Michael Phelps of the USA at the Beijing Olympics

Which international Swimming events does GSN track? Which are the top competitions on the world of Swimming? Who are the sport’s winners and record-breakers? Find out all this and more, with features on nutrition for top-level swimming, the history of Swimming as a sport, quirky stats from the world of swimming competitions and everything there is to know about the latest pool gear.

GSN & Swimming
The GSN Global Cup and Global Ranking focus on the two main contests in the world of swimming: the Olympic Games and the biennial World Swimming Championships.
Both feature a full list of competitions for men and women in the four traditional styles (freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly) plus the medley, which combines all four. Distances swam vary from 50m to 1.500m (for men) Freestyle, while the other styles range from 100m to 400m. The longest event is the 10 km Swimming Marathon.
Major Swimming Competitions
Besides the Olympic Games and the World Swimming Championships, the international swimming federation FINA (Fédération Internationale de Natation) – founded in London in 1908 but with headquarters now in Lausanne, Switzerland – organizes
  • The Swimming World Cup, usually held in a series of 7 cities around the world between October and November, awarding overall and individual style victories
  • The Swimming World Rankings, to class the most consistent competitors throughout the season
  • The Open Water Grand Prix, a series of 10 races in open waters, some of them established classics, in America, Europe and Asia
  • The 10km Swimming Marathon World Cup, another series-type event with races in 14 locations around the globe and throughout the year,
as well as all the international competitions for the other water sports: water polo, synchronised swimming, diving.
Forthcoming events
Now that  the 13th FINA World Aquatics Championships in Rome (Italy) are over, the focus shifts to the Swimming World Cup, with its first event in Durban, (South Africa) on October 16th, 2009. The competition will then move to Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Moscow (Russia), Stockholm (Sweden), Berlin (Germany) and will close in Singapore on Novembner 21st.
On December 2nd, back to a World Championship, this time the 25m pool Worlds in Dubai (UAE).
Swimming Champions
The American MICHAEL PHELPS (born June 30, 1985, in Baltimore, MD) has won 14 career Olympic gold medals, the most by any Olympian. As of 2009, Phelps holds six world records in swimming. Phelps holds the record for the most gold medals at a single Olympics, his eight at the 2008 Beijing Games surpassing American swimmer Mark Spitz's seven gold performance at Munich in 1972.
Overall, Phelps has won 16 Olympic medals: six gold and two bronze at Athens in 2004, and eight gold at Beijing in 2008. In doing so he has twice equaled the record eight medals of any type at a single Olympics achieved by Soviet gymnast Alexander Dityatin at the 1980 Moscow Summer Games. His five golds in individual events tied the single Games record set by Eric Heiden in the 1980 Winter Olympics and equaled by Vitaly Scherbo at the 1992 Summer Games. Phelps career Olympic medal total is second only to the 18 Soviet gymnast Larissa Latynina won over three Olympics, including nine gold.
How does he do it? Much is in the mind, in his unwavering focus during training and at key competitions. A lot is in the body too: his long, thin torso offers low drag; his arms span of 6 feet 7 inches (201 cm)—disproportionate to his height of 6 feet 4 inches (193 cm)—makes his arms act as long, propulsive "paddles"; his relatively short legs lower drag, and perhaps add the speed enhancement of a hydrofoil; his size 14 feet provide the effect of flippers; and his hypermobile ankles he can extend beyond the pointe of a ballet dancer, enabling him to whip his feet as if they were fins for maximum thrust through the water.
Phelps currently  holds 6 world swimming records, obtained at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2009 World Swimming Championships in Rome:

100 m (lc)
Rome, Italy
2009, August 1
200 m (lc)
Rome, Italy
2009, July 29
400 m (lc)
Individual Medley
Beijing, China
2008, August 10
4 x 100 m (lc)
Freestyle Relay
Beijing, China
2008, August 11
4 x 200 m (lc)
Freestyle Relay
Rome, Italy
2009, July 31
4 x 100 m (lc)
Medley Relay
Rome, Italy
2009, August 2

Amazingly, he has notched up since 2001 a total of 36 world records (28 individual, 8 relay) and has just overtaken Mark Spitz, who stopped at 33.
Swimming Numbers
In which style have record times progressed the most?
Over the 33-years span since FINA recognised the distance, the world record for men’s 50m freestyle  (long course) went from 23”86 (Jonty Skinner, South Africa, 1976), to 20”94 (Frédérick Bousquet, France, 2009): a 2”98 progression, equivalent to 12,5%.
Over the same time-span, the record was improved 28 times by 17 different athletes of 7 different nationalities, the USA leading with 18 times and 8 different athletes…though amazingly not once since 1990! After Tom Jager’s last record set in 1990, the recordmen hailed from Russia, Australia and France.
In the men’s 100m freestyle (long course), over the same time-span , the world record went from 50’39 (Jim Montgomery, USA, 1976) to 46’94 (Alain Bernard, France, 2009): a progression of 3’45, equivalent to 6,8%. This distance’s record is harder to beat than the 50m: over the same time-span it was improved 17 times by 9 different swimmers, only 3 from the USA, plus two Australians, one South African, one Russian, one French, one Dutch. The last American record is even farther behind than the 50m, as it was held by Matt Biondi in 1988.
What about the men’s 100m butterfly (long course)? Over the same time-span the world record went from 54’18 (Joe Bottom, USA, 1977) to 49’82 (Michael Phelps, USA, 2009): a progression of 4’30, equivalent to 7,9%. The record was improved 18 times by 12 swimmers of 6 different nationalities: 6 Americans, and one each for Sweden, Australia, Germany, Russia and the Ukraine. The USA are holding on to this record since 2003, and with Phelps still in top form, they look to be doing it for quite some time,
History of Swimming as a sport
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. Butterfly was developed in the 1930s and was at first a variant of breaststroke, until it was accepted as a separate style in 1952.
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 centre of the main stadium's track and field oval. The 1912 Olympics, held in the Stockholm harbour, marked the beginning of electronic timing.
The 1924 Summer Olympics were the first to use the standard 50 meter pool with marked lanes. In the freestyle, swimmers originally dived from the pool walls, but diving blocks were incorporated at the 1936 Summer Olympics. The flip turn was developed by the 1950s and goggles first were used in the 1976 Olympics.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Swimming " at  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swimming
Swimming: the sport
The four competitive strokes are the butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and front crawl (freestyle). "Freestyle" and "front crawl" are often used interchangeably, but "freestyle" properly refers to an unregulated competitive event rather than to any particular stroke. Swimmers generally choose to swim front crawl in a freestyle event since it is the fastest stroke. In events that require specific strokes, disqualification will occur if the stroke is not swum correctly, for example if the swimmer does not touch the wall with two hands during breaststroke or butterfly. These strokes can be swum individually or together in an individual medley (IM). The stroke order for such events is:
1) butterfly
2) backstroke
3) breaststroke
4) freestyle.
Team competitions take the form of relay events in the freestyle and medley styles. The medley relay has a different stroke order to the individual IM event. The relay order is: 1) backstroke, 2) breaststroke, 3) butterfly, and 4) freestyle. Teams consist of four swimmers, each swimming one quarter of the overall race distance.
The butterfly is the fastest style regulated by FINA. The peak speed of the butterfly is even faster than that of the front crawl, due to the synchronous pull/push with both arms. Yet since speed drops significantly during the recovery phase, it is overall slightly slower than the front crawl. Butterfly swimmers have a top speed of 2.177 metres per second (4.87 mph), slightly under freestyle at 2.349 metres per second (5.25 mph), over backstroke at 2.0433 metres per second (4.571 mph), and well over breaststroke at 1.839 metres per second (4.11 mph).
The butterfly is unforgiving of mistakes in style; it is very difficult to overcome a poor butterfly technique with brute strength. Most people consider it the most difficult swimming style. The main difficulties for students are the synchronous over-water recovery, especially when combined with breathing, since both arms, the head, and parts of the shoulder have to be fully lifted out of the water for these tasks.
For a full treatment of the butterfly technique you can check http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butterfly_stroke.
There are various websites dedicated to swimming techniques, from basic to advanced, among which http://www.videojug.com/tag/swimming.
Front Crawl (Freestyle)
The front crawl, now the fastest style of swimming, has been in use since ancient times among many populations. In the Western world, the front crawl was first seen in a competition held in 1844 in London, where it was swum by native North Americans, who easily defeated the British breaststroke swimmers. However, the English gentlemen considered this style and its splashing to be "un-European", and they continued to swim only the breaststroke in competition.
Sometime between 1870 and 1890, John Arthur Trudgen learned the front crawl from native South Americans during a trip to Argentina (the exact date is disputed, but is most often given as 1873). Trudgen mistakenly used the more common sidestroke (scissor) kick instead of the flutter kick used by the Native Americans. This hybrid stroke was called the Trudgen. Because of its speed it quickly became popular.
The Trudgen was improved by the Australian champion swimmer, Richmond (Dick) Cavill (1884–1938). While Richmond and his brother "Tums" developed the stroke, they were later inspired by Alick Wickham, a young Solomon Islander resident in Sydney who swam a version of the crawl stroke that was popular in his home in the Roviana Lagoon. They modified their stroke by this inspiration and this modified Trudgen stroke became known as the Australian crawl.
American swimmer Charles Daniels made modifications to a six beat kick thereby introducing the American crawl. With minor modifications, this stroke is the front crawl used today.
The swimming position on the chest allows good flexibility of the arm in the water, as compared to the backstroke, where the hands cannot be moved easily along the back of the spine. The above-water recovery reduces drag, compared to the underwater recovery of breaststroke. The alternating arm stroke also allows some rolling movement of the body for an easier recovery compared to, for example, butterfly. Finally, the alternating arm stroke makes for a relatively constant speed throughout the cycle.
For a full treatment of the front crawl technique you can check http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Front_crawl.
There are various websites dedicated to swimming techniques, from basic to advanced, among which http://www.videojug.com/tag/swimming.
Backstroke is an ancient style of swimming. It was the second stroke to be swum in competitions other than the front crawl. Backstroke was first inducted into the Olympics at 1900 Paris Olympics. with a 200 m backstroke race.
Backstroke is of similar speed to butterfly. Race times for the butterfly are superior to those for the backstroke mostly because the former allows a racing start from poolside and the latter does not. In races beyond 200 meters, backstroke would actually be the faster of the two. The maximum swimming speed for backstroke is around 1.84 meter per second. Due to its position on the back, backstroke uses different muscles in the upper body than other styles.
For a full treatment of the backstroke technique you can check http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/backstroke.
There are various websites dedicated to swimming techniques, from basic to advanced, among which http://www.videojug.com/tag/swimming
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Backstroke " at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Backstroke
 The breaststroke is a swimming style in which swimmers are on their chest and the torso does not rotate. It is the most popular recreational style due to its stability and the ability to keep the head out of the water a large portion of the time. In most swimming classes, beginners learn either the breaststroke or the front crawl first. But in competitive swimming, the breaststroke is regarded as one of the most difficult strokes, requiring comparable endurance and leg strength to other strokes.
Breaststroke is the slowest of the four official styles in competitive swimming. The fastest breaststroke swimmers can swim about 1.57 meters per second. Although it is the slowest of the four competitive strokes, it is commonly agreed that it is the one of the most difficult when done correctly.
Breaststroke is swum while leaning on the chest, with the arms only breaking the surface of the water slightly and legs always underwater, while the head is underwater for the second half of the stroke. The kick is sometimes referred to as a "frog kick" because of the resemblance to a frog's kick, but when done correctly it is more of a "whip kick" due to the whip-like motion that moves starting at the core down through the legs.
The body is often at a steep angle to the forward movement. This slows down the swimmer more than any other style. Professional breaststrokers use abdominal muscles and hips to add extra power to the kick, although most do not perfect this technique until the collegiate level. This much faster form of breaststroke is referred to as "wave-action" breaststroke and fully incorporates the whip-kick.
A special feature of competitive breaststroke is the underwater pullout. From the streamline position, one uses the arms to pull all the way down past the hips. As the arms are pulling down, one downward dolphin kick is allowed (as of the 2005 season), though still optional (However, any upward motion with the dolphin kick is strictly forbidden, and will result in a disqualification). This is followed by the recovery of the arms to the streamline position once more, and then a kick. The pullout at the start and after the turns contributes significantly to the swimming times. Therefore one way to improve the swimming times is to focus on the start and the turns.
Of the four competitive strokes of swimming, breaststroke is the most efficient in terms of energy consumption over a specified distance, though it is the slowest.
 For a full treatment of the breaststroke technique you can check http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/breaststroke.
There are various websites dedicated to swimming techniques, from basic to advanced, among which http://www.videojug.com/tag/swimming
Swimming and nutrition
Competitive swimming is one of few sports that require high efficiency both in muscular strength and elasticity, as well as combining the need for neuromuscular explosivity and aerobic endurance because of the medium in which it is practiced, water. Swimming is generally considered to be an endurance sport, but athletes must tune their muscles to be able to deliver short bursts of explosive energy very frequently.
This is why training to swim competitively requires long hours of practice every day from a very early age  - an age at which, paradoxically, this sacrifice seems to be easier – and a careful nutrition programme before and after training sessions and races.
As and endurance sport, swimming requires a large amount of carbohydrates in order to maintain stamina throughout a swimming event. Carbohydrates are recommended for highly demanding sports due to the complete sources of energy that they provide. They promote muscle stamina and strength because the breakdown product of carbohydrate-glucose is a primary source of energy for muscles during exercise. But the nutrition programmes of swimmers can be compromised by their intense schedules. 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. Healthy snacking ideas include: low fat yogurt, fresh or dried fruit, crackers, oatmeal and raisins, granola, and cereal.
The world-recognized “Zone Diet”, which has a religious following among thousands of dedicated sportsmen and women, was originally devised in the early 1990s by the American nutritionist Barry Sears to optimise the nutrition of competitive swimmers from Stanford University. It incorporates the principle of frequent light meals during the day, as well as promoting a carefully worked-out balance of carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
Swimming Equipment
Equipment for swimming competitions is deceptively simple. A swimming costume, goggles and cap are all you need to dive into the fast lane, but beware: they have now become a highly technological affair, with racing swimsuits well into the hundreds of pounds price range.
Classic swimming briefs in chlorine-resistant polyester are the basic item. Sophisticated competitors use tight-fitting shorts (“jammers) made of a combination of polyamide and elastane or Lycra, patterned so as to reduce water resistance: for example, with vertical stripes along the leg that create a channelling effect in the water while swimming, thus reducing drag.
Top level competitors use armless racing suits, or tights: they are made of ultra lightweight water-repellent material (usually a combination of polyamide and elastane) that reduce water collection and resistance, and they feature ultra-thin polyurethane membrane “panels” embedded into the fabric at strategic points, to optimise freedom of movement while keeping the fabric as close to the body as possible . Internal “stabilisers” in the suit allow for optimum support and body position in the water, and silicone grippers at the ankle ensure the suit doesn't wrinkle or move. Every detail counts to improve swimming performance: seams are ultrasonically bonded and specifically oriented, and zips have ultra low profiles, to minimise drag resistance in the water.
Even the plain racing swimsuit now has different back designs to optimise freedom of movement. The most common types are the “cross back”, with thin crossback straps and wide arm and shoulder access, ideal for long competitions and training sessions; the “closed back”, covering most of the back up to the shoulders for a better hydrodynamic fit; the “open back”, with a wide tear or circular-shaped opening and shoulder straps.
But women too are into the racing suit era, and they use armless suits with the same characteristics as the men.
Goggles and caps
Racing goggles are low-profile, with adjustable nose bridge and anti-fog lenses and a silicone strap to provide the ideal fit, which must be very tight.
Caps are ordinarily made of latex, though the latest models are made of multi-density silicon: thicker at the top, to allow for a tighter fit and less drag, thinner around the bottom edge for easier wear.