Summer is here and it won’t be fair if we do not discuss the most popular summer sport, Swimming. Swimming not only qualifies as a great summer sport because of how crisp and refreshing the water is, but also because it is ranked as the second highest sport of interest in the Summer Olympics.
Unlike most of the popular sports, swimming is an individual sport, which puts massive amounts of pressure on each athlete.
Athletes have been racing in competitive swimming at the Olympics since the very first modern day Olympic Games in 1896, where it was one of the original nine sports. Swimming at the Olympics has changed a lot since 1896, where there were just four men’s races, all held in the Mediterranean Sea.
Did you know that free-divers can hold their breath for more than 10 minutes! Like this, let’s dive into the interesting and unknown facts about the coolest Olympian sport:
- Competitive swimming in Britain started around 1830, mostly using breaststroke.
- Swimming was part of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 in Athens.
- Swimming is one of the only five different sports to have featured in every single edition of the modern Olympics since 1896.
- Women’s races were added at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm while other innovations like starting blocks (added for the 1936 Olympics) and swimming goggles (permitted for the first time at the 1976 Olympics).
- The United States has nearly 4x more gold medals (214) in swimming events than its closest competitor, Australia (56).
- Synchronized swimming was demonstrated in the 1952 Olympic Games; however, it didn’t become an official Olympic competition until the 1984 Games.
- The United States won every swimming event at the 1948 Olympic Games in London.
- In 2008, a 10km open water ‘Marathon’ event was added to the schedule of swimming at the Olympics, with English swimmers Keri-Anne Payne and Cassandra Patten winning silver and bronze respectively in the women’s race.
- In the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, both men and women competed in sixteen events in the pool, with the exceptions of the 800 m freestyle (women-only) and the 1500 m freestyle (men-only).
- Of the 32 pool-based events, swimmers from the United States hold eighteen records, including one tied with a swimmer from Canada, Australia and China three each, Hungary two, and one each to the Netherlands, Brazil, Japan, Great Britain, Singapore and Sweden.
- Thirteen of the current Olympic records were set at the 2016 Games.
Top 5 greatest swimmers:
Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympian of all time, with a total of 28 medals. He holds the all-time records for Olympic gold medals (23), Olympic gold medals in individual events (13), and Olympic medals in individual events (16).
Chasing Mark Spitz’s 1972 Munich tally of seven straight golds, Phelps broke his record after seizing eighth gold in Beijing.
Mark Spitz is known by his nickname ‘Mark The Shark’. He is a retired American swimmer who has won seven gold medals at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. Spitz set new world records in all the seven events in which he competed in the 1972 Olympic.
Mark Spitz held the record for most gold medals won at a single Olympic Games for 36 years. It was finally broken by American phenomenon Michael Phelps who won eight gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Games.
Ian Thorpe is an Australian swimmer who specializes in freestyle but also competes in backstroke and the individual medley. He has won five Olympic gold medals, the most won by any Australian, and with three gold and two silver medals, was the most successful athlete at the 2000 Summer Olympics. At the 2001 World Aquatics Championships, he became the first person to win six gold medals in one World Championship. In total, Thorpe has won eleven World Championship golds, the third-highest number of any swimmer. His athletic achievements made him one of Australia’s most popular athletes, and he was recognized as the Young Australian of the Year in 2000.
Ryan Lochte is an American competitive swimmer, a 12-time Olympic medallist (six gold, three silver, three bronze), which ranks him second in swimming behind Michael Phelps. His seven individual Olympic medals rank near the top in men’s swimming. As part of the American teams, he holds the world record in the 4×200-meter freestyle (long course) and 4×100-meter freestyle (mixed) relay. Individually, he currently holds the world record in the 200-meter individual medley (long and short course) and a 400-meter individual medley (short course).
Kristin Otto, the German swimmer, is the first female athlete to win six gold medals at a single Olympic Games (1988 Seoul Olympic games). In long course, she held the world records in the 100 meter and 200-meter freestyle events. Otto was also the first woman to swim the short course 100-meter backstroke in under a minute. Freestyle, butterfly, and backstroke were her specialties.