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|Highest governing body||Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA)|
|Olympic||Since the reintroduction of the games in 1896|
|Highest governing body||Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA)|
|Olympic||Since the reintroduction of the games in 1896|
Swimming is a water based sport governed by the Fédération Internationale de Natation.
The sport of swimming has been recorded since prehistoric times; the earliest recording of swimming dates back to Stone Age paintings from around 14,000 years ago. Written references date from 2000 BC. Some of the earliest references to swimming include the Gilgamesh, the Iliad, the Odyssey, the Bible, Beowulf, Quran and other sagas. In 1538, Nikolaus Wynmann, a German professor of languages, wrote the first swimming book, The Swimmer or A Dialogue on the Art of Swimming Der Schwimmer oder ein Zweigespräch über die Schwimmkunst. Competitive swimming as we know it today started in the United States around 1800, mostly using breaststroke. Many Americans often used swimming competitions to settle differences in the frontier, such as property rights. In 1873, John Arthur Trudgen introduced the trudgen to Western swimming competitions, after copying the front crawl used by Native Americans and African-Americans. Due to a British dislike of splashing, Trudgen employed a scissor kick instead of the front crawl's flutter kick. In 1884, a picture drawn by a European settler in the United States depicts an African doing the “Australian crawl" - before the front crawl was standardized in Australia and then perfected in the United States. Swimming was part of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 Summer Olympics|1896 in Athens. In 1902 Richmond Cavill introduced the front crawl to the Western world. In 1908, the world swimming association, Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA), was formed. Butterfly was developed in the 1930s and was at first a variant of breaststroke, until it was accepted as a separate style in 1952.
Competitive swimming became popular in the nineteenth century. The goal of competitive swimming is to beat the competitors in any given event. Swimming in competition should create the least resistance in order to obtain maximum speed. However, some professional swimmers who do not hold a national or world ranking are considered the best in regard to their technical skills. Typically, an athlete goes through a cycle of training in which the body is overloaded with work in the beginning and middle segments of the cycle, and then the workload is decreased in the final stage as the swimmer approaches the competition in which he or she is to compete in. This is called Tapering which is the practice of reducing exercise in the days just before an important competition. This final stage is often referred to as "shave and taper"; the swimmer tapering down his or her workload to be able to perform at their optimal level. At the very end of this stage, before competition, the swimmer shaves off all exposed hair for the sake of reducing drag and having a sleeker and more hydrodynamic feel in the water. This taper is optimized by putting an excessive amount of work and effort into the workouts performed by the swimmer.
There are forty officially recognized individual swimming events in the pool; however the International Olympic Committee only recognizes 32 of them. The international governing body for competitive swimming is the Fédération Internationale de Natation ("International Swimming Federation"), better known as FINA.
In open water swimming, where the events are swum in a body of open water (lake or sea), there are also 5 km, 10 km and 25 km events for men and women. However, only the 10 km event is included in the Olympic schedule, again for both men and women. Open-water competitions are typically separate to other swimming competitions with the exception of the World Championships and the Olympics.
In competitive swimming, four major styles have been established. These have been relatively stable over the last 30–40 years with minor improvements. The four main strokes in swimming are:
Events in competition may have only one of these styles except in the case of the individual medley, which contains all four. In this latter event, swimmers swim equal distances of butterfly, then backstroke, breaststroke, and finally, freestyle. In Olympic competition, this event (called the "IM") is swum in these distances - 200 or 400 meters or yards. Some competition also swims the 100 yard or meter IM - particularly, for younger swimmers (typically under 14 years) involved in club swimming, or masters swimming (over 18).
In the past two decades, the most drastic change in swimming has been the addition of the underwater dolphin kick. This is used to maximize the speed at the start and after the turns. The first successful use of it was by David Berkoff. At the 1988 Olympics, he swam most of the 100 m backstroke race underwater and broke the world record on the distance during the preliminaries. Another swimmer to use the technique was Denis Pankratov at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, where he completed almost half of the 100 m butterfly underwater to win the gold medal. In the past decade, American competitive swimmers have shown the most use of the underwater dolphin kick to gain advantage, most notably Olympic and World medal winners Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte.
While the dolphin kick is mostly seen in middle-distance freestyle events and in all distances of backstroke and butterfly, it is not usually used to the same effect in freestyle sprinting. That changed with the addition of the so-called "technical" suits around the European Short Course Championships in Rijeka, Croatia in December 2008. There, Amaury Leveaux set new world records of 44.94 seconds in the 100 m freestyle, 20.48 seconds in the 50 m freestyle and 22.18 in the 50 m butterfly. Unlike the rest of the competitors in these events, he spent at least half of each race submerged using the dolphin kick.
While underwater dolphin kicking is allowed in freestyle, backstroke and butterfly, its use is not permitted in the same way in the breaststroke. In 2005, a new rule was formed stating that an optional downward dolphin kick may be used off the start and each turn, and it must occur during the breaststroke pullout. Any other dolphin kick will result in disqualification.
New rules were established to curtail excessive use of underwater dolphin kicks in freestyle, backstroke and butterfly. Currently, performing the dolphin kick past 15 meters results in a disqualification.
Most swimming sport events are held in special competition swimming pools, which are either long course pools (50 meters) such as those used in the Olympic Games or short course pools (usually 25 yards in the United States or 25 meters in other countries) such as those used in the FINA World Swimming Championships. Competition pools have starting blocks from which the competitor can dive in, and possibly also touch-sensitive pads to electronically record the swimming time of each competitor.
Club swimming in the US has two major seasons. During the short-course season, swimmers swim in 25-yard pools. This season lasts from late-September to the end of March. The long-course season takes place in 50-meter pools and lasts from April to the end of August.
The longer freestyle events vary in lengths in each season. In the short course season, the 500 yard, 1000 yard, and 1650-yard freestyle events are swum, while during the long course season the 400 meter, 800 meter, and 1500-meter freestyle events are swum instead. However, this difference in distance holds true for all meter pools, i.e. short course meter pools also swim the 400 meter, 800 meter, and 1500 meter freestyle events instead of their yard counterparts.
Training in both short course and long course has become more of an American Standard. Internationally, long course meters is the standard, as seen in the Olympics. This standard of two separate seasons in America may be because it is so much easier for new swimmers to learn to compete in a smaller pool during the short course season. Smaller pools allow for shorter distance races, so for example in short course season if a younger swimmer wanted to compete in a stroke they had just learned, a 25 yard 8 years old and under race is available to them, opposed to the long course season when they would need to be able to swim at least 50 meters of that new stroke in order to compete. Many swimmers in high school, on club teams, and on YMCA teams also use short course swimming pools during their meets.
Referee: The referee has full control and authority over all officials. The referee will enforce all rules and decisions of FINA and shall decide all questions relating to the actual conduct of the meet, and event or the competition, the final settlement of which is not otherwise covered by the rules. The referee takes overall responsibility for running the race and makes the final decisions as to who wins the competition. Referees call swimmers to the blocks with short blasts of his or her whistle. This is the signal for the swimmers to stand next to their blocks. Starters call missing swimmers if necessary. Then the referee will blow a long whistle that will tell the swimmers to step on the block. For backstroke otherwise known as backcrawl events, the long whistle is the signal for the swimmers to step in the water. The referee will then blow another long whistle, signaling the swimmers to grab the gutter or the provided block handle (for backstoke/backcrawl events only). The referee will then hand over control to the starter.
Starter: The starter has full control of the swimmers from the time the referee turns the swimmers over to him/her until the race commences. A starter sends the swimmers off the blocks and may call a false start if a swimmer leaves the block before the starter sends them.
Clerk of course: The clerk of course (also called the "bullpen") assembles swimmers prior to each event, and is responsible for organizing ("seeding") swimmers into heats based on their times. Heats are generally seeded from slowest to fastest, where swimmers with no previous time for an event are assumed to be the slowest.
Timekeepers: There are three timekeepers for each lane. Each timekeeper takes the time of the swimmers in the lane assigned to him/her. Unless a video backup system is used, it may be necessary to use the full complement of timekeepers even when automatic officiating equipment is used. A chief timekeeper assigns the seating positions for all timekeepers and the lanes for which they are responsible. The chief timekeeper collects from the timekeepers in each lane a card showing the times recorded and, if necessary, inspect their watches. One timer will be timing with a stopwatch, another recording it down, and one making sure everything is valid.
Inspectors of turns: One inspector of turns is assigned to each lane at each end of the pool. Each inspector of turns ensures that swimmers comply with the relevant rules for turning as well as the relevant rules for start and finish of the race. Inspectors of turns shall report any violation on disqualification reports detailing the event, lane number, and the infringement delivered to the chief inspector of turns who will immediately convey the report to the referee.
Judges of Stroke: Judges of stroke are located on each side of the pool. They ensure that the rules related to the style of swimming designated for the event are being observed, and observe the turns and the finishes to assist the inspectors of turns.
Finish judges Finish judges determine the order of finish and make sure the swimmers finish in accordance with the rules (two hands simultaneously for breaststroke and butterfly, on the back for backstroke, etc.)
If an official catches a swimmer breaking a rule concerning the stroke he or she is swimming, that swimmer is said to be disqualified (commonly referred to as a "DQ") and the swim is not considered valid. The referee can disqualify any swimmer for any violation of the rules that he personally observes. The referee may also disqualify any swimmer for any violation reported to him by other authorised officials. All disqualifications are subject to the decision of the referee.
Men's most used practice swimwear include briefs and jammers. Males generally swim barechested.
There has been much controversy after the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008, when many Olympic swimmers broke records an unprecedented number of times using revolutionary swimsuits. To highlight the issue, note that it is rare to break world records, but in 2008, 70 world records were broken in one year, and 66 Olympic records were broken in one Olympic Games (there were races in Beijing where the first five finishers were swimming faster than the old world record). Despite many of his records having been won in these suits, Michael Phelps stated that he might boycott the competition after his record was beaten by another swimmer with a more advanced suit.
As of New Year's Day 2010, men are only allowed to wear suits from the waist to above the knees. They are also only permitted to wear one piece of swimwear; they cannot wear speedos underneath jammers. This rule was enacted after the controversy in the Beijing Olympics and Rome World Championships.
Women wear one-piece suits with different backs for competition, though there are two-piece suits that can be worn to compete as well. Backs vary mainly in strap thickness and geometric design. Most common styles include: racerback, axel back, corset, diamondback, and butterfly-back/Fly-Back. There are also different style lengths: three-quarter length (reaches the knees), regular length (shoulders to hips), and bikini style (two-piece). Also as of New Year's 2010, in competition, women are only allowed to wear suits that do not go past the knees or shoulders.
Drag suits, used by women, are used for increasing the resistance against the swimmer in order to help adjust the swimmer to drag. This way, when swimmers switch back to normal practice suits they swim faster as a result of feeling less resistance. They are not worn during competitions.
Drag shorts, mainly used by men, like drag suits are worn in training and are also used to increase drag so that when taken off in racing it feels easier and the swimmer feels less resistance. Other forms of drag wear include nylons, old suits, and T-shirts; the point is to increase friction in the water to build strength during training, and increase speed once drag items are removed for competition.
Some swimmers also shave areas of exposed skin before end-of-season competitions to reduce friction in the water. The practice gained popularity after the 1956 Olympics, when Murray Rose and Jon Henricks came shaved and won gold medals for Australia. Freshly shaven skin feels much smoother and less resistant in comparison when in the water. In addition, a 1989 study demonstrated that shaving improves a swimmer’s overall performance by reducing drag.
The mental aspect of wearing drag is critical because the goal is to feel your best in the water on race day. Drag makes a swimmer feel slower and more resistant during training with the added friction. Then on the day of the competition, a shaven swimmer wearing only a fast competition suit will feel a drastic and noticeable improvement in how fast and smooth they feel in the water. As in every other sport, mental training is just as important as physical training.
Young swimmers compete on club teams and may wish to continue their careers through college. Recruiting for collegiate swimming often starts on July 1 following the athlete's junior year of high school. That date marks the day that college coaches can contact athletes via phone to discuss possibly swimming for their team.
College swimmers compete starting in the fall until their conference meet in the early spring. From there, the swimmers with the fastest times in each event will be invited to compete in the NCAA championships after the regular season is over. All college meets are competed in short course pools.
Open water swimming is swimming outside of a regular pool, usually in a lake, or sometimes ocean. Popularity of the sport has grown in recent years, particularly since the 10 km open water event was added as an Olympic event in 2005, contested for the first time in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
New recent technology has developed much faster swimsuits. Full body suits have been banned, but swimmers at the very top levels still wear suits that have been lasered together because stitching creates drag. The downfall of these suits: they are sometimes uncomfortable and tight.
The largest Ocean Swim's in terms of numbers of participants are in Australia, with the Pier to Pub, Cole Classic and Melbourne Swim Classic all with roughly 5000 swimming participants.
Swimming times have dropped over the years due to better training techniques and to new developments.
The first four Olympics were not held in pools, but in open water (1896 – The Mediterranean, 1900 – The Seine River, 1904 – an artificial lake, 1906 – The Mediterranean). The 1904 Olympics' freestyle race was the only one ever measured at 100 yards, instead of the usual 100 meters. A 100-meter pool was built for the 1908 Olympics and sat in the center of the main stadium's track and field oval. The 1912 Olympics, held in the Stockholm harbor, marked the beginning of electronic timing.[clarification needed]
Male swimmers wore full-body suits until the 1940s, which caused more drag in the water than their modern swimwear counterparts did. Competition suits now include engineered fabric and designs to reduce swimmers' drag in the water and prevent athlete fatigue. In addition, over the years, pool designs have lessened the drag. Some design considerations allow for the reduction of swimming resistance, making the pool faster. Namely, proper pool depth, elimination of currents, increased lane width, energy absorbing racing lane lines and gutters, and the use of other innovative hydraulic, acoustic, and illumination designs. There have been major changes in starting blocks over the past years. Starting blocks used to be small, narrow and straight  but throughout time they have become bigger and wider and nowadays the surface of the block is angled towards the swimming pool. In addition, starting blocks now have a “lip” which is a raised, slanting platform situated at the rear of the main block. This enables the swimmer to adopt a crouched position at a 90 degrees angle and push off with the rear leg to increase their launch power.
The 1924 Summer Olympics were the first to use the standard 50-meter pool with marked lanes. In the freestyle, swimmers originally dove from the pool walls, but diving blocks were incorporated at the 1936 Summer Olympics. The tumble turn was developed by the 1950s and goggles were first used in the 1976 Olympics.
There were also changes in the late 20th century in terms of technique. Breaststrokers are now allowed to dip their heads completely under water, which allows for a longer stroke and faster time. However, the breaststrokers must bring their heads up at the completion of each cycle. In addition, a key hole pull in the breaststroke start and turns has been added to help speed up the stroke. There have been some other changes added recently[when?] as well. Now off the start and turns, breaststrokers are allowed one butterfly kick to help increase their speed. Backstrokers are now allowed to turn on their stomachs before the wall in order to perform a "flip-turn". Previously, they had to reach and flip backwards and a variation of it, known as a "bucket turn" or a "suicide turn", is sometimes used in individual medley events to transition from backstroke to breaststroke.
The foundation of FINA in 1908 signalled the commencement of recording the first official world records in swimming. At that time records could be established in any swimming pool of length not less than 25 yards, and records were also accepted for intermediate distance split times from longer distance events. Today World Records will only be accepted when times are reported by Automatic Officiating Equipment, or Semi-Automatic Officiating Equipment in the case of Automatic Officiating Equipment system malfunction.
Records in events such as 300 yd, 300 m, 1000 yd, and 1000 m freestyle, 400 m backstroke, and 400 m and 500 m breaststroke were no longer ratified from 1948. A further removal of the 500 yd and 500 m freestyle, 150 m backstroke, and 3×100 m medley relay from the record listings occurred in 1952.
In 1952, the national federations of the United States and Japan proposed at the FINA Congress the separation of records achieved in long-course and short-course pools, however it was four more years before action to came into effect with Congress deciding to retain only records held in 50 m pools as the official world record listings.
By 1969 there were thirty-one events in which FINA recognised official world records – 16 for men, 15 for women – closely resembling the event schedule that was in use at the Olympic Games.
The increase in accuracy and reliability of electronic timing equipment led to the introduction of hundredths of a second to the time records from 21 August 1972.
Records in short course (25 m) pools began to be officially approved as "short course world records" from 3 March 1991. Prior to this date, times in short course (25 m) pools were not officially recognised, but were regarded a "world best time" (WBT). From 31 October 1994 times in 50 m backstroke, breaststroke, and butterfly were added to the official record listings.
FINA currently recognises world records in the following events for both men and women.
It is recommended that swimmers wear waterproof sunscreen to meets and daytime swim practices that are outside to prevent sunburns. It is also recommended that swimmers dry off well between events at meets and change into dry clothes as soon as possible after swimming to prevent rashes and skin infections.
It also is important for pool water to be properly maintained to avoid rashes and skin infections.
Swimmers should shower with mild soap after swimming to remove pool chemicals such as chlorine and salt. Swimmers should use goggles to protect their eyes from pool water and improve underwater vision.