The History of Competitive Swimming according to Mike Kotch
While individuals from around the globe have taken joy in swimming for as long as we can remember, competitive swimming did not officially enter the scene until the 1830. It was Britain that first cultivated a general love of the activity as a means for leisure and exercise. As the activity gained popularity, it became branded as an organized, competitive sport.
With time, man-made, indoor pools funded by the National Swimming Society of England sprouted up in around London, which encouraged the sport’s movement towards popularity. As pools became increasingly available to the public, more individuals had the opportunity to develop an interest in competing both formally and informally. Experienced swim coach Mike Kotch claims that during this time freestyle and backstrokes had yet to be officially recognized; most events were carried out using a form of breaststroke and a set of crude, still-developing rules.
Swimming is Popularized with the Addition of New Strokes
When the 1870s came about, swimming was a moderately popular and established pastime, but it was still gaining momentum as a respected sport. In 1873, it received the boost in popularization that it needed when a man named John Trudgen first implemented a crawl-styled stroke which used a vertical kicking motion and a circular motion of the arms.
Though incredibly different than the breaststroke-styled form commonly used in that time period, this “crawl” stroke (which would eventually go on to be dubbed the “Trudgen” after its inventor) made races incredibly faster, more competitive, and increasingly enjoyable to watch.
As the competition in the sport grew, it drew more and more fans, which ultimately helped competitive swimming gain the status and acclaim it holds in the present day. With time, Trudgen’s form would eventually develop into the freestyle — the most common modern-day stroke.
Swimming Enters the Olympics
According to Mike Kotch when the world’s first Olympic games took place in 1896, swimming was one of the sports included on the list of events. With the whole world watching, it is assumed that the Olympic swimming events increased the sport’s visibility and credibility, eventually leading to the formation of the world swimming association Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA) in 1908.
With time, the Olympic games brought a limelight to the sport which encouraged more young athletes to dive in. In response to an increase in interest, more swimming associations popped up around the world, giving swimming enthusiasts the means and support to continue training.
Mike Kotch on Swimming in this Day and Age
Today, swimming is one of the most recognized and practiced individual sports in the world. Consistently, swimming events are some of the Olympic game’s most watched and attended events.
Modern-day swim strokes have evolved far from their roots as a simplistic breaststroke. Currently, swimming events now also include events in the butterfly, backstroke, freestyle, and the individual medley which uses all four competitive strokes in a particular order. With more pools, swimming associations, and competitions available to competitive swimmers than ever before, it’s a sport that’s sure to continue growing both nationally and globally.