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Swimming

SWIMMING

SWIMMING. The origins of swimming are lost in the murk of prehistory, but humans probably developed the skill after watching animals "dog paddle." Swimmers appear in artwork on Egyptian tombs, in Assyrian stone carvings, in Hittite and Minoan drawings, and in Toltec murals. Ancient gladiators swam while training, and Plato believed that a man who could not swim was uneducated. Contemporaries reported that both Julius Caesar and Charlemagne were strong swimmers.

The first swimming races of which there is a record were held in Japan in 36 b.c., but England was the first modern society to develop swimming as a competitive sport. In the nineteenth century, the British competed in the breaststroke and the sidestroke, both modifications of the "dog paddle." They were generally more interested in endurance than speed, and viewed swimming the English Channel as the supreme test.

While Europeans employed the breaststroke and side-stroke, natives of the Americas, West Africa, and some Pacific Islands used variations of the crawl. Europeans got their first glimpse of this new stroke in 1844, when a group of American Indians was invited to London to compete. Flying Gull bested Tobacco by swimming 130 feet in an unheard-of 30 seconds. One observer noted that the Indians "thrashed the water violently" and compared their arm action to the "sails of a windmill." The British were impressed with the natives' speed, but they considered their style uncivilized.

The overhand stroke was finally introduced to Britain in the 1870s by J. Arthur Trudgen, who noticed indigenous people using the technique during a trip to South America. Upon his return, he began teaching this approach to others. As British swimmers began combining the Trudgen overhand with the breaststroke frog kick, the focus of competition began to shift from distance to speed.

Trudgen had failed to notice the natives' use of the flutter kick, but this was not lost on another British swimmer, Frederick Cavill. In 1878, Cavill immigrated to Australia, where he taught swimming and built pools. During a trip to the Solomon Islands near the turn of the century, Cavill closely watched Pacific Islanders swimming. Noting the way they combined the overhand stroke with kicking action, he taught this new method to his six sons and other British émigrés. His sons, in turn, carried the "Australian crawl" back to England and the United States. The American swimmer Charles Daniels improved on the "Australian crawl" by timing his kick to his armstroke. Using the "American crawl," Daniels won the United States's first Olympic gold medal in 1904.

Although the Greeks did not include swimming in the ancient Olympics, a freestyle competition was part of the first modern games held in 1896. (Freestyle meant that any stroke was allowed.) In 1900, the backstroke was added, as well as three unusual swimming events: an obstacle course, a test of underwater swimming, and a 4,000-meter event. Only the backstroke competition was retained. By 1904, the crawl was becoming the dominant


freestyle stroke, so the breaststroke was made a separate event.

The first American swimmer to achieve national fame was Duke Kahanamoku, a native Hawaiian who won three gold medals and two silvers in the 1912, 1920, and 1924 Olympics. Kahanamoku used six flutter kicks for each cycle of his arms, a technique that is now considered the classic freestyle form. In 1924, the twenty-year-old Johnny Weissmuller beat Kahanamoku, achieving international celebrity. In a decade of racing, Weissmuller set twenty-four world swimming records, won five Olympic gold medals, and never lost a race of between 50 yards and a half-mile. Weissmuller achieved even greater fame, however, when he went on to Hollywood to play Tarzan on the silver screen.

Women were excluded from Olympic swimming until 1912 because they were considered too frail to engage in competitive sports. In the 1910s, however, the newly formed Women's Swimming Association of New York gave women an opportunity to train for competition. Gertrude Ederle, the daughter of a delicatessen owner, began setting world records in distances of between 100 and 800 meters. Wanting to win fame for her swimming club, in 1926 she became the first woman to swim the English Channel. The nineteen-year-old's time of 14 hours and 31 minutes broke the existing men's record, and Ederle returned home to a ticker-tape parade. The first American woman to win an Olympic swimming title was Ethelda Bleibtrey, who captured three gold medals in 1920.

The early twentieth century also saw a boom in leisure swimming. Americans had been going to the beach for seaside recreation ever since railroads made public beaches more accessible in the late nineteenth century. The first municipal pool in the United States was built in Brookline, Massachusetts, in 1887, and by the 1920s many cities and some wealthy homeowners had installed pools. Leisure swimming had health as well as social benefits; President Franklin D. Roosevelt swam regularly to strengthen legs weakened by paralysis, while President John F. Kennedy swam to strengthen his back muscles.

Beginning in the 1930s, women's swimsuits became increasingly streamlined and revealing. (Fabric rationing during World War II [1939–1945] led to the introduction of the two-piece bathing suit, and the "bikini"—named for a U.S. nuclear testing site in the South Pacific—debuted in 1946.) Pin-up girls and starlets appeared in bathing attire, and in 1944 swimming champion Esther Williams made a splash in the film Bathing Beauty. Williams's appearance in a string of Hollywood swimming movies in the 1940s and 1950s helped popularize synchronized swimming.

Hollywood was not alone in turning a camera on swimmers. In 1934, Iowa University coach Dave Armbruster first filmed swimmers in order to study their strokes. To speed his breaststrokers, Armbruster developed a double overarm recovery known as the "butterfly." An Iowa swimmer, Jack Seig, paired this with a "dolphin kick," in which his body undulated from the hips to the toes. The butterfly was so exhausting that it was initially considered a novelty, but swimmers using the overhand stroke began dominating breaststroke races. In 1953, the butterfly was finally recognized as a separate competitive stroke.

The final years of the twentieth century were golden for American swimmers. Mark Spitz, a butterfly and free-style racer, garnered seven gold medals and seven world records in the 1972 Munich Olympics, the most ever in a single Olympiad. In 1992, freestyler Matt Biondi matched Spitz's career record of 11 Olympic medals (The only other Olympian to win 11 medals was shooter Carl Osburn). In the 1980s, Tracy Caulkins became the only American swimmer ever to hold U.S. records in every stroke; she won three gold medals at the Olympics in 1984. Competing in the 1992, 1996, and 2000 Games, Jenny Thompson won ten butterfly and freestyle medals, including eight golds, the most ever captured by a woman.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Gonsalves, Kamm, Herbert, ed. The Junior Illustrated Encyclopedia of Sports. Indianapolis, Ind.: Bobbs-Merrill, 1970.

USA Swimming Official Web site. Home page at http://www.usa-swimming.org.

Yee, Min S., ed. The Sports Book: An Unabashed Assemblage of Heroes, Strategies, Records, and Events. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1975.

WendyWall

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swimming

swimming is one of the most popular recreational sports that can be enjoyed by all ages. The ability to swim enables people to participate in a wide variety of water sports such as snorkelling, water skiing, jet skiing, wind surfing, sailing, boating, fishing, rowing, and canoeing, without the fear of getting into trouble, and reduces the risk of drowning. Fear of water, particularly if a person suddenly gets out of their depth, prevents a lot of people going into a swimming pool or enjoying beach holidays. Many of the newer watersports require expertise in handling a craft as well as swimming proficiency.

Water is a very dangerous place for non swimmers, particularly if it is cold and an excessive amount of alcohol has been drunk. Unfamiliar surroundings, and no knowledge of local tides, can be lethal to careless individuals. Water-related fatalities are the second leading cause of accidental death in the UK and Australia, and the third in the US. The risk of drowning is 2.5 deaths per 100 000 in USA and 1 per 100 000 in the UK.

Babies are taught to swim at a very young age in some countries; this enables them to learn to swim without fear of the water. They should have had their first two combined immunizations, unless they are being breast-fed. The water temperature should be higher than normal, a minimum of 86°F or 27°C. The time spent in the water should be carefully monitored; this can vary from 10 minutes to 30 minutes but babies should not stay too long in the water as they lose heat rapidly.

Swimmers are usually taught the four swimming strokes used for competitions; the front crawl, backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly, which are swum either as a single stroke or in combination over various distances.

There are four phases of each stroke; the reach, catch, pull, and recovery. The arm action during the pull phase provides 75% of the propulsion in all strokes except the breast-stroke, where the contributions from the upper and lower limbs are equal. During reach or entry the arm reaches forwards to enter the water. In backstroke the arm entry occurs with the shoulder in the fully elevated position. Catch is similar in all competitive strokes except backstroke; the elbow flexes, the arm extends forwards at the shoulder and moves outwards in the horizontal plane whilst rotating towards the body. The pull is the propulsion phase and can vary; the swimmer either sculls or pushes the water. The arm action starts at maximum elevation and ends in extension except in breast-stroke. Recovery is the out of water phase (except breast-stroke), and the arm then returns to start position.

In breast-stroke the arms move together in pull and recovery phase and the arms do not pull below the waistline.

Swimming is a sport that attracts participants of all ages although it is largely a young sport. Competitions are organized by clubs, schools, and national associations. Short course competitions take place in a 25-metre pool, long course in a 50-metre pool. Olympic swimming competitions are over a variety of distances and strokes, and they take place in 50-metre pools. Synchronized swimming, waterpolo, and diving are also included in the Olympic programme. Swimming in the sea may be part of a triathlon race, and open sea races, including Channel swims, are also held. ‘Masters’ swimming competitions are held for those over 24 years of age whereas ‘veteran’ sports competitions in athletics are for the over 40s. Competitions for different age groups are held in most countries, and world championships also take place.

Competitive swimming is a high-intensity training and performance sport. During the school year swimming training is divided into two sessions: the first session is in the early morning before school and the second session after school. The competitive swimmer usually does an average of 12 000–18 000 metres per day. The competition programme for the season should be planned well in advance so that the swimmer can peak for a specific competition, i.e. the swimmer reduces the amount of training to get the best result.

Swimming is a relatively injury-free sport and was found to be the safest of eleven sports surveyed by Weightman and Brown in 1975. It is non-load-bearing and does not involve antigravity work, resulting in fewer injuries. The injuries that do occur are usually due to overuse, doing too much too quickly, or breaking the rules.

To ignore warning signs of strong currents, king waves or rip tides may have lethal consequences. Diving into the shallow end of a pool or into a wave or sea where rocks are submerged may result in severe injuries. Pools should have the depth clearly marked so that swimmers do not dive into shallow water. Pools used for competition should be marked 2 metres from the wall at each end to judge when to turn. Flags are placed above the pool 5 metres from the end of the pool for the backstroke turn. There are rules against running around the pool. Pool discipline should be maintained, particularly out of the pool to prevent people slipping or jumping into the pool on top of other swimmers. There should also be strict discipline in the pool when swimming lengths. Hyperventilation before trying to swim a long distance under water should be forbidden, as it increases the risk of hypoxia (lack of oxygen), and may result in loss of consciousness and death by drowning. The hyperventilation removes carbon dioxide and hence delays the stimulus to breathe when breathholding.

Swimming programmes are helpful for both the mentally and the physically handicapped as they weigh less in water, and this makes it easier for them to move their muscles, enabling them to improve muscle tone and co-ordination of movement. Pregnant women can swim during their pregnancy while many other sports are not suitable. Swimming is also useful in rehabilitation of injured athletes. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis can improve their aerobic capacity by swimming in warm water. Asthmatics should be encouraged to swim, as swimming is the sport that is least likely to precipitate an asthmatic attack, and the fitter they are the fewer attacks they have; swimming improves their breathing. Asthma is not a handicap in achieving excellence in sport as shown by the number of Olympic gold medal swimmers who were asthmatics.

Water aerobics is becoming a popular method of keeping fit, with less potential for injury than high impact aerobics. Running in the water is a useful method for athletes to keep fit, if they are injured and unable to cope with full weight-bearing on hard surfaces. Hydrotherapy is also an effective rehabilitation after injury. Swimming is thus a sport that can be enjoyed by many different groups.

Moira O'Brien


See also cold exposure; drowning; exercise; sport.

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swimming

swimming, self-propulsion through water, often as a form of recreation or exercise or as a competitive sport. It is mentioned in many of the classics in connection with heroic acts or religious rites. The first book on methods of swimming was Nicolas Wynman's Dialogue Concerning the Art of Swimming (1538). Swimming calls more muscles into play with exact coordination than most other sports, and its high repetition of movement makes it extremely beneficial to the cardiovascular system.

Swimming Strokes

Swimming strokes should create the least possible water resistance; there should be a minimum of splashing so that forward motion is smooth and not jerky. The stroke most commonly used to attain speed is the crawl, standardized in Australia (hence sometimes called the Australian crawl) and perfected in the United States. In the crawl the body is prone; alternating overarm strokes and the flutter kick are used, and the head remains in the water, the face alternating from side to side. The trudgen stroke (named for an English swimmer whose speed made it famous), also involves alternate overarm strokes in a prone position, but a scissors kick is used and the head remains on one side. The backstroke is done in a supine position and in racing requires alternate over-the-head arm strokes and a flutter kick. The elementary backstroke involves alternation of the frog kick with simultaneous strokes of the arms, which are extended at shoulder level and moved in an arc toward the hips. The sidestroke, a relaxed movement, entails a forward underwater stroke with the body on one side and a scissors kick. The breaststroke can also be a restful stroke and is accomplished in a prone position; frog kicking alternates with a simultaneous movement of the arms from a point in front of the head to shoulder level. The most difficult and exhausting stroke is the butterfly; second only to the crawl in speed, it is done in a prone position and employs the dolphin kick with a windmill-like movement of both arms in unison. It is mastered by only the best swimmers. The dog paddle, a very simple stroke that takes its name from the way a dog swims, is done by reaching forward with the arms underwater and using a modified flutter kick.

In freestyle swimming any stroke may be used, but the crawl, considered the speediest, is almost always favored. No matter what the stroke, breathing should be easy and natural, since the specific gravity of the human body, although it varies with the individual, is almost always such that the body floats if the lungs are functioning normally. In races, facility in diving from a firm surface is essential, except in the backstroke.

Competitive Swimming

Swimming became organized as an amateur sport in the late 19th cent. in several countries. Its popularity increased with the development and improvement of the swimming pool, and swimming was part of the first modern Olympic Games (1896). Olympic events for women were included in 1912. Today Olympic swimming events comprise the 50-, 100-, 200-, 400-, 800- (women), and 1,500-meter (men) freestyle races; 200- (men), 400-, and 800-meter (women) freestyle relay races; the 400-meter medley (mixed stroke) relay; 100- and 200-meter backstroke, breaststroke, and butterfly races; 200- and 400-meter individual medley races; springboard and high diving events (see diving, springboard and platform); water polo; and women's synchronized swimming. Improvements in swimsuits have contributed to faster times in many race events, most controversially in 2009 when polyurethane suits led to many new records at the world championships. Polyurethane were subsequently banned from competition; full-body suits were also banned. Among the more successful American Olympic swimmers have been John Weissmuller, Buster Crabbe, Esther Williams, Don Schollander, Mark Spitz, Matt Biondi, Janet Evans, and Michael Phelps. Among non-Olympic distance events, swimming the English Channel has been most publicized. The first confirmed crossing was made (1875) by Matthew Webb of England; Gertrude Ederle of the United States was the first woman to perform (1926) this feat. Swimming has never achieved sustained success as a professional sport.

Bibliography

See F. Oppenheim, The History of Swimming (1970); J. E. Counsilman, The Complete Book of Swimming (1977); D. F. Chambliss, The Making of Olympic Swimmers (1988).

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swimming

swimming was until recently confined to those living by lakes, rivers, or near the sea. The development of public baths and pools in the 19th cent. gave, for the first time, a chance for large numbers of people to learn to swim. After some early unsuccessful attempts, the Metropolitan Swimming Association was formed in 1869 and later became the Amateur Swimming Association. Like most of the sporting associations established in the later 19th cent. the ASA emphasized amateur status, trying to ensure that swimming remained free from corruption, whether from cash prizes or gambling. The feat of Captain Matthew Webb in swimming the English Channel from Dover to Calais in 1875 captured much attention for the sport. It was included in the Olympics in 1896 and an international regulatory body established in 1908. By the late 20th cent., swimming for leisure, along with competitive swimming, diving, water polo, synchronized, and long-distance swimming, was the most popular participant sport in Britain.

J. A. Cannon

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swimming

swimming Self-propulsion through water as a leisure activity or as a competitive sport. Formal competition was first introduced (1603) in Japan. In 1837, the National Swimming Association formed in England; the Fédération Internationale de Natation Amateur (FINA), the world governing body, formed by 1908. There are four main strokes – breaststroke, front crawl, backstroke, and butterfly. Recognized race distances for men and women, established by the Federation in 1968, range from 100m to 1500m; there are also relay and medley races. Synchronized swimming also features at the Olympic Games and at the four-yearly World Championships, as does diving. Swimming is one of the disciplines of the triathlon and the modern pentathlon.

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