59 Interesting Facts About Swimming

Last updated on June 20th, 2023

52. In 1538, Swiss-German professor Nikolaus Wynman wrote the earliest known literature on recreational swimming. His text, translated to English, was called A Swimmer, or A Dialogue on the Art of Swimming and Joyful and Pleasant to Read.

53. The closer you are to the surface of a body of water, the harder it is to maneuver. This is because water is more still underneath.

54. The best material (or fabric) for swimming is polyester. The makeup of that fabric allows the body to move through the water better.

55. Like so many of the world’s competitive sports, swimming emerged out of England. Competitive swimming evolved out of 1830s England as a recreational activity.

56. Although organized, competitive swimming emerged out of England, the first swimming races took place in Japan. These races are said to date back to 36 BC (Before Christ).

57. Prior to 1971 when it closed, the Fleishhacker Pool in San Francisco was the largest pool in the US. Worldwide, the largest swimming pool ever built was made in Moscow, Russia, while the longest pool was built in Casablanca, Morocco. The pool in Casablanca covered a total of 8.9 acres and was 480 meters long and 75 meters wide.

58. Ian Thorpe, an Australian, became the world’s youngest champion swimmer in 1998 at the World Championships. He was only 15 years and 3 months old at the time.

59. Aleix Segura Vendrell of Spain earned the record of longest voluntary breath hold in March 2021, after he held his breath for 24 minutes and 37 seconds.

Interesting Facts About Famous World Swimmers

1. Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps holds the record as the athlete who has won the most Olympic gold medals (8) in a single Olympics in 2008. When he was a child, the Baltimore Bullet was diagnosed with ADHD, so his parents encouraged him to focus his boundless energies on swimming. He qualified for the 2000 Olympic Games when he was just 15. He has won 23 gold medals, 3 silver medals, and 2 bronze medals from the Olympics – the most of any Olympian. He is considered the fastest swimmer in the world.

Ryan Lochte
Ryan Lochte. Interesting facts about swimming. Image credit – shutterstock/Leonard Zhukovsky

2. Ryan Lochte

Ryan Lochte began swimming at 5. Although he can swim using different styles, he is at his best in individual medley and backstroke. He has 7 Olympic medals in individual events, a feat that is second only to Michael Phelps’ world record. He is the world record holder for the 200m individual medley and the 4x200m freestyle and 4x100m freestyle with his American teammates.

3. Sun Yang

Sun Yang is the first Chinese male athlete to bring home Olympic gold in his sport. He also holds the record as the first male swimmer to win Olympic and World Championship gold medals in every freestyle event distance from 200m to 1500m. He has 3 Olympic gold medals and 11 World Championships.

4. Adam Peaty

In 2017, Adam Peaty set two world records in just one day, breaking past records in the 50m breaststroke. He is the first British male swimmer to win the Olympic gold medal in the 100m breaststroke event in 24 years. He has received the European Swimmer of the Year award six times. Peaty is the world record holder in the 50m and 100m breaststroke events. He holds 8 World Championships, 12 European Championships, and 3 Commonwealth Championships. He is also the 2016 Olympic Games champion.

Ian Thorpe from Australia. Interesting facts about swimming.
Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe. Image credit – shutterstock/Featureflash Photo Agency

5. Ian Thorpe

Ian Thorpe is one of the best swimmers Australia has ever produced. Now retired, Thorpe holds the record as the most decorated Australian swimmer (along with Shane Gould) with 3 Olympic gold medals, 1 silver medal, and a bronze medal from the 2000 and 2004 Games. The Thorpedo developed an allergy to chlorine as a child, prompting him to swim while keeping his head above water.

6. Caeleb Dressel

Caeleb Dressel from Florida, United States, is one of the best sprint swimmers specializing in freestyle and butterfly events. He has 2 Olympic gold medals, 7 World Aquatics Championships gold medals in 2017 and 8 World Aquatics Championships medals in 2019. He is the current world record holder in the 50m freestyle and in the 100m butterfly. He was also the first swimmer below 16 to swim the 50-yard freestyle in under 20 seconds (his record is at 19.82 seconds).

7. Kosuke Hagino

Kosuke Hagino has won 4 Olympic medals, including a gold in the 400m individual medley in the 2016 Games. Hagino is the Asian record holder in the 100m and 200m individual long course medley and in the 200m and 400m individual short course medley. With his Japanese teammates, he also holds the 4x100m freestyle and the 4x100m medley relays Asian records.

8. Grant Hackett

Australia’s Grant Hackett is considered as one of the best distance swimmers in history. He was the swimmer to watch in the World Aquatics Championships’ 1500m event from 1996 to 2007. He has also held world records in the 200m, 800m, and 1500m long course freestyle events. Hackett, a three-time Olympic gold medalist, was granted several honors, including the 2000 Australian Sports Medal and the 2001 Order of Australia Medal.

9. Denis Pankratov

Russia’s Denis Pankratov has retired but his impact on his sport still resonates today. He won the butterfly double in the 1996 Games using his own singular style. For the 100m butterfly, Pankratov swam more than 25m of his first lap and 15m of the return lap underwater. He also set a world record in the event by clocking in at 52.27 seconds.

10. Mike Barrowman

Michael Barrowman is known as one of the first swimmers to use a “wave-style” breaststroke technique. In the 1999 Olympic Games, he set a world record in the 200m breaststroke event after placing 4th in the Summer Olympics the previous year. In 1997, he became an inductee to the International Swimming Hall of Fame.

Mark Spitz on a stamp
Mark Spitz on a stamp circa 1972. Interesting facts about swimming. Image credit – shutterstock/neftali

11. Mark Spitz

Mark Spitz is a legendary American swimmer, considered one of the all-time greats. In the 1972 Munich Games, he took home 7 gold medals. For a record 36 years, Spitz held the most number of gold medals won in a single Olympics. It was broken only by fellow American Michael Phelps. Spitz is still considered as one of the fastest swimmers in history.

12. Jenny Thompson

Jenny Thompson is one of the world’s most decorated Olympians. She has won 12 medals, 8 of which are gold from the 1992 to the 2004 Olympics. She was 14 when she competed internationally at the Pan-American Games, winning the 50m freestyle and placing 3rd in the 100m freestyle. In 2006, she completed her medical degree and is now an anesthesiologist.

13. Dara Torres

Dara Torres is a veteran Olympian, participating in the Games five times. She has collected 9 Olympic medals, four of which were gold. She retired from competition for a while, then bounced back in 2000 for the Olympics and won 5 of her total medals from the Games. In 2008, she became the oldest Olympic swimmer at 41.

14. Nathan Adrian

In the 2012 Summer Games, Nathan Adrian beat Australia’s James Magnussen by 0.01 second in the 100m freestyle. He then won a gold medal in the 4x100m medley relay and a silver in the 4x100m free relay. He could have held the record for the fastest freestyle relay split in 100m at the FINA World Championships if the American team was not disqualified. He does, however, hold the world record for the 4x100m short course freestyle along with his teammates.

15. Krisztina Egerszegi

At 14, Krisztina Egerszegi of Hungary became the youngest female champion Olympic swimmer after winning gold in 1988 in the 200m backstroke event. She is the second swimmer to win in an individual event in three Olympics (1988, 1992, 1996). She is a powerful backstroke artist, winning 5 Olympic golds and a silver in the event. She has two World Championships gold and a silver in the same event.

16. Kristin Otto

Kristin Otto is a national treasure in Germany. She cemented her role in history by becoming the first female swimmer to win 6 gold medals in just one Olympic Games. She was also a world record holder in the 100m and 200m freestyle. Otto was the first female swimmer to swim the 100m backstroke short course in less than 1 minute. Swimming World Magazine named her Female World Swimmer of the Year three times.

17. Inge de Bruijn

Inge de Bruijn of the Netherlands has clinched 5 World Championships and 8 Olympic medals, becoming an Olympic champion four times. She was just 12 when she first competed internationally. Although she lost interest in her sport for a while, she eventually came back a stronger athlete. In the 2004 Games, de Bruijn won the 50m gold medal freestyle, making her the oldest champion in the history of Olympic swimming.

18. Libby Trickett

Australia’s Libby Trickett is a four-time Olympic champion. She has won the FINA World Championships long course 8 times and the short course 7 times. She also has 5 gold medals from the Commonwealth Games. She held world records in the 50m and 100m freestyle events (long course) and in the 100m and 200m freestyle events (short course).

19. Yana Klochkova

In 2004, Ukraine’s Yana Klochkova won consecutive pairs of gold medals in the 200m and 400m individual medleys at the Olympic Games, becoming the first woman to do so. From 2000-2004, she only lost one medley race, earning her the nickname, “Medley Queen”. She has 4 Olympic gold medals, 4 World Championships (long course), 6 World Championships (short course), and 10 European Championships (long course). As the Olympian with the most wins in Ukraine, she was granted the Hero of Ukraine award in 2004.

20. Janet Evans

Janet Evans stands at just 1.65m (5’5″) but she is one of the most formidable swimmers in Olympic history. At 15, she began breaking world records in the 400m, 800m, and 1500m freestyle. In the 1988 Seoul Games, she further proved her towering talent when she won 3 individual gold medals in the 400m, 1500m freestyle, and in the 400m individual medley events. Her unique style earned her the nickname, “Miss Perpetual Motion”. She held the world record in the 400m freestyle for 18 years. She has 5 Olympic medals and 7 world records.