History of Swimming

Is Swimming A Sport? Yes..it is a team or individual sport that involves moving the body through the water. It is a sport that takes place in open water such as in a sea or lake or in a swimming pool indoors or outdoors.

Competitive swimming ranks among the most popular of Olympic sports and comprises events like the individual medley, freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke and the famous butterfly stroke.

how long is an olympics size pool

Apart from such specific events, swimmers are also known to partake in relays.

Are you wondering which is the oldest swim stroke? There are certain techniques that need to be deployed by swimmers for each and every stroke that is undertaken during a swim. There are also fixed regulations regarding acceptable forms for various swimming strokes that all swimmers need to abide by when taking part in any competition.

Rules also exist as to the type of swimsuits that may be worn by swimmers during a competition. While there is every possibility for swimmers to run into injuries at a competition, there are also numerous health benefits which are associated with this particular sport that make it desirable among people of every age and gender.


Who Started Swimming First?

Ever Wondered, who’d have discovered Swimming? A pretty natural question that crosses every budding swimmer trying their hand learning the art. Well, no definite answers but the oldest swimmers as per the archaeologists belonged to ancient Egypt.

Started Swimming

Swimming as we know it today is a sport that originated in ancient Egypt. A Cave of Swimmers dating back to more than 10,000 years has been discovered by archaeologists near Wadi Sura situated in the south western part of Egypt. The pictures of people swimming as depicted on the cave walls appear to showcase popular swimming strokes like the doggy paddle and the breaststroke.

History of Swimming



From Wall Drawings, Carvings, Images to References in ancient texts or Religious books, history of Swimming a tens of thousands year in the history, the oldest being about 28000 years.


  • Swimming In The Ancient Period

Swimming is a sport that is believed to have existed in both ancient Egypt and ancient Babylon. There are Egyptian clay seals dated between 9000 BC and 4000 BC that show people swimming variants of the well known swimming stroke, the front crawl. Assyrian wall drawings and Babylonian bas reliefs depict variants of the breaststroke. In fact the most famous drawings that depict swimming are those that date back to 4000 BC and which have been uncovered in and around the Kebir desert.

Nagoda bas reliefs that go back to 3000 BC demonstrate images of men swimming. An Indian palace in the ancient town of Mohenjo Daro was home to a swimming pool known as the Great Bath in 28000 BC. Images that depict the act of swimming have been discovered also among Minoan, Hittite and various other Middle Eastern ruins such as in the Mosaics in the Roman city of Pompeii and in the famous Tepantitle Compound situated in Teotihuacan.

Swimming In The Ancient Period

There are references to swimming in well known ancient literary works like the Bible, the Greek epic, the Iliad and the Odyssey and in the Sumerian epic, Gilgamesh. Swimmers are mentioned in Bourbon, Borgian and Vatican codices. The British Museum contains reliefs dating back to 850 BC that show swimmers, particularly in a military context, engaging in the use of swimming aids.

Germanic folklore often describes how swimming was an activity that was successfully used in wars and invasions against the Roman Empire and epics written during the Anglo-Saxon age of English literature, such as Beowulf refer to the act of swimming though the style of swimming is never really described.

  • Swimming In The Early Modern Period

Swimming was quite common among the Knights of The Middle Ages, who would often swim wearing their armour. When swimming became an activity that people began to take part in only in an undressed state, it was perceived in a more conservative way and began to lose its popularity in Early Modern society. The Italian painter Leonardo Da Vinci is credited with the earliest sketches and drawings of lifebelts.

A German professor of linguistics by the name of Nikolaus Wynmann wrote the very first book on swimming entitled, “Colymbetes”.  The purpose of this book was to alert readers about various dangerous associated with swimming, such as the risk of drowning.

Swimming In The Early Modern Period

Everard Digby authored a book in the year 1587 in which he claimed human beings were capable of swimming better than even fish. It was declared by the Japanese Emperor Go Yozei in 1603 that all school going children must be allowed to swim. A brief introduction to swimming was written by Christopher Middleton in 1595 that recorded examples and drawings of different types of swimming styles.

A piece entitled, The Art of Swimming and describing breast style strokes that are very similar to the modern day breast stroke, was written by a Frenchman by the name of Melchisedech Thevenot in 1696.

 In the years between 1793 and 1798 German author Gutsmuths came up with two works that could be regarded essentially as a self study in swimming. Italian writer Kanonikus Bernardi wrote a book on swimming in 1794 that emphasized the importance of floating practice as a necessary pre-requisite for studies in swimming.

Towards the end of the eighteenth century, salt makers in the German city of Halle also came to play a vital role in popularising swimming as an activity by teaching all their children how to swim from an early age.

Also Read: How To Get A Great Workout Using A Swim Jet System?



Inclusion of Swimming as a competitive sport was inevitable and it made the first inclusion in the Olympics in 1896. Olympics have a added a great deal to the promotion of Swimming as a Career Sport and to the masses as well.

Swimming Olympic Game

While human beings have been swimming since time immemorial, swimming emerged as a competitive sport only in the early part of the nineteenth century. Today swimming constitutes one of the most watched activities during Olympic Games. Mathew Webb aroused the interest of the public in swimming as a sport when he succeeded in swimming across the famous and dangerous English Channel for the very first time in human history.

It took him as many as twenty one hours to achieve such a feat and the style of swimming deployed by him was the breast style. It took another thirty years for yet another person to swim across the murky waters of the English Channel.

History of Swimming Olympic Games

Modern day Olympic Games took place for the first time in the year 1896 during which men were seen to take part in swimming events. The events transpired in the Mediterranean Sea.  Swimming events during the Summer Games of Paris that took place four years later in 1900 were those that were contested in the beautiful Seine River.

Freestyle as a form of swimming emerged for the very first time in the year 1902 when an Australian swimmer by the name of Richard Cavill began to swim using alternative open arm recoveries and an up and down kicking style. Such a stroke came to later be known as the Australian crawl. The one minute barrier in freestyle swimming was broken by Johnny Weissmuller during the 100 Freestyle in the year 1912.

  • Women Enter Swimming Record Books For The Very First Time

Women had been barred from participating in swimming events at Olympic Games for a very long time and for varied reasons. It was in 1912 that women made their debut in Olympic swimming by taking part in two intensive freestyle relays.

Gertrude Ederle

Gertrude Ederle became the very first woman in 1926 to swim across the English Channel and bested the contemporary men’s record by two hours. A Channel Swimming Association was established in the following year that not only prescribed rules that would need to be followed when attempting to cross over the turbulent waters of the English Channel but which would also come to exercise considerable influence over the development of swimming as a sport, particularly open water swimming.

  • Butterfly Stroke Emerges For The First Time In Swimming History

As swimming as a sport began to grow and develop, swimmers started embracing new techniques and styles of swimming especially in their attempts to make the breaststroke a faster one. The decade of the 1930’s saw Americans like Jack Sieg and David Armbruster come up with swimming styles like the dolphin kick and double over water arm recoveries both of which were then combined to create the butterfly stroke. Tumble turns and flip turns were used for the very first time during the Olympic competitions in the 1950’s.

Swimming Butterfly Stroke

Mark Spitz succeeded in winning seven gold medals when taking part in swimming events during the 1972 Olympics. In 1987, a female swimmer by the name of Lynne Cox who was deeply inspired by Gertrude Ederle managed to swim across the famous Bering Strait. She did this without a wetsuit and at a time when cold water rivalries between the USSR and the USA were at an all time high. She later became the very first person to swim in icy Antarctic waters.

  • Backstrokes Used For Underwater Swimming

David Berkoff and other well known backstroke swimmers demonstrated in 1988 that it was possible for them to go much faster by performing butterfly kicks underwater and on their backs instead of doing the same on the surface. The first gold and silver medals in underwater backstroke swimming were won by Berkoff and a Japanese swimmer known as David Suzuki during the Summer Games in 1988. Swimming rules that stated that back stroke swimmers needed to surface before or at the 10 meter mark were then amended by FINA and was later revised to 15 meters.


Underwater Swimming Backstrokes

  • Open Water Swimming Becomes A Part of The Olympics

Open water swimming events were popularized hugely in 2004 during the Midmar Mile race in South Africa that attracted as many as seventeen thousand entrants. It was in 2008 that the popularity of open water swimming was acknowledged for the very first time by the global Olympic Committee and a ten kilometre open water marathon was added to the full list of events that were contested during the Summer Games.


Open Water Swimming



Winning an Olympic Medal is the Ultimate Feat any swimmer can dream of but winning a Gold and that too in multiples is what swimmers aspire for these days. No wonder swimmers like Michael Phelps are considered no less than beasts in swimming given his terrific record in the Olympics.

what is the most popular (and considered the fastest) freestyle stroke?

At the Seoul Games in 1988 an East German swimmer by the name of Kristin Otto won six gold medals after participating in swimming events, becoming the first woman to win the most gold medals during a single Olympics game. Michael Phelps tied the record established by Mark Spitz of winning 7 gold medals during a single Olympic tournament, in 2004. He beat this record in 2008 by winning 8 gold medals.



Different types of Swimming Styles invented over time have been included to be contested as a competition. The most popular being discussed in the below section other than some team events to be contested by more than one person.

when was swimming invented

Side Stroke

This is a popular swimming style that involves asymmetrical arm movements and scissor-like kicks under the water. It is not used during competitions but is instead a style opted for by lifeguards for rescuing potential drowning victims.


Splash swimming is but a form of freestyle swimming during which the knees need to be relaxed and the toes need to be well pointed. The top of the feet have to be slapped over the water surface making a gentle splash. The splash swimming style often causes swimmers to feel quite sore in the area around their hip flexor muscles.


The butterfly stroke is a competitive swimming stroke that involves the use of symmetrical arm strokes and above water recovery. Dolphin kicks and wave like undulations are also used when carrying out the butterfly stroke. The butterfly stroke is quite difficult to learn but can be a lot of fun to implement.

Back Stroke

The backstroke is a swimming style that requires swimmers to swim on their backs. It involves using alternative circular arm movements as well as above water recovery. The swimmers legs need to execute flutter kicks just as is required for freestyle swimming. Backstrokes are usually slower than butterfly strokes and faster than the breaststroke. This is a form of swimming that is often prescribed for people who suffer from back related ailments.


Also known as the front crawl, the freestyle stroke is often preferred by seasoned swimmers and involves the use of above water recovery and alternating arm movements. Swimmers are expected to execute a flutter kick with their legs when swimming freestyle. Freestyle is efficient and fast and is therefore widely used during swimming competitions.

Elementary Backstroke

The elementary backstroke is a complicated swimming style during which swimmers are required to use reversed breaststroke kicks and simple synchronous arm strokes under the water. This is a stroke that can be easily taught to children or adults who are beginning to learn swimming for the first time as the technique is rather simple.

Dolphin Kick

The Dolphin Kick constitutes a part of the butterfly stroke during which swimmers have to carry out a whipping motion with both legs simultaneously while keeping their feet pointed at the same time. It is a style similar to the manner in which a dolphin moves forward under the water.



Unlike many other sports, a swimming competition is officiated by a no. of persons. Lets have detailed look at the no. of people involved in managing and organizing an event at one single time to understand how a professional swimming competition looks like.


There are several types of swimming officials, which are needed to manage & organize the competition.


Referees are required to undergo an intensive training process prior to taking up their positions officially. Their job entails carefully assessing swimming events to ensure that there is no foul play and that all rules and regulations pertaining to swimmers and swimming as a sport are adequately followed.


The starter is the person who announces the onset of a swimming event or competition. Swimmers cannot begin to race towards their goals until they hear the magic words from the starter letting them know that they can begin competing with one another.

Clerk of Course

The Clerk of Course is responsible for swimmers until they are handed over to the referee for supervision. The Clerk of Course checks swimmers into marshalling areas at the start of the swimming event and is known to report indiscipline if noticed among swimmers, to the referee.

Time Keepers

These are the people who keep the time during swimming events at a competition. Once the time scheduled for a specific swimming event transpires, time keepers announce the conclusion of that particular swimming event. They usually report to the referee at least thirty minutes before the swimming event.

Inspector of Turns

The inspector of turns carefully examines each and every stroke or movement undertaken by swimmers in the course of a competition and reports to the referee immediately if any infringement is noticed. Inspectors of turns are assigned at the lanes of every pool end.

Judges of Strokes

The judges of strokes walk along the sides of the swimming pool when a swimming competition is in progress. Their primary duty is to determine at which point of the fifteen meter mark the swimmer surfaces and to ensure that all rules regarding backstroke, butterfly stroke and breaststroke swimming are followed.

Finish Judges

The final decision at a swimming event is taken by the Finish judges. These are the people who decide exactly how far all the swimmers have come in the course of the competition and who the winner of the competition is.



Unlike many other sports, a swimming competition or swimming as a hobby requires minimal gears or equipment to be used. However, with time, there have been an introduction of many swimming gears to be used by swimmers. Also the designers with their creative swimwear designs have made the game look really colorful, glamorous and athletic.

Swimming accessories
Swim Suit

Swim Suit

Swim suit is clothing that is specifically designed for being worn by people who take part in water sports or any water based activity like diving, surfing or swimming. These are water proof clothing and ensure absolute comfort for the swimmer when he or she is in the water.


Swim Cap

The swim cap needs to be worn by the swimmer when in the water, especially when underwater. The swim cap protects the hair and scalp of the swimmer from the dirt particles and the chemicals contained in the water that he or she is swimming in.

Swimming Goggles


The swimming goggles are similar in appearance to sun glasses and protect the eyes of the swimmer when over or under the water. By wearing the goggles underwater especially, swimmers can keep their eyes safe and secure and avoid these from turning dry and later, quite red in color.

Swim Fins

Swim Fins

The swim fins are meant to be worn by the swimmer over his feet. Swim fins improve the body position of the swimmer as well as his swimming technique. By using swim fins, swimmers can move much faster through the water and these are regularly worn by seasoned swimmers during competitions.

Drag Suit

Drag Suit

The drag suit is designed for male swimmers alone and is known to increase the aerobic abilities of the swimmer by allowing his skin to breathe. This is a suit that is made of material that is a hundred percent polyester and provides great comfort to those who wear it.

Hand Paddles

Hand Paddles

The hand paddles are meant to be used by first time swimmers and help to keep learners afloat in the water while they engage in the process of studying and learning swimming techniques. Children learning to swim for the first time need to wear handle paddles for the entire length of time for which they remain in the water.

Kick Board

Kick Board

The kick board is a floatation aid. It helps a swimmer to develop and improve his kicking actions when in the water. Kick boards can be used for all swimming strokes but are used primarily for breaststroke, freestyle and butterfly stroke.

Pull Buoy

Pull Buoy

This is a device that improves the power of an individual swimmer. The swimmer has to hold this between his thighs in order to float his legs and hips at the water surface. It is used primarily to increase forward momentum when swimming.

Ankle Bands

Ankle Bands

The ankle bands are made of stretchable material and are designed to improve speed of a swimmer through the activation of fast twitching muscular fibres in the body. These should ideally be worn by swimmers to avoid injuries when taking part in a swimming competition or event.



The snorkel is a breathing tube or mask that is worn by swimmers when deep under the water. Snorkels are used quite extensively by those who engage in deep sea diving activities. The snorkel helps the swimmer to inhale oxygen easily and to breathe in a smooth and hassle free manner when well under the water.

Tempo Trainer

Tempo Trainer

This is an electronic gadget that boosts the performance of a swimmer and enables practice swimming to take place at a faster pace. This is a small waterproof device and can be easily installed underneath the swimming cap. It transmits audible tempo beeps that make it possible for the swimmer to identify as well as maintain the ideal pace when in water.



The zoomers are swim fins which are golden in colour and perform a function that is identical to all other swim fins sold in the market. It can be easily used by both male and female swimmers.


History of Swimming

All in all Swimming has evolved as a greatly followed game internationally due to its universal appeal . People who are fitness conscious are increasingly taking up the sport as an alternative to other fitness programs, not to mention its far more easier and requires far lesser physical effort to take up swimming.