Who doesn't love to plunge into the cool water of a swimming pool to beat the scorching heat of a summer's day! Swimming is one of the best ways to relax after a long week at work and even serves as a wonderful means of exercise. Swimming helps us burn amazing amounts of calories and also helps increase the flexibility of one's body. We've been swimming all our lives, however, how much do we know about its genesis and history?
History of Swimming
The earliest recordings of swimming can be traced all the way back to 7000 years ago, where the Stone Age paintings clearly implied that swimming was practiced at that time. Moreover, historic books (from 2000 BC) that give written accounts of swimming are Gilgamesh, the Iliad, the Odyssey, the Bible (Ezekiel 47:5, Isaiah 25:11, Acts 27:42) and Beowulf. However, the style of swimming prevalent at that time is unknown. The popularity of swimming apparently grew in the Middle Ages. In 1538, a German professor of languages, Nicolas Wynman wrote the first book on swimming; 'Colymbetes'. The Encyclopedia of Traditional British Rural Sports states that swimming was also required of knights, and the Romans regarded swimming pools as places for exercise and recreation.
Genesis of Organized Swimming
It was in the 1800s that organized swimming emerged. This time period viewed the formation of various swimming associations that organized swimming competitions. In fact, there have been records of swimming clubs set up in countries like the US, England, France, and Germany during that time. The English are believed to be the first modern society to consider swimming as a sport. The National Swimming Society in England organized swimming competitions that were conducted in London's six artificial pools. Mathew Webb's swim across the English Channel further increased the sport's popularity. Later in 1886, a new governing body, the Amateur Swimming Association of Great Britain was formed, which fostered the popularity of swimming competitions.
History of Olympic Swimming
As swimming gained popularity during the 1800s, organized swimming underwent another molt and brought forth the first modern Olympic Games in Athens (1896). During this time, Olympics was a sport for men with the 100 meters and 1500 meters free style swimming, which was held in open water. There were only four swimming events, of which three were free-style. As its popularity soared, more strokes like butterfly, breaststroke, backstroke, etc., were added to the event.
The developer of the modern Olympic Games, Baron Pierre de Coubertin believed that women were too frail to participate in such competitive sports. It was only in the 1912 Olympic Games when the women swimmers made their debut. By the twentieth century, swimming developed into a mainstream event with indoor and outdoor pools being constructed all across towns. Swimming clubs also surged in popularity with their image of being a recreational hangout. Today, the Olympic Games includes 32 swimming races, 16 for men and women each, and even holds 22 swimming events for those with disabilities.
This was a quick look at the history of swimming! Today, swimming is the second most popular exercise activity, with over a million Americans resorting to it every year. Most high schools and colleges in the US conduct scores of swimming competitions, that encourage this sport. Water parks, swimming clubs, etc., are also places that encourage this sport.