For activities that involve swimming, see also diving, lifesaving, surfing, synchronized swimming, underwater diving, and water polo.

Swimming Olympic's

In 1904 the Olympic Games in St Louis, Missouri, held the 50 yards (46 m), 100 yards, 220 yards (200 m), 440 yards, 880 yards (800 m) and one mile (1.6 km) freestyle; 100 yards (91 m) backstroke and 440 yards (400 m) breaststroke; and the 4 × 50 yards freestyle relay. In the history of swimming, this was the first time that the Olympics specified if an event was freestyle or breaststroke.

In 1908 the Fédération Internationale de Natation Amateur (FINA), which is the world’s first swimming association, was formed.

In 1912 at the Olympic Games in Stockholm, women swam competitively for the first time. Women’s races were held in the 100 m freestyle and the 100 m freestyle relay. The men’s events were the 100 m, 400 m, and 1500 m freestyle; 100 m backstroke; 200 m and 400 m breaststroke; and a 4 × 200 m freestyle relay. This was a milestone Olympic Games for swimming. Women were being allowed to compete for the first time in the history of swimming, and men had an extensive list of competitive races that were held.

In 1922, Johnny Weissmuller became the first person to swim 100 m in under a minute. Weissmuller went on to win five Olympic medals and 36 national championships, igniting an interest in competitive swimming that was never seen before. Weissmuller never lost a race over a career spanning ten years. His record of 51 seconds in the 100 yard freestyle event was unbroken for the next 17 years. He later garnered Hollywood fame as the star of numerous Tarzan films. Also in 1922, female swimmer Sybil Bauer was the first woman to break the men’s 440 m backstroke record. Competitive swimming went to the forefront of sports due to these record-breaking feats.

Mark Spitz in 1972 broke all records in the history of swimming at the 1972 Summer Olympics and won seven gold medals. Spitz was a phenomenal swimmer and won a total of 9 Olympic gold medals, a silver, a bronze, five Pan Am golds, 31 other amateur titles, and 8 college titles. He accumulated this impressive total of titles between the years of 1968–1972. Spitz, at the 1972 Olympics, broke world records in each of the seven events he won gold medals.

Competitive swimming has not seen the likes of Spitz until Michael Phelps. As of this date, Phelps has won 16 Olympic medals. Phelps won six gold and two bronze medals in 2004 in Athens. In 2008 at the Beijing Olympics he won eight gold medals. With these accomplishments, Phelps has twice tied with a total record of eight gold medals at one Olympics.

The history of swimming has been a documented and varied one. From the sidestroke to the current freestyle strokes, swimming has, and continues to be, an exciting and ever-evolving sport.

brief history of Swimming

Swimming is an ancient activity that has taken place since both water and humans were on the earth. Prehistoric drawings from the southwestern part of Egypt show original documentation of people swimming. The images seem to show the dog paddle or breaststroke, but these may have been more ritualistic than anything. Of course, anciently, swimming was done because it was necessary for survival. Whether people needed to cross a river to safety on the other side or simply know how to tread water to prevent drowning, swimming has certainly come a long way since its ancient days. Here is the history of swimming in a competitive sense as it is known today.

Recognizing swimming

England is recognized as the first country to participate in swimming as a recreation and competitive sport. In 1837, competitions were held in man-made pools in London. The National Swimming Society in England organized the competitions which grew quickly in popularity. The very first indoor pool in the history of swimming was constructed in 1862 in England. Soon, more pools were built and another swimming organization was established in 1880. It was known as the Amateur Swimming Association of Great Britain, an organization with more than 300 member clubs. The main swimming styles utilized in competitions were the breaststroke and the recently-developed sidestroke.

Entering the Olympics

Swimming joined the Olympics in 1896 as a men’s sport. They competed in the categories of 100-meter and 1500-meter Freestyle. These were held in open water. More Olympic events were soon added during the history of swimming, including breaststroke, backstroke, butterfly, and individual medley. The first few Olympic Games that featured swimming did not include women. It was not until 1912 that women’s swimming made its debut. There are now 16 races held for men and women, totaling 32 altogether, in each Summer Olympic Games. The Special Olympics also has 22 swimming categories for men and women, totaling 44 altogether.

Modifying for speed

Modifications in swimming techniques occurred through this point in the history of swimming as different counties changed the way they accomplished the backstroke and breaststroke. This occurred between 1935 and 1945 and into the 1950s, creating controversy at the Olympics. Around this same time, war shortages demanded a reduction in fabric for making swimming suits. Thus, the first two-piece swimming suits were invented in 1943. Techniques for winning Olympic gold medals changed at this time as swimmers spent more time under water to gain an advantage of speed. It is a technique that is still used today.