Swimming in Modern Times-Trollope

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.

Michael Phelps after winning a race.

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.



  1. caitstew12 · October 30, 2014

    I found this passage very humorous to read. You invoked a sardonic and engaging tone. I loved the detail on the history of swimming in the olympics because I was largely unaware of it. It is my understanding that you wrote this in the style of Trollope and that this is the connection to the class. Your tone overwhelmingly emulated Trollope’s satiric tone. Your blog post seemed a bit more idealistic to me and slightly less dry at times but this division may just be because I read a different chapter of Trollope than you. I actually laughed when you compared football to manure on the cobblestones. That metaphor was something. I would have liked a more direct comparison to Trollope but I’m not entirely sure it would have felt appropriate.

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  2. abklee · October 30, 2014

    You did a great job mimicking Trollope’s style of writing. This touch made the post more interesting and more exciting to read. I enjoyed learning about the history of swimming, something I did not know much about. However, I don’t agree that it should be compared to football. Football is an American pastime and much more than a sport. It brings people together (and separates them), both through playing and spectating. It is widely popular throughout the country. Swimming, while a great sport and very popular during the Olympics, cannot be called a national sport. It simply is not followed or played by as many people as football is.

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  3. mollygrant41 · November 2, 2014

    As a year round swimmer throughout high school, I really enjoyed reading this blog. I agree that swimming is becoming more popular. The changes within the sport are definitely a reason why the number of both spectators and participants is on the rise. With the new Phelps dilemma, it is hard to say what is going to happen, but I think that people have fallen in love with swimming because the athletes swim solely because they love it. For example, Katie Ledecky and Missy Franklin have turned down numerous professional offers. I feel that the Rio hype is taking place really early (trials tickets go on sale soon!), so there is no way to avoid the sport. You pointed out in the last paragraph that there are so many events to watch. I think that people are watching the sport more because of that variety and the fact that there is something for everyone. Since Ann Arbor is the “Best Swimming City” of the nation, it will be fun to see how people react to the Olympics in just a few years!

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