Facts and Information About Collegiate Swimming and Diving
Important: Click here to read the first part of this informative article about the history of swimming.
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.