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Learn More About Swimming

Female Swimmer

What is the history of swimming?

Throughout history, swimming has been used as a means of survival—crossing rivers and lakes to escape predators or explore new lands. Depictions of men and women swimming have been found in cave paintings dating back to the Stone Age and have also been included in Greek mythology.

While people of the time may not have been using advanced swimming techniques to traverse water, the act of swimming and treading water has become a natural reflex for modern humans with infants demonstrating an innate swimming or diving reflex from birth until the age of approximately six months.

Swimming only became widely practiced as a sports activity in the early nineteenth century in Great Britain, where the National Swimming Society of Great Britain began to hold competitions—most athletes swam by breaststroke or a similar style.

Swimming at the Olympic Games

Swimming events began to appear at the Olympic Games in Athens in 1896 (the first modern Olympic Games) with swimming freestyle events for men—back style events were added in 1904 and female swimming events were introduced in 1912.

Since 1896, swimming events have been included in every summer Olympic Games, producing some of the most successful Olympic athletes ever, including Michael Phelps, the most-decorated Olympian of all-time with 28 medals in various swimming events.

What are the current Olympic swimming events?

400 athletes currently compete in swimming events at the Olympic Games. Current events include: 50m, 100m, 200m, 400m freestyle; 100m, 200m backstroke; 100m, 200m breaststroke; 100m, 200m butterfly; 200m, 400m individual medley; 4x100m, 4x200m freestyle; 4x100m medley. Plus, a 1,500m freestyle event for men, and an 800m freestyle event for women.

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