Swimmer: Wikis


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11th FINA World Championships.JPG
Highest governing body Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA)
Categorization Aquatics
Olympic Since 1896

The aquatic sport of swimming is based on the human act of swimming, that is, locomotion in water by self propulsion, usually with the goal to complete a given distance in the smallest amount of time. There are also swimming competitions based on endurance or precedence rather than speed, such as crossing the English Channel or some other stretch of open water. As a sport, swimming is usually distinguished from other aquatic sports (such as diving, synchronized swimming and water polo) that involve the act of swimming but where the goal is neither speed nor endurance.

Competetive swimming consist of four different strokes. The different strokes you can swim in a race are the butterfly, breaststroke, freestyle, and backstroke. When all four strokes are done at the same time during a race, it is called the I.M.(Individual Medly).

Swimming has been part of the modern Olympic Games since their inception in 1896, and is governed by the Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA). The belief is widely held that swimming is the best aerobic exercise in the world.



Competitive swimming in Europe started around 1800, mostly using breaststroke. In 1873 John Arthur Trudgen introduced the trudgen to Western swimming competitions, after copying the front crawl used by Native Americans. Due to a British disregard for splashing, Trudgen employed a scissor kick instead of the front crawl's flutter kick. Swimming was part of the first modern Olympic games in 1896 in Athens. In 1902 Richard Cavill introduced the front crawl to the Western world. In 1908, the world swimming association, Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA), was formed. The butterfly stroke was developed in the 1930s and was at first a variant of breaststroke, until it was accepted as a separate style in 1952.


There are many modalities of swimming competitions, distinguished mainly by the swimming strokes that are allowed, including

  • Butterfly or fly: the course must be completed entirely in the butterfly style, in which the swimmer brings his or her arms near full extension and releases at the waist. While the swimmer's arms are at full extension the head comes up to take a breath as the arms pull down. As the swimmer release the water past their hips, they bring their arms up and out into the recovery while the head goes back down. "Dolphin kicking" (undulating) with both feet together in sequence with two kicks per arm stroke. Usually there is a kick while the hands are at full extension and then one at the recovery when the hands are at their hips. All end walls must be touched with two hands, and the swimmer will be disqualified if his/her arms do not clear the water at the same time. Typical distances include 25(8 years and younger typically swim this length), 50, 100, 200 meters or yards. (depending on the pool)
  • Backstroke or back: competitors must swim in the backstroke style, which is similar to the front crawl, except on your back. Kicking is done by alternating both feet continuously and pulling each arm one at a time in a windmill motion on the side of the body. At the end walls, flip turns are permitted (the swimmer is to turn on to his/her front before performing the turn and this turn is the same as a front crawl once on your stomach), and a two-hand touch is not necessary. Typical distances include 25(8 years and younger typically swim this length), 50, 100, 200 meters or yards. (depending on the pool. Many swimmers use the flags to count a specific amount of strokes to plan when the flip turn will take place. This timing is important for competition.
  • Breaststroke or breast: competitors must swim in the breaststroke style, where the swimmer kicks legs out (much like a frog, but more whip like and with the knees staying closely together), scoops the water in towards the chest with his or her hands and then while the hands are together, thrusts the hands out in front just before the kick is repeated. The breath is started as the hands pull the water from full extension, the head bobs up, and then put back down as the arms thrust forward. One underwater "pull-out" is permitted for the start and after every end wall, with, in order: streamline glide, one fully extended pull, one breaststroke kick while bringing the hands back forward. This pullout is done under water without a breath. The two hands must touch the wall simultaneously at every turn like in the butterfly modality. After the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece, thanks to Kosuke Kitajima, there was an adjustment made to the underwater "pull-out". The new rule states that you can also do a single downward dolphin kick (upward is not permitted). Kosuke Kitajima was the first breaststroke swimmer to perform such "pull-out". Typical distances include 25(8 years and younger typically swim this length), 50, 100, 200 meters or yards. (depending on the pool)
  • Freestyle of free: competitors are free to use any stroke they wish. Most select the front crawl, as it is both the fastest and most efficient. The front crawl is where the swimmer breathes to the side with typically one ear staying in the water, kicks by alternating both legs, and pulls with each arm moving in an alternating fashion. Flip/tumble turns are legal and are most common. Variants include free relays, in which four team members each swim an equal distance of freestyle; when one member touches the end wall, the next dives off the block. Typical distances are 25(8 years and younger typically swim this length), 50, 100, 200, 400, 500, 800, 1000, 1500, and 1650 meters or yards. (depending on the pool)
  • Individual medley or IM: each swimmer must complete one quarter of the full distance in each of the three competition styles (butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke) and one part in free style. Open turns are required in the switch from one style to another, but flip turns or bucket turns can be made during a backstroke and freestyle flip turn where the next stoke is the same as the previous one. Each part must be completed in its style before moving on to the next style. Variations include medley relays, in which four team members each swim one part (in the order backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, and free). The full distance is typically 100, 200, 400, or 800 meters or yards. (depending on the pool)

At the end walls, the following turns may be permitted, depending on the modality and swimming style:


The goal of competitive swimming is usually to have the fastest time to complete a given distance. Competitive swimming became popular in the nineteenth century.

Swimming is an event at the Summer Olympic Games, where male and female athletes compete in 13 of the recognized events each. Olympic events are held in a 50 meter pool(long course). There are 36 officially recognized individual swimming events – 18 male events and 18 female events, however the International Olympic Committee only recognizes 34 of them – 17 male and 17 female. The international governing body for competitive swimming's is the Fédération Internationale de Natation ("International Swimming Federation") better known as FINA.

Competition pools

Most swimming sport events are held in special competition swimming pools, which are either long course pools such as used in the Olympic Games (50 m) or short course pools as was used in the Manchester World Swimming Championships (25 yards or 25 m). 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 September to the end of March. The long-course season, is swum in 50 meter Olympic pools and lasts from April to the end of August.


There are several types of officials[1]:

  • 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;
  • 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.)
  • Turn judges check that the swimmers' turns are within rules;
  • Stroke judges check the swimmers' strokes;
  • Timekeepers time the swimmers' swims;
  • The referee takes overall responsibility for running the race and makes the final decisions as to who wins the competition.

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.

Meet Setup

A meet consists of a number of events classified by age, gender, distance, and stroke. For example, Event 1: Girls 8&U 25 fly. Each event has a certain amount of heats. A heat is a group of people who swim at the same time, one per lane, yet compete against all entries in that event. Most meets do one stroke at one time. A heat sheet tells a swimmer what they will swim and in what heat and lane. A psych sheet tells the entry position of the swimmer before the start of the meet. Larger meets, which are not national or international competitions, typically cover a three day period, usually Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Fridays are typically the distance events: 400 free, 800 free, 1000 free, 1500 free, 1650 free, and the 400 IM. Saturdays consist half of the events and, most likely, free relays. Sundays consist of the remainder of the events and the other relays. In typical meets, swimmers are placed after swimming once in their heat, timed finals. In championship meets (international, national, state, regionals, district, and collegiate) and some other meets, the swimmers compete in preliminaries, sometimes semi-finals, and are placed after finals. Sometimes swimmers can enter time trials at a meet, to obtain new official times, but the results of time trials are not included in the official placing of the particular event at the meet.


"Team colors" would be referred to as the "team suit and cap"
Suit The suit covers the skin for modesty Competitive swimwear seeks to improve upon bare human skin for a speed advantage. For extra speed a swimmer wears a body suit, which has rubber or plastic bumps that break up the water close to the body and provides a small amount of thrust—just barely enough to help a swimmer swim faster.
Swim Cap A swim cap(a.k.a. cap)keeps the swimmers hair out of the way to reduce drag. During practice, many female swimmers wear caps with different sayings, patterns or both. Latex Caps is made of latex which sticks to anything. If you are having trouble putting on this type of cap or removing it, try putting water on the cap, place your hands on you forehead with your cap between your fingers and forehead, then have someone pull the back of the cap over your head. This is easy to tell by both how it looks, and how it feels.Silicone Caps This cap is very stretchy, yet is snug. If you are having trouble putting this cap on, place both hands in the cap, stretch the cap out, place your head down in the front of the cap, and pull it back, over your head, and pull your hands out. Tuck any loose hair back in. Lycra Cap This is a type of cap that does not pull on your hair like latex caps. However, it is not as snug as silicone. Serious competitive swimmers normally do not use Lycra Caps because they produce a lot of drag.
Goggles Goggles keep water and chlorine out of swimmers eyes. Prescription goggles can help those that need glasses. If you have contacts, you should find ones that are a more dependable to prevent protein build-up in your eyes (including starts). Goggles with a tint may help protect your eyes from damage or burns and are handy for outdoor swimming.

Brands include: Arena, Speedo, TYR, Nike, Dolfin (There are other brands of suits)


Regular practice and competition-swimwear


Men's most used practice swimwear include speedos (briefs) and jammers.

There has been much controversy after the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008, when many Olympic swimmers, including Olympic Gold Medalist Michael Phelps, broke records unprecedented times using revolutionary swimsuits. To highlight the issue, note that it is rare to break world records, but in 2008, 70 world records was broken in one year, and 66 Olympic records were broken in one Olympic Games (There were races in Beijing where the first 5 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 waist to above the knees. They are also only permitted to wear one piece of swimwear; they cannot wear speedos underneath jammers. This law 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. There are also different style lengths: three quarter length (reaches the knees), regular length (shoulders to hips), and bikini style (2 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

Drag suits are used for increasing the resistance against the swimmer in order to help adjust the swimmer to drag. This way when swimmers switch back normal practice suits they swim faster as a result of feeling less resistance. They are not normally worn during competitions.

Drag shorts

Drag shorts 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 wearer feels less resistance. Other forms of drag wear include nylons, 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. It is also very common for swimmers to shave areas of exposed skin, to reduce friction in the water. Drag wear is not normally worn during competitions.

Open water swimming

Open water swimming is swimming outside of a regular pool, usually in a lake, or sometimes ocean.

Changes to the sport

Swimming times have dropped over the years due to better training techniques and to new developments.

The first four Olympics competitions 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.

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.

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 flip 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 head completely under water, which allowed for a longer stroke and faster time. However, the breaststrokers must bring their heads up at the completion of each cycle. In addition, a split stroke in the breaststroke start and turns has been added to help speed up the stroke. There have been some other changes added recently as well. Now off the start and turns, breaststrokers are allowed 1 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, but this turn is now illegal in all backstroke races. However, a variation of it, known as a "bucket turn" is sometimes used in Individual Medley events to transition from backstroke to breaststroke.

Records in swimming

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. The Danish swimmer Ranghild Hveger established forty-two records between 1936 and 1942 due to these rules.

Records in events such as 300 yd, 300 m, 1000 yd and 1000 m freestyle, 400 m backstroke, 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 for action to come 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 "record" times were not officially recognised, but were regarded a "world best time" (WBT). From 31 October 1994 records in 50 m backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly records were added to the official record listings.

FINA currently recognises world records in the following events for both men and women.[2]


In swimming it is recommended that you eat healthy, although carbohydrates are recommended for highly demanding sports due to the complete sources of energy that they provide.[3] As a result, many competitive swimmers eat carbohydrates and protein before their race. Furthermore, carbohydrate promote muscle stamina and strength because the breakdown product of carbohydrate-glucose is a primary source of energy for muscles during exercise.

Commonly the nutrient and energy needs of swimmers can be compromised by their intense schedules. Whereas time should be allowed for a light meal before swimming, and time for a well-balanced generous meal should be allotted after the workout.

Additionally, healthy snacking can at times, be more efficient in fueling the body than a main meal. For example, healthy snacking ideas include: low fat yogurt, fresh or dried fruit, crackers, oatmeal and raisins, granola, and cereal.

Like all aerobic sports, swimmers need to be sure they remain hydrated and drink an adequate amount.

Importance of carbohydrates

Nutrients are the "chemicals" supplying the body with energy. The presence of Vitamins, Minerals, and Water is required in order for the body to access the energy from carbohydrate, but doesn't supply energy in the form of calories.[4]

Carbohydrates are the substrate of choice for quick energy. They are not made up of fat. Exercising the body primarily receives energy from the "carbohydrate and fat." when the body is running low of carbohydrate and fat, then the body will start using "protein as an energy source." This will happen when "the total caloric intake is too low over a period of months, and/or exercise is so long the body's accessible sources of carbohydrate and protein become exhausted." Swimmers try their best to not let this happen.[4]

When warming-up or having an easy set at practice, the body has more than enough oxygen available to support the exercise. In addition, the body realizes it might need carbohydrate at a later time. When practice is rigorous or at a swimming competition, the body doesn’t have enough oxygen to run on. This is when the body finds energy in other ways that don’t require oxygen and will “choose to rely primarily on carbohydrate for its energy.”[4]

Therefore, the body will always use some carbohydrate and fat. The intensity of the swim will indicate which fuel source will take command of the others. As a result, “When swimming is easy, fat is the primary fuel source. When it is the toughest, carbohydrate is the primary source. When swimming is about 50% of maximum effort, carbohydrate and fat contribute about equally.[4]

Health and skin care

It's recommended that swimmers wear water proof sunscreen to meets and daytime swim practices that are outside to prevent sunburns.It's 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.

Swimmers should shower with mild soap after swimming to remove pool chemicals such as chlorine. Swimmers should use goggles to protect the eyes from pool water and improve underwater vision.[5][6][7]

See also


  1. ^ FINA Technical Rule SW1.2
  2. ^ FINA Technical Rule SW12.1 and 12.2
  3. ^ Jackson, Catherine G Ratzin. Nutrition and Strength Athlete. Nutrition in Exercise and Sport. Boca Raton Fla: CRC P, 2001.
  4. ^ a b c d USA Swimming - Nutrition Articles. www.usaswimming.org
  5. ^ The FAST Swim Store -Frequently Asked Questions http://www.fastswimming.org/fastore_faq.htm#faq_skin
  6. ^ Bathing Suit Hygiene By Jamie Lober http://www.mckinneykids.com/JJ09bathingsuit.html
  7. ^ Child safety: public swimming pool http://www.essortment.com/family/safetytipspubl_shzp.htm

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