Competitive swimming became popular in the 19th century and today there are a total of 34 swimming events, split 50-50 between men and women. Swimming races are usually held in a 50 m pool with the objective, unsurprisingly, being to swim the race in the fastest time.
All competitive events are overseen by Fina, swimming’s international governing body. The Fina world championships happen every two years and most recently took place in Melbourne, Australia. Swimming is also a popular event at the Summer Olympic Games, where swimmers compete in any of the 13 official races as well as diving and synchronised events.
There are four strokes which are swum competitively; breaststroke, front crawl, backstroke and butterfly. The strokes may also be swum in a combination known as an ‘individual medley’. Additionally, there are two relay competitive events, the medley relay and freestyle. Relays are made up of four swimmers who all swim an equal length, depending on the designated distance of the relay, 200 m, 400 m or 800 m.
With the high level of swimming that is currently being demonstrated in Britain, the record holders frequently change. As of May 2007, the record for the 200m event in the four competitive strokes are:
|Stroke||Time||Record Holder||Date Achieved|
For further information about swimming records, the Amateur Swimming Association has a link to a table of regularly updated British records in each of the 34 competitive events.