Swimming History

In swimming, athletes compete to swim lengths of a pool in the fastest time. There are individual and team events, in each of four separate swimming styles: freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke and butterfly. Medley races include all four styles of swimming, with individual and team relay events. The individual medley starts with butterfly, followed by backstroke, breaststroke, and then freestyle.

The skill of swimming has ancient origins. Babylonian and Assyrian wall drawings point to the very early development of swimming skills. The most ancient and famous of drawings depicting men swimming are to be found in the Kebir desert estimated to be about 6,000 years old. In regard to sport competitions, there is historical evidence the Japanese held swimming races over 2,000 years ago.

The first ‘modern’ sport organisations can be traced back to English clubs in the 1830s, when breaststroke was the most common stroke used: freestyle was not introduced until 1837. Swimming was part of first modern Olympic Games in 1896 where three swimming contests were held, but without any universally accepted rules, regulations, or definitions governing the events. The Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA) was established in 1908, to be the governing body for international competitions. Women’s swimming became an official medal event in the 1912 Olympics.

FINA is the international federation responsible for organizing and regulating the sports of aquatics for swimming, water polo, diving, synchronized swimming and open water swimming, currently including 203 national federations.