Swimming is one of the world's oldest forms of competitive sport. Swimming ability was valued in a number of ancient cultures, including Greece and Japan.
As swimming became established as a sporting activity in the early 1800s in Europe, the most common type of swim stroke employed was a variation of the breaststroke, where the swimmer used both arms below the water and the head positioned above water. In 1844 at a competition held in London, a number of Native American entrants from the United States used a stroke that was similar in style to the modern front crawl, where the swimmer's head was submerged from time to time and the arms directed in a windmill motion. Although superior to the breast stroke, the Europeans saw the innovation as undignified and did not adopt it at that time. The first successful attempt to swim the English Channel, a distance of 21 mi (32 km) occurred in 1875.
Swimming pools were built in London, and in other European cities, prior to 1900 and the first European swimming championships were held in Vienna in 1889. Swimming was included as a sport in the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 as a men's sport; the first women's Olympic swimming was contested in 1912. The most famous of swimming strokes was developed in the early years of the twentieth century by Australian Frederick Cavill (1839–1927), who adapted the Native American overhand swim stroke and added a flutter kick (a repetitive kicking motion). This stroke was known as the Australian crawl; it is now designated in international swim rules as the crawl, the stroke used in freestyle swimming events.
Swimming has produced some athletes who became the subject of international recognition. American Johnny Weissmuller (1904–1984) won a total of five Olympic medals in the 1924 and 1928 Summer Games. Weissmuller parlayed his swim fame into a Hollywood movie career as "Tarzan." American Mark Spitz won seven gold medals in the 1972 Olympics. Australian Ian Thorpe, the 6 ft 7 in (1.98 m) "Thorpedo," won a total of nine medals in the 2000 and 2004 Olympics, the most ever by an Australian athlete. Yona Klochvova of the Ukraine won successive gold medals in the 2000 and 2004 Olympics, in addition to being named the world's top 400-m medley swimmer for seven successive years.
The Federation Internationale de Natation de Amateur (FINA), was founded in 1908. FINA is one of the widest ranging of the international governing bodies in sport, as it is the authority in the distinct disciplines of swimming (races up to 10,000 m staged in swimming pools), water polo, open water swimming, diving, and synchronized swimming. The global popularity of swimming is illustrated by the fact that over 200 national swimming associations comprise the FINA membership. Swimming is the most popular of the sports directed by FINA; there are state, regional, intercollegiate, national, and international swimming competitions, in a number of different formats and age groups, available in every region of the world in a given calendar year.
Swimming competitions are held in one of two settings sanctioned by FINA. A short course is a swimming pool 25 m in length; a long course is a 50-m pool. The 50-m facility is the standard distance for international and Olympic competition. The pool is divided into lanes, typically eight in total, with each lane divided by floating markers extending the length of the pool; to assist the swimmers in maintaining their orientation and to permit them to swim in as straight a line as is possible, the center line beneath each lane is marked along the bottom of the pool. In North America and Europe, most competitive swimming competitions are held in indoor facilities; in countries such as Australia, a world power in the sport, the climate permits the extensive use of outdoor swimming pools.
Swimming races range in length from the 50-m sprint (one length of the pool in Olympic competition) to 10,000-m events. The physiological demands of swimming are similar to those of running, in the sense that a 50-m sprint specialist will not likely succeed in a long distance race, and the various distances and specialized strokes demand specialized training approaches. There are four general types of swimming races, each defined by the stroke that the swimmer is required to employ-, freestyle (where all swimmers use the crawl), the breaststroke, the backstroke, and the butterfly. One event, the individual medley, requires the swimmer to use each of the four stroke types for a designated portion of the course. There are also relay races at various distances, including the medley relay where the four team members use a different stroke in their successive relay legs.
All types of swim strokes have five general components: the arm stroke, the kick, the timing and coordination of the body movements, the body position relative to the surface of the water, and the breathing rhythm. All swim performance theory is predicated on the fact that the human body and its composition (over 90% water), is only slightly less buoyant that the substance in which the athlete is racing.
A swim race has three distinct components, the start, the swim, and the turns. Each aspect has its own distinct technique, founded upon a body of practical racing results and scientific research as to the most efficient methods to move through and over water.
Swimmers are permitted to wear a variety of different styles of swim suits during competition. For many years, the standard was a tight fitting suit that exposed most of the body to the water; the tighter the fit, the less likely air bubbles would become trapped between the skin and the suit, causing a less sleek profile in the water. Swimmers would remove all body hair, to reduce the resistance of the water upon their skin, including the wearing of a tight race cap and hydronamically contoured swim goggles. There have been several advances in swim suit technology. One notable example was the development of the Speedo "Fastskin," a material modeled to a significant degree after the skin characteristics of sharks. The swim suit material, like the shark skin, has a series of dermal denticles, which form a series of V shaped ridges across the surface. The denticles reduce the drag that otherwise occurs from the passage of any object under water, by creating a series of tiny deflection points that force the water to pass more readily over the suit surface. These suits are often worn as a full body device, with the arms and feet uncovered.
Freestyle swimming is the fastest form of competitive swimming, as the combined function of the arms moving in an over hand and a constant kick keep the body on a relatively even and efficient plane as it moves through the water. By rule, the swimmer may only remain under water for 15 m (50 ft) at the start and at each turn; otherwise the swimmer must be on top of the surface.
The breaststroke is a swimming stroke performed with the swimmer facing downward on the water. The swimmer's shoulders must remain in line with the water at all times. With their head above the surface, the swimmer extends their arms directly ahead, with the palms facing outwards, making a sweeping stroke with both arms remaining underwater at all times. On the repeat of the stroke, the arms are permitted, by FINA rule, to break the surface of the water. The swimmer performs a "frog kick," where the legs are brought towards the torso, and then extended outwards underwater. The swimmer's arms and legs must move in unison; flutter kicks, dolphin kicks, and scissor kicks are prohibited, as are flip ("tumble") turns.
The butterfly evolved as a swim form from the breaststroke, when swimmers brought their hands and arms out of the water to drive themselves forward. The butterfly, as the name suggests, is executed by a sweeping motion of the arms above the water, accompanied by a dolphin kick. The swimmer is face down on the water, coordinating breath with the arm strokes. The butterfly is a very physically taxing event. The swimmer is permitted to be underwater for 15 m at each turn and at the start.
The backstroke is performed with the swimmer's head and stomach facing upward in the water. The stroke is an alternating windmill type motion with each arm, as the swimmer drives their body forward with a flutter kick.
Swimming is a sport that requires the athlete to develop total fitness-cardiovascular endurance, muscle strength, flexibility, and power. A schematic analysis of a typical swim race illustrates why each of these fitness elements is important. The race start requires an explosive entry into the water, employing a measure of body control and finesse to enter the water at an optimal angle for efficient movement. A powerful leg drive at the start will translate into significant benefits for the racer; if the start takes the swimmer either too deep into the water, or so shallow that additional water resistance is create by their body on entry, the benefits of a powerful start are lost.
As the swimmers move in their lanes, they seek a stable and efficient position. In shorter races (200 m and under), the demands placed upon the body's energy systems are primarily anaerobic; in the longer races, the body utilizes its aerobic systems, with anaerobic capability needed at the swimmer's drive to the finish.
On the approach to the opposite wall to make the turn, the swimmers will seek to maintain their speed by timing the execution of the turn. Each swim discipline has specific rules about the type of turn that may be employed (either open, where the swimmer changes direction at the wall, or a flip turn, where the swimmer executes a somersault and uses the wall to obtain a push in the opposite direction). Similarly, there are limits as to how long a swimmer may remain underwater after executing a flip turn; it is a general principle of swim mechanics that the body tends to move most efficiently under water as opposed to on the surface.
Swimming is a sport where the body's entire musculoskeletal system is engaged. For this reason, swim training is directed to the building and maintenance of all muscle groups. Swimming presents a lower risk of musculoskeletal injury than many sports; the chief causes of injury are related to training, and the repetitive nature of the swim strokes which may lead to a variety of over use syndromes. Shoulder injuries, particularly those in relation to the function of the rotator cuff (the small four muscle and tendon structure positioned at the top of the shoulder, the tissues that control the amount of rotation possible in the joint), are relatively common.
The nature of swimming and the timing of the competitive swim schedule for any athlete make the development of a periodized training schedule a priority for a swimmer. As with a competitive runner, there will be readily identifiable events in the year that will be of greater importance to the athlete. It is these events that should be identified as ones for which the athlete will "peak," with training intensity adjusted accordingly. Dry land training particularly focused stretching programs to enhance optimal range of motion in the joints, weight training, and plyometric work to build explosive leg drive in both kicks and starts, will be components of this aspect of training.
The generally low incidence of injury, and the popularity of swimming generally has fostered a vibrant international master's competitive swimming community. Master's swimming is sanctioned by FINA, and master's competitive events, commencing at age 35 for both men and women, are staged throughout the world.
Most human locomotive efforts are geared toward movement on land. However, Earth is a largely aqueous planet, and people have found that self-locomotion in water is essential, enjoyable, and enlightening for fundamental, recreational, safety, and competitive activities.
As far back as recorded Egyptian history, swimming was utilized as a device for combative strategy. According to Wolfgang Decker, in Sports and Games of Ancient Egypt, Egyptians viewed nonswimmers as inferior persons; the escape of Ramesses II and his Egyptian troops from the Hittites in the Battle of Kadesh is credited to their superior ability to swim. Hieroglyphics on pottery provide evidence of early swimming efforts—with a form of the crawl stroke a common artistic trope—particularly by those Egyptians who lived in the Nile Valley. The Pharaoh is said to have enjoyed swimming contests.
The ancient Greeks enjoyed swimming and bathing as recreational and leisure activities. They built indoor shrines and saw the use of water as cleansing and eternal. While the Greeks swam in streams and rivers and ponds, the Romans constructed "baths" to immerse themselves in controlled water in less natural, more predictable settings. Such Roman baths have been a model for swimming pools throughout the world.
In the ensuing years, swimming has taken on many forms. Humans swim recreationally for pleasure, enjoying the sensual feel of water and the various games and methods of propulsion in the water; people swim for utilitarian reasons, such as the combat-ready United States Navy SEALS, who perform reconnaissance and offensive and defensive maneuvers in the water. Innovative people have found ways to extend their bodies' abilities through use of technological advances such as scuba (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) gear and a variety of diving (wet and dry) suits. Finally, humans compete in the water in a variety of ways, from the swimming races exemplified in the modern Olympic Games to extreme contests like underwater breath-control exercises, from marathon swimming and under-ice swimming to water polo, diving, and underwater hockey.
People take pleasure from the enveloping feel of water. Those who cannot swim learn to bathe in small amounts of water, and even little children enjoy the pulsing motion of the waves at the sea, often learning to swim at an early age so they may unravel the mysteries of water. Recreational swimming, of course, accompanies wading, diving, body surfing, surfing, and other recreational activities in and around the water.
But water can be an unsafe place for some. Free and spontaneous recreational swimming, usually in open water, occasionally ends in drowning, and swimmers of the late nineteenth century turned to supervised recreational areas for a safer environment. Swimming schools in Europe in the early 1800s, the Surf Lifesaving Association of Australia, and the American National Red Cross in the early 1900s, among many other national organizations, attempted to standardize safety efforts for swimmers and swimming venues so that swimming recreationally became a safer pursuit. Learn-to-swim programs, lifesaving education, and activities like "drown proofing" all have standardized approaches to learning aquatic activities: For example, the crawl is the fundamental stroke first learned in North America, while the breaststroke is foundational in many Asian countries.
Swimming has utilitarian roots. When pursued by enemies, humans have taken to the water for escape: In A World History of Physical Education, Deobold Van Dalen and Bruce Bennett also speak of Ramsses II versus the Hittites, of Jonathan the Maccabee swimming the Jordan River to escape pursuers, and of the ancient Greeks teaching swimming, especially for those who were serving in the navy. During the battle of Marathon, the Persians were said to have used swimmers to established a beachhead.
The ability to swim to an enemy's site, to reconnoiter, to establish offensive and defensive strategies upon a hostile enemy, has long been valued by armed forces. In 1941, for example, the Italian Navy used closed-circuit scuba devices to set explosives on British merchant marines ships. In 1942, U.S. Navy "Scouts and Raiders" were trained to clear out obstacles for beach landings and to guide troops: They were forerunners of the U.S. Navy SEALS. Underwater demolition teams began training in June 1943. The U.S. Navy SEALS were established in 1961, and employed aquatic skills for offensive and defensive maneuvers in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and other conflicts.
Use of Technology
In 1535, Guglielmo de Loreno invented a diving bell of sorts, which was used to extend human immersion underwater. Since then, underwater bells, solid metal diving suits with attached diving helmets, and submarine apparatuses have all extended human immersion. But not until 1865, when Benoit Rouquayrol and Auguste Denayrouse invented an underwater breathing apparatus, could humans extend their time underwater without connection to and total dependence upon the surface. The evolution of the underwater breathing apparatus continued until, in 1925, a self-contained underwater breathing apparatus was refined by Yves Le Prieur; a regulator was designed and later perfected by Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Emile Gagnan—they also designed the Aqua-Lung in 1943. Extending immersion time has long fascinated humans, and technological advances have created more and more extensions: In 2001, John Bennett set a world record for diving to a depth of 308 meters. In 2003, Tanya Streeter set a world record in the "variable ballast" category while diving to a depth of 122 meters, or 400 feet. In the 1930s, Guy Gilpatric used rubber goggles, which lead to the use of mask, fins, and snorkles, and increased the participation rates of snorkeling.
The Greeks had swim competitions at Hermione; the Japanese competed as early as 36 b.c. But competitive swimming in North America has its roots in the (British) National Swimming Association around 1837. Swimming championships were started in Australia in 1846. Competitions soon flourished in many varieties: Races were divided into distances swum, strokes utilized, and professional or amateur. Many of the distances were initially in open water, but by 1904 the St. Louis Olympics conducted their swimming races in "still water."
However, ultradistance swimming was becoming a contest not only of speed in the water, but of endurance. Swims such as the English Channel, Catalina Island, and Lake Michigan were highly challenging. Lean body mass and specific gravity within the water influenced a more egalitarian ratio between the sexes so that women were successful in comparison to men. Gertrude Ederle, Greta Anderson, Abo-Heif, Florence Chadwick, Guilio Travaglio, Horacio Inlesias, and Judith DeNys are some of the early pioneers of marathon swimming.
Competitive swimming in the United States reached age-group swimming initially through Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) programs. Swim clubs flourished, and four strokes emerged as "competitive" strokes: front crawl, back crawl, breaststroke, and butterfly. These—along with medley and freestyle relays, and the individual medley—are raced in a short-course (in pools with twenty-five-yard lengths) and a long-course format (in pools with fifty-meter lengths). Colleges and universities compete in athletic conferences, typically with dual meet champions and championship meet champions emerging at the season's conclusion. The National Collegiate Athletic Association sanctions both men's and women's swimming and diving teams and contests, with culminating national championships in Divisions I, II, and III.
"Amphibious Forces." Available from http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/.
Oppenheim, Francois. The History of Swimming. North Hollywood, Calif.: Swimming World Books, 1970.
"Scuba History." Available from http://www.about-scubadiving.com.
Sprawson, Charles. Haunts of the Black Masseur: The Swimmer as Hero. New York: Pantheon Books, 1992.
Van Dalen, Deobold B., and Bruce L. Bennett. A World History of Physical Education: Cultural, Philosophical, Comparative. 2d edition. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1971.
Wennerberg, Conrad. Wind, Waves, and Sunburn: A Brief History of Marathon Swimming. New York: Breakaway Books, 1997.
Robert E. Rinehart
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.
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.
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.
See also cold exposure; drowning; exercise; sport.
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 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.
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.
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).
J. A. Cannon
Swimming ★★½ 2000
Teenaged tomboy Frankie (Ambrose) works in the family diner in the resort town of Myrtle Beach, S.C., alongside her older brother Neil (Pais). Her best friend is extroverted body piercer Nicola (Dundas Lowe), who is somewhat overprotective of the inexperienced Frankie. This shows when Neil hires slinky, confident Josee (Carter) as a waitress and Josee makes a pass at Frankie, who doesn't know how to react. Frankie also catches the eye of newcomer Heath (Harrold) to whom she is drawn, although he makes her no romantic promises. Coming-of-ager with an appealing performance by Ambrose. 98m/C VHS, DVD . Lauren Ambrose, Joelle Carter, Jennifer (Jennie) Dundas Lowe, Jamie Harrold, Josh Pais, Anthony Michael Ruivivar; D: Robert Siegel; W: Robert Siegel, Liza Bazadona, Grace Woodard; C: John Leuba; M: Mark Wike.