Swimming at Olympics history

Sun 25 July 2021 | 4:30

As we all know, this year's Olympic games, held in Tokyo, started yesterday with a year of delay. That's why we decided to go through the swimming Olympics history in this article today. Stay with us.

Swimming is among the sports which have been being done since antiquity. Humans have likely been swimming ever since they leaped into the water and it goes back to 2500 BC. Greeks and Romans used to do it as a means of training prospective soldiers, whereas the Ancient Egyptians did it for pleasure.

History of swimming at Olympics

Swimming turned into a professional sport in the middle of the 19th century, when the world’s first swimming organization was founded in London in 1837. Lately, it became a competitive sport and in 1846, the first swimming championship was held in Australia, which became an annual competition and led to the future success of this sport.

Taking a look at the

Olympic history

, it is found out that swimming has been part of the to-do list since the very first modern Games in 1896. Since then, swimming at the summer Olympics has grabbed the attention of the watchers. Today we are going to discover the swimming Olympics history, so join us in the article.

Swimming at the Olympics in the early years


history of Olympic swimming

indicates that this sport was male-only at first. Women`s swimming events were added at the 1912 Games in Stockholm. They only competed in two events, the 100-meter freestyle and the 4×100-meter freestyle relay.

Experimental starts brought some unique events to the early Games. At the inaugural modern Games in Athens,

swimming at the Olympics

included 100-meter freestyle for sailors in which solely members of the Greek navy could participate.

Going over the

swimming Olympics history, it stands out that before the 1908 London Games, swimming at the Olympics had taken place in open water. It made the competitors deal with the waves and weather. Alfréd Hajós, the Hungarian swimmer who won 2 gold medals at 1896 Games, said: “My will to live completely overcame my desire to win”, as he raced in the temperature of 13°C in the Mediterranean Sea. It indicates the precarious nature of the early swimming events.

The post-World War II era brought better technology and it leads us to reach the modern era while discovering the history of Olympic swimming, so stay tuned and keep reading.

The modern era of Olympic history

As we search the

swimming Olympics history

, we see that the aftermath of World War II brought higher technology, better facilities and improved training techniques, which resulted in significantly quicker times compared to the early, wave-fighting competitions.

Female and male swimmers started wearing bodysuits, which increased resistance and slowed them down. With the improvement of technology and sport, swimwear became more hydrodynamic. Suits were made from materials such as Lycra, which reduced drag and, as a result, reduced lap times.

As seen in the swimming Olympics history, competitive pools also faced great change.

Swimming at the Summer Olympics

moved from outdoor to indoor tournaments. The introduction of drainage in swimming pools marked lanes in 1924 and guidelines for depths in order to reach a better standard of competition in the years that followed.

The rise of the superstar swimmers 

Seeking the Olympic history, it is realized that this exciting era of development paved the way for superstar swimmers. The first of which was Mark Spitz. This American swimmer won 7 gold medals at the Munich Games in 1972.

Brilliant solo performances kept on at Seoul 1988, when Kristin Otto, who was from East Germany, became the first woman to win 6 gold medals at a single Games. This fact stands out in the swimming Olympics history.

The record of Mark Spitz was broken by a man whose name shines in the history of Olympic swimming. This brilliant swimmer is Michael Phelps. He managed to break the record of his countryman, Mark Spitz, by gaining 8 gold medals at the Beijing 2008 Games. He made a new record in the

swimming Olympics history


Top medalists at the swimming Olympics history 

Discovering the history of swimming at the Olympics, we have prepared a list of top swimmers who have won more Olympic medals than others. Let`s go through the names.

Michael Phelps  

Michael Phelps was born in Baltimore, Maryland and raised in the Rodgers Forge neighborhood of nearby Towson. He is of English, German, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh descent.

Phelps started swimming at the age of seven, with the influence of his mother and sisters. After he retired in 2016, he stated that the only reason he got into the water was his mom. She wanted him to just learn how to swim. He and his sisters fell in love with the sport and they started to swim.

 The rapid improvement of the best swimming medalist culminated when he qualified for the 2000 Summer Olympics at the age of 15.  He became the youngest male to swim for the U.S team in 68 years. Although Michael Phelps did not win a medal, he did make it to the finals and finished 5th in the 200-meter butterfly. 

At the 2004 Athens Games, Michel Phelps won 6 gold and 2 bronze medals. He became the champion in the 100-meter butterfly, 200-meter butterfly, 200-meter medley, 400-meter medley, 4×200-meter freestyle and 4×100-meter medley. Phelps won the bronze medal in the 200-meter freestyle and 4×100-meter freestyle.

At the 2008 Beijing Games, The Baltimore Bullet won 8 gold medals and broke the record of Mark Spitz, who had won 6 gold medals at the 1972 Munich Games. He became the champion of 200-meter freestyle, 100-meter butterfly, 200-meter butterfly, 200-meter medley, 400-meter medley, 4×100-meter freestyle, 4×200-meter freestyle and 4×100-meter medley.

At the 2012 London Games, the Flying Fish won 4 gold and 2 silver medals. He won the gold medals in the 100-meter butterfly, 200-meter medley, 4×200 meter freestyle and 4×100 meter medley. Phelps became the runner-up in the 200-meter butterfly and 4×100-meter freestyle.

At the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, Michael Phelps won 5 gold medals and a silver. He became the champion of the 200-meter butterfly, 200-meter medley, 4×100-meter freestyle, 4×200-meter freestyle and 4×100-meter medley. His silver medal was in the 100-meter butterfly.

Mark Spitz 

Mark Andrew Spitz was born on February 10, 1950 in Modesto, California.  His family is Jewish. His father's family was from Hungary and his mother was from Russia. When Spitz was 2 years old, his family moved to Honolulu, Hawaii, where he used to swim at Waikiki beach every day.

When Spitz was 14, his family moved to Santa Clara, where he joined the Santa Clara Swim Club and was trained by George F. Haines. During his 4 years there, this Pool Shark held national high school records in every stroke and every distance.

 In 1966, at the age of 16, Spitz won the 100-meter butterfly at the AAU national championships. The following year, he showed up at the world swimming stage when he set his first world record at a small California meet with a time of 4:10.60 in the 400-meter freestyle.

Going through the

swimming Olympics history

, it is understood that at the 1968 Mexico City Games, Mark Spitz won 2 gold medals, 1 silver and 1 bronze medals. Mark the Pool Shark became the champion in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay and 4×200-meter freestyle relay. He became the runner-up in the 100-meter butterfly and won the bronze medal in the 100-meter freestyle.

At the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Mark Spitz won 7 gold medals and made a record that lasted until 2008. This American swimmer became the champion in the 200-meter butterfly, 4×100-meter freestyle relay, 200-meter freestyle, 100-meter butterfly, 4×200-meter freestyle relay, 100-meter freestyle and 4×100-meter medley relay.

Matt Biondi

Matt Biondi, who was born in Moraga, California on October 8, 1965, started his career as a swimmer and water polo player in his hometown.  As he moved into his teens, his incredible abilities as a sprint swimmer began to emerge. However, Biondi did not take up swimming until he started at Campolindo High School, by his senior year in 1983. He was the top schoolboy sprinter in America with a national high school record of 20.40 seconds in the 50-yard freestyle.

In the summer of 1984, Matt Biondi surprised the swimming community as he qualified for a spot in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. The swimming Olympics history indicates that the California Condor captured the gold medal in this freestyle relay.

At the Seoul 1988 Games, Biondi started slow, taking bronze in the 200-meter freestyle. Then he finished second in the 100-meter butterfly, when he was out-touched by one one-hundredth of a second. He won the gold medal in the 4×100-meter medley relay, 4×200-meter freestyle relay, 100-meter freestyle, 4×100-meter freestyle relay and 50-meter freestyle. He captured 5 gold medals, 1 silver and 1 bronze medal.

At the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games, the California Condor won gold in the 4×100-meter medley relay and 4×100-meter freestyle relay. He also took silver in the 50-meter freestyle.

Jenny Thompson

Swimmer Jenny Thompson is the most decorated American female in the swimming Olympics history, with 12 medals; eight gold, three silver and one bronze. She was born on February 26, 1973 in Danvers, Massachusetts. Thompson began swimming at the age of 7 at a summer country club called Cedardale.

 During the indoor season, she swam at the Danvers YMCA from ages 8 to 10, and then at the Andover-North Andover YMCA from ages 10 to 12. When Thompson was 12, she started swimming for Seacoast Swimming Association under coaches Amy and Mike Parratto. Then she moved to Dover at the age of 13.

Jenny Thompson made her first big splash at the 1987 Pan American Games when as a 14-year-old she won a gold medal in the 50-meter freestyle. Thompson did not qualify for the Seoul 1988 Olympic Games, but she made it to the American squad in the next four Games.

At the Barcelona 1992 Games, Thompson won 2 gold medals and 1 silver. She became the champion in the 4x100-meter freestyle relay and 4x100-meter medley relay. She also became the runner-up in the 100-meter freestyle.

Going over the swimming Olympics history, it is seen that Jenny Thompson captured three gold medals at the Atlanta 1996 Games. She became the champion in the 4x100-meter freestyle relay, 4x100-meter medley relay and 4x200-meter freestyle relay.

At the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, Thompson won 3 gold medals and 1 bronze. She made it to become the champion in the 4x100-meter medley relay, 4x100-meter freestyle relay and 4x200-meter freestyle relay. She also reached the 3rd place in the 100-meter freestyle.

Thompson then enrolled in medical school but decided to make a run at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. By swimming at the Summer Olympics, she won 2 silver medals in the 4x100-meter freestyle relay and 4x100-meter medley relay. Finally, Jenny Thompson retired from swimming and embarked on the next step of her career as an anesthesiologist.

Kristin Otto

Kristin Otto, who was born on February 7, 1966 in Leipzig, East Germany, was the first female athlete to win six gold medals at a single Olympic Games. She began swimming at the age of 11, training in an East German sports academy.

When Otto was 16, she participated in her first world championships, the 1982 World Aquatics Championships, winning the gold medal in the 100-meter backstroke as well as 2 additional gold medals in the 4×100-meter relays with the East German team.

 After 1982, Kristin changed coaches and began concentrating on other speed strokes. At the European Championships in 1983, she became the runner-up in the 100-meter freestyle.

In 1984, Otto set a world record in the 200-meter freestyle. She was expected to win the gold medals at the Los Angeles 1984 Games but was unable to compete due to the boycott by 14 Eastern Bloc countries, including East Germany.

At the 1988 Seoul Games, once again, Otto was expected to win Olympic gold. She captured 6 gold medals in the 100-meter butterfly, 50-meter freestyle, 100-meter freestyle, 100-meter backstroke, 4×100-meter freestyle relay and 4 × 100-meter medley relay. This fact stands out in the swimming Olympics history, as no woman had won more than four gold medals at a single Games.

Amy Van Dyken

Amy Deliris Van Dyken-Rouen was born on February 15, 1973 in Denver, Colorado. She suffered from severe asthma throughout her childhood and into adulthood. She started swimming on the advice of a doctor as a way to strengthen her lungs to cope with her condition and prevent future asthma attacks. “Because of my asthma I couldn’t swim the length of the pool until I was 12”, Van Dyken said.

After finishing high school, she attended the University of Arizona for two years. Then Van Dyken transferred to Colorado State University, where she broke her first U.S record with a time of 21.77 seconds in the 50-yard freestyle at the NCAA championships in 1994.

As seen in the swimming Olympics history, at the 1996  Atlanta Games, Van Dyken became the first American female athlete to win 4 gold medals at a single Games. She became the champion in the 4×100-meter medley, freestyle relays, 100-meter butterfly and 50-meter freestyle.

At the 2000 Sydney Games, Van Dyken captured 2 gold medals in the 4×100-meter freestyle and 4×100-meter medley relay. It is interesting to know that all of her Olympic medals are gold. She retired after the 2000 Olympic Games.

 Unfortunately, on June 6, 2014, Van Dyken had a severe ATV accident that left her paralyzed from the waist down. "I'm a better person than before the injury", said Van Dyken after leaving the hospital 2 months later. Then she took her first steps with the help of a walker and an apparent bionic device that aids her legs.

In the end, we hope that you have enjoyed this article. Thanks for reading.  

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