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This article is about competitive swimming as a recreational activity. For the general article on human movement in the water, see Swimming.
"Swimmer" redirects here. For other uses, see Swimmer (disambiguation).
Start of the 4 × 100 meters relay during the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing
Highest governing body FINA
First competitions 1930s
Team members Teams or individuals
Venue Swimming pools or open-water
Country or region Worldwide
World Championships 1973
Swimming is an individual or team sport that requires the use of one's arms and legs to move the body through water. The sport takes place in pools or open water (e.g., in a sea or lake). Competitive swimming is one of the most popular Olympic sports, with varied distance events in butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, freestyle, and individual medley. In addition to these individual events, four swimmers can take part in either a freestyle or medley relay. A medley relay consists of four swimmers who will each swim a different stroke. The order for a medley relay is: backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, and freestyle. Swimming each stroke requires a set of specific techniques; in competition, there are distinct regulations concerning the acceptable form for each individual stroke.There are also regulations on what types of swimsuits, caps, jewelry and injury tape that are allowed at competitions. Although it is possible for competitive swimmers to incur several injuries from the sport, such as tendinitis in the shoulders or knees, there are also multiple health benefits associated with the sport.
Main article: History of swimming
Leander swimming across the Hellespont. Detail from a painting by Bernard Picart.
Evidence of recreational swimming in prehistoric times has been found, with the earliest evidence dating to Stone Age paintings from around 10,000 years ago. Written references date from 2000 BC, with some of the earliest references to swimming including the Iliad, the Odyssey, the Bible, Beowulf, the Quran and others. In 1538, Nikolaus Wynmann, a Swiss professor of languages, wrote the first book about swimming, The Swimmer or A Dialogue on the Art of Swimming (Der Schwimmer oder ein Zweigespräch über die Schwimmkunst).
Swimming emerged as a competitive recreational activity in the 1830s in England. In 1828, the first indoor swimming pool, St George's Baths was opened to the public.By 1837, the National Swimming Society was holding regular swimming competitions in six artificial swimming pools, built around London. The recreational activity grew in popularity and by 1880, when the first national governing body, the Amateur Swimming Association was formed, there were already over 300 regional clubs in operation across the country.
The routes taken by Webb and T.W. Burgess across the English Channel, in 1875 and 1911, respectively.
In 1844 two Native American participants at a swimming competition in London introduced the front crawl to a European audience. Sir John Arthur Trudgen picked up the hand-over stroke from some South American natives and successfully debuted the new stroke in 1873, winning a local competition in England. His stroke is still regarded as the most powerful to use today.
Captain Matthew Webb was the first man to swim the English Channel (between England and France), in 1875. Using the breaststroke technique, he swam the channel 21.26 miles (34.21 km) in 21 hours and 45 minutes. His feat was not replicated or surpassed for the next 36 years, until T.W. Burgess made the crossing in 1911.
Other European countries also established swimming federations; Germany in 1882, France in 1890 and Hungary in 1896. The first European amateur swimming competitions were in 1889 in Vienna. The world's first women's swimming championship was held in Scotland in 1892.
Men's swimming became part of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 in Athens. In 1902, the Australian Richmond Cavill introduced freestyle to the Western world. In 1908, the world swimming association, Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA), was formed. Women's swimming was introduced into the Olympics in 1912; the first international swim meet for women outside the Olympics was the 1922 Women's Olympiad. Butterfly was developed in the 1930s and was at first a variant of breaststroke, until it was accepted as a separate style in 1952.
See also: List of swimming competitions
Katie Ledecky set the Olympic records in 2016 for the 400 m and 800 m freestyle.
Competitive swimming became popular in the 19th century. The goal of high level competitive swimming is to break personal or world records while beating competitors in any given event. Swimming in competition should create the least resistance in order to obtain maximum speed. However, some professional swimmers who do not hold a national or world ranking are considered the best in regard to their technical skills. Typically, an athlete goes through a cycle of training in which the body is overloaded with work in the beginning and middle segments of the cycle, and then the workload is decreased in the final stage as the swimmer approaches competition.
The practice of reducing exercise in the days just before an important competition is called tapering. Tapering is used to give the swimmer's body some rest without stopping exercise completely. A final stage is often referred to as "shave and taper": the swimmer shaves off all exposed hair for the sake of reducing drag and having a sleeker and more hydrodynamic feel in the water. Additionally, the "shave and taper" method refers to the removal of the top layer of "dead skin", which exposes the newer and richer skin underneath. This also helps to "shave" off mere milliseconds on your time.
World record holder and Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps in the 400 IM.
Swimming is an event at the Summer Olympic Games, where male and female athletes compete in 16 of the recognized events each. Olympic events are held in a 50-meter pool, called a long course pool.
There are forty officially recognized individual swimming events in the pool; however the International Olympic Committee only recognizes 32 of them. The international governing body for competitive swimming is the Fédération Internationale de Natation ("International Swimming Federation"), better known as FINA.