16 Interesting Facts About Swimming
Swimming is one of the most popular sports at the Olympic Games, with athletes competing both individually and in relays to claim gold for their countries. You can swim in a lake, a pool, a river, the ocean or even a puddle – if it’s a big one! We’ve collected a bunch of swimming facts that you may not know…
- Swimming may be one of the world’s oldest sports: Cave paintings that could be up to 10,000 years old provide evidence that swimming was around back in prehistoric times.
- However, the evidence of swimming becoming a competitive sport only dates back to the 1830s: The world’s first indoor swimming pool was built in England in 1828. 10 years later, there would be six pools across the country with regular swimming competitions held.
- By 1875, swimmers had advanced to the point that the first recorded swim across the English channel was recorded: Captain Matthew Webb completed the 21 mile (34 km) journey in just under 22 hours.
- Swimming was part of the sports on offer at the first modern Olympic Games, held in Athens in 1896: 19 swimmers for 4 countries participated, and the only stroke contested was freestyle. Hungary dominated with 2 swimmers finishing first, in the 100m and 1,200m freestyle events. For this tournament – and the next three – the swimming events took place in open water, rather than in pools.
- Bonus fact: At the 1896 games, athletes finishing first would be awarded a silver medal – and there were no medals for second or third place.
- Women would have to wait until 1912 to participate in Olympic swimming: Sarah Frances “Fanny” Durack from Australia would be crowned as the first women’s 100m gold medallist with a time of 1:22.2.
- Competitive swimming typically takes place in a 50m pool: This is a standard Olympic-sized swimming pool and is also known as a long course pool. The width of such a pool is 25 metres with 10 evenly-spaced lanes.
- Longer-distance swimming events typically take place in lakes or the ocean: There are events with distances ranging from 5km up to 25km. The Olympic Games only features the 10km distance at present.
- There are four major styles of swimming: freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke and butterfly: Butterfly is the most modern style – it was first developed in the 1930s as a variant of breaststroke, but eventually became known as an individual style in 1952.
- A technique to swim faster known as the ‘dolphin kick‘ emerged in the 1980s: This involved swimmers spending a longer duration underwater at the start of the swim and after turns.
- A controversy involving male swimwear took place at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games: Over 66 Olympic records were broken during tournament, and experts claimed it was due to special suits that covered the entire legs of male athletes. These types of suits would be banned for future events.
- Swimming is linked to many positive health impacts: It offers a full body, low-impact workout that can reduce the risk of chronic illness. It also causes less joint or muscle pain than land-based exercise.
- The world’s fastest short-distance male swimmer is currently César Cielo, from Brazil: In 2009 he broke the world records for the 50m and 100m freestyle, with times of just 20.91 and 46.91, respectively.
- Over 200m and 400m, the world’s fastest male swimmer is German Paul Biedermann: He set the world records in these events in 2009 at the World Championships.
- Swedish woman Sarah Sjöström currently holds the 50m and 100m records, with times of 23.67 and 51.71 – both set in 2017: Federica Pellegrini has the fastest 200m time, while American Katie Ledecky holds the records for the 400m, 800m and 1,500m.
- The world’s most successful swimming nation is currently the United States, with 27 world records as of November 2017: Other top nations include Sweden (7 records), Hungary & Spain (6 records each) and Germany & China (5 records each).