Swimming is one of the most popular aquatic sports in the Olympics. Learn about the rules and regulations of this sport and also have a look at the Olympic records in this discipline.


From the roughly measured courses in open waters to man-made indoor pools, the highly competitive, organized sport of swimming has indeed come a long way! Although swimming as a recreational hobby was practiced since the prehistoric times, it was not until the early 19th century that it came to be widely practiced as an organized sport after National Swimming Society of Great Britain began hosting competitions. Swimming crawled its way into the Olympics in 1896, and since then had been an integral part of the event. There are four styles of swimming competitions in Olympics - freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke, and butterfly. All four strokes feature in the Individual Medley and Medley Relay events. Beginning with heats, the best performers proceed towards final and win the gold medal. Being a part of aquatic sports, swimming enjoys great support from spectators and is one of the most popular events featured in Olympics. Read on to know more about the rules and regulations of this event. You can also find the Olympic record of this event in the table given below.

Swimming Rules And Regulations
  • Swimming is probably one of those few Olympic events that have the most flexible rules. The swimmers neither push off the bottom of the pool nor pull on the lane line. Also, the participant should touch the far wall with their body. Participant are allowed to use any stroke in this event.
  • Participant may use alternating arm strokes and rapid and alternating up-and-down kicks in this event. However, the participant must be on his/her back, facing the sky. Turning shoulders more than 90 degrees is not allowed and may result in disqualification. However, in flip turn, in multi-lap backstroke races the participant may turn onto their stomachs provided they keep on moving hands. Swimmers must be on their back once their feet are off the wall. During finish, participants should touch the wall with one hand and until then they should be on their back.
  • By rule, the swimmers arms and legs must move simultaneously in breaststroke event. Participants head must break the surface with every stroke and arms and legs should stay mostly underwater. Each arm stroke should begin and end in streamline position. Swimmers should not pull their hands down beyond their hips. The swimmers toes should point towards the sides. Only one kick is allowed per stroke.
  • Breaststroke races should start with a forward-facing dive from either the edge of the pool. Swimmers may pull down once before each lap. One dolphin/butterfly kick is allowed in the first part of the pull-down. Swimmers must touch on the horizontal plane with both hands at the end of each lap with two hands, simultaneously and on the same horizontal plane.
  • In Butterfly stroke, swimmer’s both hands must come out of the water simultaneously on every stroke. Swimmers may breathe by either lifting head and shoulders up or to side as in freestyle swimming.
  • Butterfly race begins with a forward-facing dive. Swimmer should touch the wall with both hands simultaneously while finishing each lap. Swimmers can do underwater dolphin kicks, but should break the water surface at or before 15 meters.
Swimming History
When the Olympic Games started in 1896 in Athens, swimming was introduced, with four different events and only with male participants. First swimming gold medal is credited to Alfred Hajos of Hungary who won the 100 m freestyle with a time of 1:22.20. Hajos won the 1200m event as well but was unable to compete in the 500 m. Austrian swimmer Paul Neumann won the 500m event. In 1900, Paris Olympics introduced two additional unusual swimming events - an obstacle swimming course in the Seine River and an underwater swimming race. The backstroke race was introduced to the Olympic Games during that year. This Olympics witnessed John Arthur Jarvis creating record in 4000 m freestyle taking less than one hour, thus winning the longest Olympic swimming race ever. The 1904 St. Louis Olympics differentiated between breaststroke and freestyle. The 1912 Stockholm Olympics allowed women to participate in swimming events.