Thanks to ongoing innovation and scientific research, swimmers are getting ever faster and world record times are common place in big competitions. Although John Trudgen introduced front crawl with a scissor kick to Britain in 1873, front crawl with the more efficient flutter kick was first seen in a swimming race held in London in 1844, where the Americans easily defeated the British breaststroke swimmers.
The British continued to swim only the breaststroke in competition until 1873 however, due to the splash caused by crawl! Australian Richard Cavill is credit with the development of front crawl as we know it in 1902 when he combined an alternating over arm stroke with the up and down leg kick motion. American H. Jamison, AKA Jam Handy is recognised by the International Swimming Hall Of Fame with inventing modern freestyle breathing. It was also his idea to put lines on the bottom of swimming pools to help guide swimmers.
Swimming Strokes like the Backstroke has evolved from its 1900 Olympic debut with the introduction of an underwater stage. As breaking the water surface reduces speed, David Berkoff andn Daichi Suzuki both swam over 30 metres of the first length of the 100 metres backstroke race at the 1988 Seoul Olympics completely under water. For health and safety reasons FINA, the international swimming governing body, changed the backstroke rules the following year, limiting the under water phase at the start of the race to 15 metres. Since the early 2000′s, the Australians have improved backstroke speeds after discovering that more horizontal thrust is achieved by bending the arm slightly as it passes the body underwater rather than keeping it straight. This modern backstroke technique has now been widely adopted.
Breaststroke is the both the oldest and slowest swimming stroke and the most popular recreational stroke. In 1875 Captain Matthew Webb became the first person to swim the English Channel, swimming 21.26 miles in 21 hours and 45 minutes using breaststroke. The scientific study of swimming began in 1928 when David Armbruster filmed swimmers underwater. His research led to significant improvements in breaststroke speed by refining the method of bringing the arms forward under water, rather than breaking the water surface which increases drag. This led to controversy at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics when Masaru Furukawa won the 200 metres breaststroke gold medal by swimming as much of each length underwater as possible. The adoption of this technique led to many swimmers suffering from oxygen starvation so FINA introduced a new rule to limit the distance that can be swum underwater at the start of a race and after every turn.
Experiments with breaststroke led to the creation of the butterfly stroke. In 1934 David Armbruster devised a double over arm movement out of the water. This “butterfly” arm action gave more speed but required greater training and conditioning. Then in 1935, Jack Sieg mastered 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 down. Armbruster and Sieg’s co-ordination of this arm motion and leg kick resulted in the birth of the butterfly stroke. It wasn’t until the 1950’s however that the butterfly stroke was legalised for swimming competitions.
The development of the tumble turn to change direction quickly at the end of a swimming pool lane is credited to swimming coach Tex Robertson while he was training Adolph Kiefer for the 1936 Olympics. Flip turns weren’t permitted in Olympic swimming competition until the 1956 Games in Melbourne however. Tumble turns are only allowed during front crawl and backstroke races. In butterfly and breaststroke races, swimmers must touch the end of the pool with both hands simultaneously before turning back for another length.
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