skip to content
Swimming


Swimming can be dated back to the Stone Age, but did not truly become an organised sport until the early 19th century.

An ancient discipline

Prehistoric man learnt to swim in order to cross rivers and lakes – we know this because cave paintings from the Stone Age depicting swimmers have been found in Egypt. Swimming was also referred to in Greek mythology.

Dawn of a sport

Swimming was not widely practised until the early 19th century, when the National Swimming Society of Great Britain began to hold competitions. Most early swimmers used the breaststroke, or a form of it.

Discovering the crawl

Based on a stroke used by native South Americans, the first version of the crawl featured a scissor kick. In the late 1880s, an Englishman named Frederick Cavill travelled to the South Seas, where he saw the natives performing a crawl with a flutter kick. Cavill settled in Australia, where he taught the stroke that was to become the famous Australian crawl.

Olympic history

Swimming has featured on the programme of all editions of the Games since 1896. The very first Olympic events were freestyle (crawl) or breaststroke. Backstroke was added in 1904.

In the 1940s, breaststrokers discovered that they could go faster by bringing both arms forward over their heads. This practice was immediately forbidden in breaststroke, but gave birth to butterfly, whose first official appearance was at the 1956 Games in Melbourne. This style is now one of the four strokes used in competition.

Women’s swimming became Olympic in 1912 at the Stockholm Games. Since then, it has been part of every edition of the Games. The men’s and women’s programmes are almost identical, as they contain the same number of events, with only one difference: the freestyle distance is 800 metres for women and 1,500 metres for men.

More


Gallery

Image Alt Text

Medalists of Men's 200m Butterfly

Nanjing 2014 - Gold medalist Tamas Kenderesi (C) and silver medalist Benjamin Gratz (L) of Hungary and bronze medalist Giacomo Carini of Italy on the podium during the awarding ceremony of men's 200m butterfly event at Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, Aug. 22, 2014.
Xinhua
Image Alt Text

Liliana Szilagyl of Hungary celebrates after the Women's 100m Butterfly final

Nanjing 2014 - Liliana Szilagyl of Hungary celebrates after winning the Women's 100m Butterfly final match of swimming event at Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, on August 22, 2014. Liliana Szilagyl won the gold medal.
Xinhua
Image Alt Text

Matheus Paulo de Santana of Brazil after the Men's 100m Freestyle

Nanjing 2014 - Matheus Paulo de Santana of Brazil celebrates after winning the Men's 100m Freestyle match at Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu Province, on Aug. 22, 2014.
Xinhua
Image Alt Text

Rozaliya Nasretdinova of Russian Federation after the Women's 50m Freestyle

Nanjing 2014 - Rozaliya Nasretdinova of Russian Federation celebrates after the Women's 50m Freestyle competition of Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu Province, on August 22, 2014. Rozaliya Nasretdinova won the gold.
Xinhua
Image Alt Text

Medalists of Women's 400m Freestyle

Nanjing 2014 - Gold medalist Hannah Moore(C) of United States of America, silver medalist Sarisa Suwannachet(L) of Thailand and bronze medalist Kathrin Demler of Germany on the podium during the awarding ceremony of the Women's 400m Freestyle match of swimming event at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu Province, on August 22, 2014.
Xinhua
Image Alt Text

Nikola Obrovac of Croatia in the Men's 50m Breaststroke

Nanjing 2014 - Nikola Obrovac (1st, L) of Croatia dives into the water during the Men's 50m Breaststroke final match of swimming event at Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, on August 22, 2014. Nikola Obrovac won the gold medal. 
Xinhua
More

back to top Fr