The History of Competitive Swimming

Competitive swimming was first introduced in the early 1800’s in Britain by the National Swimming Society. At that time, there were man-made indoor pools in London and the National Swimming Society of England used them for swimming competitions. These events became popular in England and led to the formation of the Amateur Swimming Association in 1880.

The swimming strokes used in this time period were the side stroke and the breast stroke. In 1873 John Trudgen introduced the front crawl to Britain used with a scissor or flutter kick. This enhanced speeds and made swimming competitions new and exciting. Improvements to the front crawl, either by different kicks or different ratios of kicks to strokes, resulted in the fastest swimming style known today, now called the freestyle stroke.

In 1896 the Olympic Games were held in Greece in the city of Athens. Swimming was included and there were four swimming contests held. They were: 100 m, 100 m for sailors, the 500 m and the 1200 m competitions. Hungary’s Alfred Hajos won the first gold medal in the history of swimming in the 100 m freestyle and the 1200 m race. Paul Neumann from Austria won the 500 m event. A Greek sailor named Ioannis Malokinis won the 100 m for sailors.

In 1900 the Olympic Games were held in Paris, France and had the 200 m, 1000 m and 4000 m and 200 m backstroke and a 200 m relay race. The Paris Games also had an underwater and a swimming against the current races. The 4000 m freestyle race was won by British swimmer John Jarvis. The 4000 m event was the longest swimming competition event ever held in the history of swimming. The backstroke was used in the Olympics in the sport of water polo, for the first time.

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