Time Line

* unknown dates

4000 BC Egypt/Kebir desert Swims "Free"

2000 B.C. Egypt swims "Free"

2000 B.C Assyrian swims "Breast"

2500 B.C South Pacific Islanders teach kids to swim & walk

850 B.C Britian Swimming with mussuk (inflated goat or sheep skin)

* Hittites & Minoans start swimming/diving

* Middle East and Pompeii Doggie- Paddle

36 BC Japan has Competitive swimming

1538 AD First swim book by Nicolas Wynmann- germany

1587 AD Knights were required to learn to swim

1587 AD Romans built bathhouses to swim

1837 AD England Society for swimming

1844 - Native Americans compete

1886 AD Amateur Swimming Assossiation

1875 AD First Man to Swim English Channel Mathew Webb

1896 AD Swimming became a olympic sport in Athens but only for Men

1903 AD Coney Island Polar Bear Club

1904 AD Olympics had 8 events 1 relay

1912 AD Stockholm Women were allowed to compete in Olympics

1961 Yale Univirsity, the 1500M free final was one of the last races to not have lane lines! Avoiding other swimmers was part of the race!

1972 Mark Spitz 10 Olympic Gold

1988 Kristin Otto 6 gold Most by a Woman

2003 Christopher Swain 1st to swim the Columbia River’s 1,243 mile

2004 Viola Hartman Cady Krahn the world's oldest diver 102 years old

2007 Martin Strel, a 52 year old Slovenian marathon swimmer, swam 3274 miles down the Amazon river in 66 days

2008 Michael Phelps 11 Olympic Gold

2009 FINA (Federation Internationale de Natation) issued a list of 202 swimsuits approved for competition

2016 Olympic and Paralympic Chicago









THE INFO ON THIS PAGE COMES FROM De Anza College WEB SITE http://faculty.deanza.edu/donahuemary/Historyofswimmingsection
The artical has been abriviated, text deleted and text moved around for your convience of reading. For More info and details see the website

Interesting Facts ABOUT SWIMMING:

At around age 10, in 1716, Benjamin Franklin may have invented swim fins and hand paddles. From his autobiography: "I learnt early to swim well. I made two oval Palettes, each about ten inches long and six abroad, with Hole for the Thumbs to hold them tightly in each hand, like Painter's Palettes. In swimming I would hold them edgewise for forward and on the flat Side to draw them back....They helped me swim much faster but fatigued my Wrist. I also fitted a sort of Sandals to the Soles of my Feet but found them unsatisfactory, observing that Motion required the inside of Feet and Ankles as well as Soles." In 1968 he was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.

Samurai of Japan fought wearing heavy armor, and needed to be able to cross and fight in Japan's many lakes and streams. Feudal lords had swim training for troops in ponds: 1. suieijutsu (swimming) 2. oyogijutsu (swimming in armor) 3. katchu gozen oyogi (heavy armor) and on horseback in the water. A Samurai was able to swim almost 75 yards underwater on one breath.

1825-1829 John Quincy Adams president of the US. He was known to take pre-dawn walks from the White House to the Potomac River to swim in the river.

1827 Francis Lieber established the first swim school in America

1838 this description of how to sew a bathing suit was published in England: "Bathing gowns are made of blue and white flannel, stuff, calimanco, or blue linen. As it is especially desirable that the water should have free access to the person, and yet that the dress should not cling to, or weigh down the bather, stuff or calimanco are preferred to most other materials: the dark coloured gowns are the best for several reasons, but chiefly because they do not shew the figure, and make the bather less conspicuous than she would be in a white dress. As the width of the materials, of which a bathing gown is made, varies, it is impossible to say of how many breadths it should consist. The width at the bottom, when the gown is doubled, should be about 15 nails: fold it like a pinafore, slope 3 1/2 nails for the shoulders, cut or open slits of 3 1/2 nails long for the arm-holes; set in plain sleeves 4 1/2 nails long, 3 1/2 nails wide, and make a slit in the front 5 nails long. In making up, delicacy is the great object to be attended to. Hem the gown at the bottom, gather it into a band at the top, and run in strings; hem the opening and the bottom of the sleeves, and put in strings. A broad band should be sewed in about half a yard from the top, to button round the waist." ~ A nail (a measure for cloth) was 2 1/4 inches. Weights were often sewn into the hem to keep the skirt from lifting up in the water and exposing legs. ~

1844 Maidstone, (Great Britain) swim club formed, swimming at 6 a.m. from a river raft.

1852 The first intercollegiate sporting event was a two-mile crew race won by Harvard over Yale, in part because they added some men who were not enrolled in the college.

Around 1863 on the River Dee in Aberdeen, Scotland they may have been playing the first water polo. Players sitting on barrels and hitting the ball with kayak paddles or mallet-like sticks, similar to those used in equestrian polo, as a sport to attract guests to British resorts in the 1870s.

Modern water polo is technically, but not in reality, a non-contact sport, but in the olden days players sometimes held opponents underwater until they passed out. The opposition goalkeeper was allowed to stand on the edge of the pool and may have dive-bombed opposing players as they tried to score.

By 1869 the water polo ball usually made from a pig's stomach was being replaced by an Indian rubber ball.

1870 the British Metropolitan Swimming Association drew up rules for 'management of the Games of Football in the Water' (water polo)

1873 - A silk dress is the prize for a mile swim race in the Harlem River in which ten women compete.

1879-81 Bavarian King Ludwig II adds electricity to an artificial lake at his castle so that the water can be heated, lighted with various colors and made to create waves. The first wave pool.

1880 Agnes Beckwith (Britain) treads water for 30 hours in the whale tank of the Royal Aquarium of Westminster to equal a time by Matthew Webb.

1881 Edith Johnson of England sets a world endurance indoor swimming record (31 hours). This record will hold until 1928.

1891 two members of the Amateur Swimming Association of Great Britain formed the Swimmers Life-Saving Society, later to become the Royal Life Saving Society.

1893 First diving stage in England built at Highgate Pumps

1896 The Sutro baths in San Francisco had one freshwater pool, five saltwater pools heated to various temperatures and a huge saltwater pool at normal ocean temperature.

According to the National Park Service website: http://www.nps.gov/goga/clho/suba/

"A classic Greek portal opened to a massive glass enclosure containing seven swimming pools of various temperatures. There were slides, trapezes, springboards and a high dive. Together the pools held 1.7 million gallons of water and could be filled in one hour by high tides. There were 20,000 bathing suits and 40,000 towels for rent. Balmy temperatures and abundant plants enhanced "California’s Tropical Winter Garden." The Baths could accommodate 10,000 people at one time."

1897 the first rescue can, made of sheet metal and pointed at both ends with an over-the-shoulder harness, replaces life rings towed by lifeguards. It slides faster through the water but the type of construction causes injuries.

In 1900, water polo is first introduced in the Paris Olympic games. In 1904 other countries refuse to play with the soft, underinflated ball used in American competitions, so the USA wins gold, silver and bronze as the only country to enter teams.

Also in 1900, one swim event was a 200 meter swimming obstacle course started by climbing over a pole and climbing over and swimming under rows of boats.

1903 Coney Island Polar Bear Club takes its first swim in the Atlantic (every Sunday from November through April). According to a Newsday article, "The Coney Island Polar Bear Club was founded in 1903 by Bernarr MacFadden

In 1904 when men's diving became an Olympic event, it was called fancy diving.

In the a plunge for distance the diver who went the farthest underwater after a dive won. It started with a standing dive, and the diver remained motionless for 60 seconds or until heads came up to the surface. William Dickey of the United States won with a plunge of 19.05 meters. This glide for distance was boring to observers and was canceled.

Swim races started on a raft in an artificial lake that many suspected was filled with typhoid fever. Dr. Ecrenciezo wrote "a makeshift raft was used as a starting platform but it could not bear the weight of six to eight men and sank so deep competitors stood in water up to their ankles. The raft slid back in the movement of the plunge and the competitors practically fell flat."

1907: Matsudaira, a Japanese historian, described a Samuria competition of hand-to-hand fighting in armor in deep water in a river or the ocean.

In the original platform diving, the Americans judged that the way you enter the water was important, but the Germans, also in the top medaling, tried more difficult dives but tended as a result to have more belly flops. When you dive from a ten meter platform you attain a speed of around 35 MPH when you enter the water.

From 1911 to 2001, the Boy Scouts awarded approximately 5.3 million merit badges in swimming and 2.7 million in lifesaving.

April, 1912, the Titanic was one of the first ships with an onboard swimming pool.

1913 Jantzen, a sweater company, "made a swimsuit out of a wool sweater cuff and created the first elasticized swimsuit" said recent Jantzen Vice President Roger Yost.

Hungarians dominated water polo in the 1920 Olympics when they started passing the ball in the air.

1922 American Sybil Bauer becomes the first woman to break an existing men's swimming world record. Her 440 yard backstroke in 6:24.8 is four seconds faster. She set 23 world records in six years of competitive swimming

Clarence Ross started in high school and had national records from 1925-1926 (3 miles, 5 miles) as well as masters swim records later in his career of 123 wins in 125 races. Late in his career he was mugged one night in Newark, New Jersey. The doctors at the hospital checked his heart rate, decided it was too low and put in a pacemaker. When he came to he explained to the doctors that his athletic resting heart rate was 42, but the pacemaker was already in.

Early 1930s: Guy Gilpatrick, an American writer living in France, waterproofs a pair of pilot's goggles for skin diving by applying window putty to the edges.

In 1930 pools began to be heated

1930's French chemist Eugene Schueller formulated and manufactured the first suntan lotion. He started in 1907 by inventing a hair dye he named Aureole. L'Oreal eventually became the world's biggest cosmetics company. His original sun lotion was not as good at preventing the ill effects of sun exposure as today's products. But most people do not use sunscreen properly.

1932 At the Los Angeles Olympics American Helene Madison becomes the first woman to swim the 100 yard (meter?) freestyle in a minute despite bumping into a lane line.

According to a Saturday Evening Post Article, (Larry) "Buster Crabbe won the 400 meters at the 1932 Olympics and held 15 world records before he became the hero of those Saturday-morning movie serials where Flash Gordon battled the evil forces of Ming. As each week's episode ended, all would appear hopeless for Flash as he hung from a cliff or otherwise defied death. Somehow, at the first of next week's show, he would find a way to escape. Steven Spielberg is said to have patterned his Indiana Jones' near-death and rescue scenarios in Raiders of the Lost Ark after those weekly Saturday thrillers." He also was in over 102 movies, many of them westerns and was a NAUI instructor.

1933 Fins "Lifesaving and Swimming Propelling Device" patented by Louis de Corlieu.

February 4, 1934 Willy den Ouden of Holland was the first woman to swim the 100 meter freestyle in under a minute: 59.8.

Santa Monica, California, lifeguard Pete Peterson builds an inflatable yellow rescue tube with a snap hook at one end and a 14 inch strap, line and harness at the other end. He also created paddle boards for lifeguards and was the first person to paddle from Catalina to the mainland. He won the Pacific Coast Surfing Championship 4 times out of ten.

Pedro A. Candiotti of Argentina swims the 281 mile Parana River.

At the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Velma Dunn Ploessel won a silver medal in platform diving at the age of 17, only three tenths of a point behind the first place finisher, her teammate who was competing in her third Olympics. Later, at the end of her first week at the University of Southern California, as a physical education major, the head of the PE Department called her in and told her she should not be participating in competitive sports. "She said that she hoped I wasn't going to continue my competition, because it wasn't ladylike...That's the first time I had ever thought of diving as not being ladylike... I didn't dive for two years." (Her mother had insisted that she learn to swim, but she found lap swimming boring, so she took up diving.) She participated in the torch relay in the 1996, 2000 and 2002 Olympic games.

The 1938 American Red Cross Swimming and Diving text said about the new butterfly: "As the stroke has developed it appears to require more than the usual amount of flexibility in the shoulder-joint and strength. In its present state its requirements may seem to be too exacting to permit its use over any but distances up to two hundred and twenty yards but as the true crawl was developed out of a crude method of whacking away at the water, also this stroke may be the forerunner of an improved style of swimming of great usefulness."

1939 The first synchronized swimming competition in the United States is a dual meet between Wright Junior College and the Chicago Teacher's College.

1940 John V. Sigmund completes a 292 mile swim of the Mississippi River in 89 hours and 42 minutes, the longest officially recorded swim.

August 15, 1942 Chosen Navy and Army personnel met at Amphibious Training Base, Little Creek to begin Amphibious Scouts and Raiders (Joint) training. They became a World War II beach reconnaissance force that, along with Naval Combat Demolition Units, Office of Strategic Services Operational Swimmers, Underwater Demolition Teams, and Motor Torpedo Boat Squadrons of World War II, would be the origin of the Navy Seals.

1943 As a part of wartime rationing, the US ordered 10% less fabric used in women's swimwear. So designers removed the skirts and midriffs were exposed: the first two piece swim suits by government decree.

August 2, 1943 at about 2 a.m. the Japanese destroyer Amagiri hit PT 109 and killed two of John F. Kennedy's crew. He helped rescue his crew members and by dawn they were floating on the bow.That day they swam and helped each other swim to an island. Kennedy helped the man most injured, towing the sailor's life vest with his teeth.He had been on the first Harvard swim team to beat Yale. The Harvard Guide says "Too small to play intercollegiate football, he joined the swim team. He's remembered by the coach as "a fine kid, frail and not too strong, but always giving it everything he had."

1943 French engineer Emile Gagnan and Jacques-Yves Cousteau invent the aqualung. It allowed divers to stay underwater independently for several hours. It remained a secret until the south of France was liberated.

In 1947 the U.S. drowning rate (5.2 per 100,000 people) was cut in half from that of 1914 (10.4 per 100,000 people).

1948 Sammy Lee was the first Asian American to win gold for the U.S. (gold in 1948 and 1952) and the first male diver to win two gold medals in platform diving. The small, extra absorbent towel divers use, the sammy, is named for him.

In 1951, Pennsylvania law said that blacks had the right to use any public recreation facility. But three Pittsburg swimming pools were not integrated. When the Reverend LeRoy Patrick organized an interracial youth swim at Highland Park pool, all the white pool patrons got out of the pool.

Pat McCormick becomes the first diver to win all five national championships. At the Helsinki Summer Games she won a gold in springboard diving and a gold in platform diving. In 1956 she completed the double-double or two diving gold medals in two Olympic Games. Some of the dives she attempted had previously been outlawed for women as too dangerous. A doctor who examined her remarked of the cracked bones she had accumulated from diving a hundred practices a day "I've seen worse casualty cases, but only where a building caved in."

1952 Austraian champion Jon Hendricks wore a silk swimsuit to cut down on drag.

From 1953 to 1972 the world champion marathon swimmer was Abdellatief Abouheif of Egypt's team, the "Nile Crocodiles."He competed in over 68 international races in lengths of 30 to 80 kilometers. His longest distance swim was 60 miles on Lake Michigan in 34 hours, 45 minutes in 52 degree F. water for a prize of $15,000.As a child he saw a film with Johnny Weissmuller and decided to emulate him. He won his first cup as champion for Alexandria at age nine."It is not easy to be a champion - there are no tricks and no particular gifts for becoming number one. It is just a matter of training and then more training, to the limits of human endurance. In fact it is a matter of will power."

1954 First person to swim across Lake Ontario. (20 hours 55 minutes) was Canadian Marilyn Bell at age 16.

1954 the first scuba certification course in the U.S. is offered by the Los Anegels County Department of Parks and Recreation

In the mid-1950s, the first pace clock was desgined by coach Doc Counsilman, who attached a timing motor to a 15-inch clock face.

1955 Bill Beer and John Daggett, two skilled surfers recently out of the military, swim 280 miles of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.

From a review of the book about their swim in Publishers Weekly:

"April 10, 1955: the water temperature was 51F, and a fierce wind buffeted two men as they entered the Colorado River at Lees Ferry. The author and John Daggett had set out to swim the river through the Grand Canyon. At a time when fewer than 200 people had run the river in boats, this was daredeviltry and illegal. Their equipment was primitive: Army-surplus rubber boxes to carry gear, thin rubber shirts, woollen long johns and swim fins; they also took a movie camera to record the adventure. Twenty-six days and 280 miles later, bruised and battered, they left the river at Pierce Ferry.

"The book: We Swan the Grand Canyon. The True Story of a Cheap Vacation that Got a Little Out of Hand, is out of print, but most public libraries that do not have it on their shelves can order it for a library patron (probably for a small fee) from a library that does.

A 1956 printing of American Red Cross Life Saving and Water Safety says, in part:

200,000 Soviet troups had invaded Hungary just a month before an Olympic waterpolo match between the two countries. The match, called when Hungary had 4 points over the Russian's 0, was described as "an underwater boxing match."

From a magazine account: "The match grew ugly when 21 year-old Hungarian star Ervin Zádor was pulled bleeding from the pool after a hard head butt. The image of Zádor leaving the pool with blood pouring from the deep gash over his left eye was published in newspapers worldwide."


Hungary won the gold medal, but more than half of the team defected.

Australians shaved their bodies in the 1956 Olympics.

1957: University of Michigan varsity dual meets are the first to regularly use touch pads for electronic timing of swim meets.

Bill Parkinson, the inventor, a physics professor at the U of Michigan, describes what he needed to do to design the plates:

"What you needed at the end of the pool was an insulated switch, (pool water has very high conductivity), which the swimmer would close when he touched the pad. It had to be very sensitive, so that a swimmer could come in and make a very light brush on it and still close the switch. At the same time, it couldn't respond to splashes and waves. It also had to be sensitive above and below water and across the width of the lane. That was the key to the whole thing, making those plates that would respond."

His wife, Martha, sewed copper wire in a zigzag pattern into a rubber mat, which he mounted on an aluminum plate. Eventually the pad was filled with DC-200 silicone oil. Parkinson noted "DC-200 has excellent insulating properties; it doesn't interact with the rubber, and its density is slightly less than that of water, which allows the top portion of the plate to be above the surface of the pool... It was solving the contact plate problem that prevented such a system from being developed much earlier. Once you have the plate, the electronics is trivial, it really is."

1957–1961 TV show Sea Hunt and star Lloyd Bridges introduce scuba to millions of Americans.

1958 Mihir Sen of India (1920-1997) was the first Asian man to swim the English Channel (14 hours, 45 minutes). Until he was twenty years old he had only swum dog-paddle.

1959 Arati Saha of India (1937-1994) becomes the first Asian woman to swim the English Channel (16 hours, 20 minutes).l

1961 at the Indoor Nationals at Yale, the 1500M freestyle final was one of the last races without lane lines. Avoiding head-on collisions was a part of the race.

1962 ish thicker swim caps - bubble crepe- made to keep heads warmer and caps covered with 3D flowers

1964 Australian swimmer Dawn Fraser becomes the first woman to win four Olympic gold medals and the first swimmer to win an event in three straight Olympiads (1956, 1960 and 1964).

She won a total of eight medals—four gold and four silver, four in individual events and four in relays and had 39 world records.

American Dick Roth won the men’s 400 IM while battling an appendicitis attack

On July 4, 1964 the Civil Rights Act was passed by Congress. A photo from a swimming pool has been credited with convincing undecided members of Congress to vote for it. The photo was of the owner of a 'whites only' hotel pouring acid into the pool when men and women, black and white had committed an act of integration and civil disobedience by entering the pool together.

1964 Pete Peterson designs a rescue tube made from foam rubber hot dipped in a rubber coating.

1965 - First full-time woman sports broadcaster on national TV (ABC) is swimmer Donna De Varona. In 1960, at the age of 13, she became the youngest member of a U.S. Olympic swim team. In 1964 she won gold medals in the 400 IM and 400 Freestyle Relay at the Tokyo Olympics. She held 18 world records, served on two Presidential Commissions and five terms on the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.

1965, a trained bottlenosed dolphin named Tuffy dove 200 feet to the La Jolla, California Sea Lab II installation to bring mail and tools. He was also trained to guide lost divers to safety. The first marine mammal open ocean military operation.

1966 Mihir Sen (same guy as the 1958 English Channel swim) swam across 7 straits of the five continents in one calendar year. The straits included the Panama Canal in 36 hours, the strait of Gibraltar (between Europe and Africa) in 8 hours and 1 minute, the Strait of the Dardanelles, while being guarded by the Turkish Navy, and the Palk Strait between India and Sri Lanka in 25 hours and 36 minutes.

Adolph Keifer patents 'wave-eating' lane lines. The story is that he noticed a hurricane light covered in woven plastic on a table in a Baltimore restaurant and pictured the same material in cylinders and crammed on a lane line. USA Swimming calls them one of the top 25 innovations in swimming. Among his other inventions (and a dozen patents) was using PVC foam in ring buoys and life vests instead of canvas-covered cork or kapok flotation.

In the 1968 Olympics, if the (California) Santa Clara Swim Club had been a country, they would have finished fifth as a country based on medals won in combined sports.

1970 David Andrew Wilkie of Great Britain is the first elite swimmer to wear a cap and goggles in a major competition.

1972 Mark Spitz, born in Modesto, California, wins seven Olympic gold medals in swimming while wearing a full head of frictional drag-producing hair and a mustache. Seven gold medals is the most at that point ever won in one Games in any sport. Time for 100 fly 54.27, 200 fly 2:00.7, 100 free 51.22 and 200 free 1:52.78 plus three team golds. (By 1984 these times would not have even qualified him for the U.S. tryouts.)

The poster of Spitz wearing a swimsuit and his medals earned him $10,000 and 15 cents per poster.

The starting block he used to win six of his seven gold medals is on view at the Swimming Hall of Fame in Florida.

In a 1972 Olympic waterpolo match between Hungary and Italy, eight Hungarian players were suspended in 38 seconds.

When Mike Burton won the 1500 in 1972 at age 25 people thought he was too old.

The 1972 Munich games were the first to use electronic timing. Previously stopwatches were used and the time were only recorded to one-tenth of a second. With electronic timing records are kept to the hundredth.

Four Hewlett-Packard engineers spun off from HP and founded Colorado Time Systems. The company added a print head in the console of electronic timing systems (the touch plates were invented by Bill Parkinson, see 1957) making the timing fully automated through the whole process, from judging and timing through recording of the results.

1974 Jack Johnstone and Don Shanahan invented the first triathlon, held on September 25th at Mission Bay, (San Diego), California with 46 male and female athletes. The race featured a total of 6 miles running, 5 miles biking and 500 yards of swimming, the last event, which some competitors finished after dark. Most of the athletes went for pizza together after the race.

Donna M. Tobias was the first woman to become a US Navy deep sea (hard hat) diver. She was also a submarine escape instructor.

1976 Enith Brigitha of the Netherlands Antilles became the first swimmer of African descent to win an Olympic medal (two bronze)..

In the first Ironman triathlon, three existing races put together, 15 competitors try to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles (originally the two-day around Oahu race) and run a marathon (26.2 miles). 12 finish, John Collins among them. The winner was a Honolulu taxi driver, Gordon Haller, in 11:45.58. Haller later said "I pretty much thought it was another long workout."

The Ironman race for 2003 had 1500 competitors and 100 million people were expected to watch it on T.V. when it was broadcast two months after it was run. To pull off this race requires 7000 volunteers, over 12,000 bananas, 600 bottles of sunscreen and 100,000 gallons of various fluids.

At the 1980 Olympics Russian Vladimir Salnikov swims the first under 15 minute 1500M freestyle (14:58.27).

Chris Silva of UCLA became the first African-American swimmer on the U.S. National team.

Tracy Caulkins won three gold medals in 1984 in Los Angeles. Her career included 48 US titles, (US titles in every stroke), 63 American records and 5 world records.

1986-88 six dolphins in the Persian Gulf patrolled the Bahrian harbor to protect U.S. Navy ships from enemy swimmers and escorted Kuwaiti oil tankers.

1987 Lynne Cox (see also English Channel above) crossed of the 2.7 mile Bering Strait in 38-42 degree water.

Greg Louganis wins the Olympic Spirit award, in part for winning gold in springboard diving and platform diving despite a three-inch head wound he got when he hit the board during a reverse 2.5 pike preliminary dive.

Anthony Nesty of Suriname and the University of Florida became the first swimmer of African heritage to set an Olympic record and win a gold medal. (He bested favorite Matt Biondi by one hundredth of a second in the 100 fly.) About 20,000 people (5% of the population of Suriname) greeted him at the airport on his return.


from the CDC National Center for Injury Prevention and Control:

"the Nassau County Commission decided to eliminate lifeguards on American Beach in order to save county expenses. Less than a year later on Memorial Day, 1990, five persons drowned and 20 others nearly drowned when rough ocean conditions and strong winds caused rip currents to form immediately offshore, making this one of the worst drowning episodes in Florida’s history. Shortly after this tragedy, local officials reestablished lifeguarding services. In the eight years since, no one has drowned."

In 1997 Sabir Muhammad of Stanford becomes the first African-American to break an American swimming record. "Yeah, I felt the pressure (of being a black role model), but it's something that I didn't try to think about when I was swimming. I just swam and stayed focused."

"Swimming gets this reputation as kind of being the country club sport. It's a crucial life skill, though. No one dies from not being able to play basketball."

1998, 31 year old Benoit Lecomte swam across the Atlantic (5,600 km/3,736 nautical miles in 72 days).

1999 - The second oldest record in swimming is broken when American swimmer Jenny Thompson (Five-time Olympic gold medalist) breaks Mary Meagher's 18-year-old world record in the 100-meter butterfly at the Pan Pacific Championships in Sydney, Australia. At the 'advanced' age of 26, she clocked 57.88 seconds.

Bula Choudhury became the first Asian woman to swim the English channel twice, (the first time was in 1989). Since then she swam the Strait of Gibraltar in 2000, Tiranian Sea in Italy (2001), Great Toroneos Gulf in Greece (2002), Catalina Channel in the U.S. (2002) and Cooks Straits in New Zealand (2003), well on her way to swimming the seven seas.

Kristine Buckley (From the S.F. bay area), chosen "Swimmer of the Year" by the English Pilots Association for her English Channel swim. (She used swims from Alcatraz as part of her training and became the only woman in the world with 75 swims from Alcatraz.)

German kayaker Birgit Fischer won her eighth gold medal (in the K4 500), the only woman to win gold medals 24 years apart. Her 1980 gold was for East Germany.

When Duke Paoa Kahanamoku of Hawaii (1890 - 1968), the father of surfing, inventor of the rescue board, six time Olympic gold medalist and winner of the Olympic 100 meter race in 1912 and 1920, using a six-beat kick, with his size 13 feet, was asked who taught him the crawl stroke, he said "no one." He had been swimming a stroke he saw older natives of his island swim. He kept his records until he was 34, when 20 year old Johnny Weissmuller (who eventually set 51 world records and became Tarzan of the movies) beat him in the 1924 Paris Olympics.

While training for the 1932 Olympics, Weissmuller was offered a job ($500 a week) advertising swimsuits for BVD. When the photos were noticed in Hollywood, he was invited to try out for the Tarzan part, which he played in 11 films.

Josephine McKim, who won a bronze medal, 400 free 1928 Olympics and gold medal 4x100 free relay 1932 Olympics, was the body double for Maureen O'Sullivan in the 1934 movie, Tarzan

In 1959 his Tarzan beating-of-the-chest yell may have saved lives. In a car on the way to a celebrity golf tournament in then guerrilla war torn Havana, Weissmuller, friends and bodyguards were surrounded by some of Fidel Castro's guerrillas, who disarmed the bodyguards and pointed rifles at the golfers. After Weissmuller had the sense to let them know who he was by standing tall, beating his chest and letting out with a huge yell, the rebels smiled and called out "Tarzan, Tarzan, Bienvenido!" (Welcome). After getting his autograph and much shaking of hands, they then escorted the golfers the rest of the way to the tournament.

Swimming Through the years:

Breaststroke and sidestroke main strokes in 1800's

Breaststroke was sometimes originally swum in competition underwater. USA Swimming notes "Breaststrokers stayed underwater as long as possible, and some either passed out or finished races rather blue in the face."

In 1895 J.H. Thayres (England) swam a record 1 minute, two and 50/100 seconds 100 yard swim using overarm sidestroke.

John Trudgen - England 1873 - trudgen crawl copied and adapted from South American Indians

The trudgen crawl was a kind of freestyle arms with a scissors kick.

Richard Cavill - Australia 1902 - Australian Crawl copied and adapted from natives of Solomon Islands

"The inefficiency of the early Trudgen kick led Australian Richard Cavill to try new methods. He used a stroke he observed natives of the Solomon Islands using, which combined an up-and-down kick with an alternating over-arm stroke." He used it in a 1902 competition to make a new world record of 100 yards in 58.4 seconds. In describing the new style, one of Cavill's sons said it was "like crawling through the water," and the name crawl, Australian crawl, or front crawl stuck.

When American swimmers and coaches further refined the stroke (ARCS&WS) "The success of their efforts was evident when, in 1906, C.M. Daniels became the first United States speed swimming champion of the world as he lowered the 100-yard record to 55.4. The Australian Crawl, with refinements, became known as the American Crawl."


(ARCS&WS) "In 1927, Weissmuller swam 100 yards in 51 seconds flat in a 25-yard course, setting a record that was to remain unbroken for almost two decades. Weissmuller's style featured a deeper kick that allowed the chest and shoulders to ride higher, a rotating of the head, for inhalation, that was independent of the action of the arms, and an underwater arm action in which the elbow was bent slightly for greater positive action."

Olympic Coach Handley said of Weissmuller, he "was gifted with an extraordinary bouyancy. He swam so high in the water that his body showed above the surface almost to the waist." Weismuller used bilateral breathing and swam all of 500 meters a day for training.

Kahanamoku became the first person inducted into both the swimming and surfing halls of fame. In 1925 he rescued eight people from a overturned fishing boat, using only a surfboard. Of the 29 people on board the Thelma when it overturned in very rough seas, only 12 were rescued.

Backstroke 1912

Butterfly - 1934 arms, 1935 legs. Legal stroke in 1950's.

David Armbruster, the coach at University of Iowa, tried a double overarm recovery out of the water for breastroke and this later became the butterfly arm pull. Swimmers in 1938, and for 20 years after, dominated breaststroke competitions with the butterfly arm action and a frog kick.

The next year the dolphin kick was invented. One of his swimmers, Jack Seig, (ARCS&D) "developed the skill of swimming on his side and beating his legs in unison like a fish's tail. He then developed the leg action face downward."

(One could make the arguement that since fish move their tails sideways and mammals move their tails up and down behind them, that he was beating his legs in unison like a mammal's tail.)

Armbruster and Seig combined the skills and figured out how to coordinate the legs and arms. Seig swam 100 yards of the new butterfly in 1:00:2.

In 1953 they became separate competitions.

Stroke mechanics

1932 Japanese dominate Olympics after using photo analysis of their swimmers - the beginning of the study of stroke mechanics.

The Japanese won every swimming event except one in the 1832 Olympics.

1956 Australians dominate swimming due to conditioning techniques.

The origin of swimming was when someone either got brave, took a risk or was lucky when they entered a body of water deeper than they were tall, and accidentally figured out how to move through the water instead of instinctively drowning.

Specific strokes in swimming can be said to be invented by individual people, like David Armbruster and butterfly. Others took an existing stroke and improved on it, like Weissmuller or Handy.

500 B.C. The Greek Scyllis was taken prisoner aboard a ship of the Persian king Xerxes I. When he learned of a coming attack on a Greek flotilla, he stole a knife and jumped overboard and disappeared. That night he swam to all the ships in Xerxes' fleet and using a snorkel made from a hollow reed to stay hidden in the water, cut each ship loose. Then he swam nine miles back to the Greek fleet.

a Greek coin dated A.D. 193 showed Leander swimming a hand-over-hand style crossing the Hellesport

Written in Old English in about 1100 AD, Beowulf describes the adventures of a great Scandinavian warrior of the sixth century. Roughly translated:"Are you that Beowulf who struggled with Brecca in the broad sea in a swimming contest? The one who, out of pride, risked his life in the deep water though both friends and enemies told you it was too dangerous?"

1679 When a slave ship wrecked off Martinique an African slave swam for 60 hours to finally reach shore.

1708 China's Chinkiang Association for the Saving of Life was the earliest known organized lifesaving group.

June, 2009 The Lifesaving Society, Canada, found that in the most recent year in which data about drowning became available, "the annual drowning toll in Canada has spiked." 433 had been recorded in 2004, up to 492 in 2005. Drowning remains the third leading cause of death among Canadians under 60 years of age and the second leading cause of death for children under the age of 10. Men are four times more likely to drown than women. 90% of people who drown while boating were found not wearing a lifejacket

2010 USA Swimming reports that 70 percent of African-American children, 58 percent of Hispanic children and 40 percent of Caucasion children lack swimming skills.

The World Conference on Drowning Prevention 2011 says that the global burden of drowning, in everyday life, recreation and disasters, is estimated to range from over 400,000 to 1 million people every year. "Children, particularly those aged 1 to 4 years, carry the overwhelming burden of drowning in high, middle and low income countries."