One would say that the sport of swimming has been in existence since the age of men began. Be it in a lake, pond, river, or ocean, people have swum in all bodies of water. But I must disagree when it is said that swimming is an ancient sport. Swimming in the past may have been for necessity, traveling to a different location, or for recreation, playing in the waves, but as a sport it is relatively new. In fact, it is quite contemporary as it did not become a truly organized sport until recent times.
The sport of swimming became an Olympic sport in the late 19th century. It was introduced to the Games in 1896 where there were only two styles of swimming, breaststroke and freestyle, rather than the four styles which we see in races today. Backstroke, where one floats on his back and moves his arms in a circular motion while kicking his legs at the same time, was given the honor of being the third official stroke in 1904. As time goes on, innovation is inevitable and this is not different in the case of the sport of swimming. During the middle of the 20th century, the swimmers who excelled in breaststroke discovered an exceptional way to swim at a faster speed by raising one’s arms above the shoulders while burying one’s head in the water. This type of movement was promptly banned in the breaststroke by the officials, but it gave rise to a new stroke called the butterfly. This butterfly stroke was then introduced to the Olympics in 1956 which took place in Melbourne. We see the introduction of these new strokes as developments that ought to be celebrated. Had we as a human race not improved upon these strokes, our enjoyment while watching the sport would have decreased exponentially. The four strokes add a variety to the sport of swimming that of which is certainly not seen in any other pastime or sport.
Some may ask how the sport of swimming, as an American pastime, can even be compared to the most popular sport, which is, obviously, American football. While, of course, American football has the Super Bowl and an entire season of various teams receiving coverage on national television, the sport of swimming retains the position as an Olympic sport known throughout the world. It is undoubtedly a fact that compared to the Olympic games, the Super Bowl is just a pound of horse manure left on a cobblestone street. There certainly were more people watching the 2012 London Olympics than the Super Bowl XLVIII. The Games had more than 219.4 million Americans tune in whereas the Super Bowl had only 111.5 million Americans tune in.
While it is true that swimming has never been considered a top tier sport in the United States, as of recent times it has become quite popular. The catalyst that brought about this wonderful turn of events goes by the name of Michael Phelps. I must confess that the reason the sport of swimming achieved the height of popularity that it is at today because of one lone man does not seem feasible in the slightest. But as I inform you, my dear readers, of the accomplishments that this one lone man has achieved, you all shall be reading this article with your mouths agape in spectacular awe. The magnificent athlete has won an astonishing total of twenty-two Olympic medals. That is the most any competitor has won in any sport in the Olympics. Out of those twenty-two medallions, eighteen are gold, two are silver, and two are bronze. Mister Phelps has set numerous world records and is the most accomplished swimmer and athlete in this day and age. This man has brought the sport of swimming to the forefront of the American mindset. In regards to popularity, according to the latest United States census report, the sport of swimming is now fourth most popular sport in the nation.
The sport of swimming is fast becoming a favored American pastime. Be it a long 1500 meter race or a short 50 meter sprint, Americans now stay riveted to their high definition screens watching intently as world records are broken and dreams are fulfilled.