The History of Swimming

Swimming Is The Backbone Of All Aquatics Sports

Ancient History of Swimming

Ancient civilizations left ample evidence of their swimming abilities. Bas-relief artwork in an Egyptian tomb from around 2,000 B.C. shows an overarm stroke like the front crawl. The Assyrians showed an early breaststroke in their stone carvings. The Hittites, the Minoans, and other early civilizations left drawings of swimming and diving skills.

Even the Bible refers to movement through the water-in Ezekiel 47:5, Acts 27:42, and Isaiah 25:11. Competitive swimming is at least as old as 36 B.C., when the Japanese held the first known swimming races.

The earliest published work on swimming was written in 1538 by Nicolas Wynman, a German professor of languages. In 1696, The Art of Swimming by the French author Thevenot first described a type of breaststroke done with the face out of the water and an underwater arm recovery (the stage of a stroke when the arms and/or legs relax and return to the starting position). This stroke gives the swimmer good stability, even in rough water. After the English translation of Thevenot's work became the standard swimming reference, the breaststroke was the most common stroke for centuries.

Archaeological and other evidence has given us the belief that swimming has been practiced as early as 2500 BC. In the earliest times, it took place in Egypt, Assyria, Greece, and Rome.

  • In Rome, swimming was part of the education of elementary age boys. History of Swimming - Early SwimmersThey also built the first swimming pools, and in the first century BC, they built the first heated swimming pool.
  • In Japan, swimming dates back to the first century BC. There were many swimming events that took place in Japan before it was opened to the Western world.
  • In the Pacific areas, swimming was taught to children by the time they could walk.
  • In ancient Greece, there were few races, but they are famous for having one of their best boxers swim as part of his training.
  • In Medievil Europe Swimming was slow to "catch on" which is usually explained their fear that getting in the water causes you to catch an infection from someone was in the same water before you.
  • London formed their first swimming organization in 1837 - they had 6 indoor pools all with diving boards.
  • Later, in 1869, London founded the Amateur Swimming Association, which inspired many more swimming associations in Europe from 1882-1889.
  • Australia held their first swim meet in 1864 which became and annual event. This led to the first swimming "championship" which happened during the 440-yard race between to competitive Australian swimmers.
  • In the United States become a recognized sport in 1888. It was added by The Amateur Athletic Union(AAU) as an officially recognized competitive sport.
  • Finally in 1909, the Federation Internationale de Natation Amateur(FINA) was founded - this has become the ruling body for Championship Swimming Competitions.

Plato considered a man who didn't know how to swim uneducated

Modern History of Swimming
When Flying Gull winged passed Tobacco, swimming the length of a 130-foot pool in thirty seconds, Londoners were flabbergasted. The year was 1844, and swimming was already established as a popular competitive sport in England. But British athletes generally relied on the sedate breaststroke for traveling in the water, and were rather shocked at the exhibition staged by this group of North American Indians that had been invited to London by the Swimming Society in England.

One observer found their swimming "totally un-European," declaring that the Indians "thrashed the water violently with their arms, like sails of a windmill, and beat downward with their feet, blowing with force and forming grotesque antics." Even though the style of Flying Gull and Tobacco was considerably faster, it was not copied, and British swimmers continued paddling along in their accustomed manner. It was not until some forty years later that the Indians' "totally un-European" style was reintroduced as the crawl: a stroke so rapid that it revolutionized competitive swimming.

Yet this revolutionary advancement was really centuries old. The original inhabitants of the Americas, West Africa and some Pacific islands had been using a the of crawl for generations, while Europeans had limited their swimming to the breast and side strokes essentially modifications of what must have been man's first method of keeping his head above water: the "dog stroke" learned from animals. Although this four-legged paddling style came naturally to many animals, it was at best for man a churning, thrashing and tiring means of getting from one bank of a river to the other.

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