Get Involved: SWIMMING

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Get involved with... Swimming

Swimming has appeared at every Olympic Games and produced some of the most celebrated champions through the years.

Mark Spitz won seven gold medals in 1972, a feat few thought could be bettered until Michael Phelps won eight in Beijing. The Baltimore Bullet aims to add to his record total of 14 Olympic gold medals in London.

The spectacular new Aquatic Centre's remarkable 160m long wave-like roof follows in the tradition of Beijing's equally distinctive Water Cube. Olympic swimming knows how to put on a show both in and out of the pool.

British medal hopes are encouraging, with double Olympic gold medallist Rebecca Adlington leading the way. The 400m and 800m freestyle champion came away from the 2011 World Championships in Shanghai with a gold and silver medal and then said she had yet to reach her peak.

Britain won six swimming medals at the 2008 Olympics, finishing third in the medal table behind the United States and Australia.

Why is it good for you?

When combined with a balanced, healthy diet, swimming is an efficient way to maximise weight loss, with a 30-minute swim likely to burn approximately 440 calories.

The energy consumed boosts your metabolism so effectively that 30 minutes in the pool equates to 45-60 minutes of land-based exercise.

Swimming is a great way to improve the health of your heart as it can reduce the dangerous, very low density lipoproteins that cause high cholesterol while also raising your 'good' cholesterol levels at the same time.

Furthermore, swimming for 30 minutes at least three times per week can significantly lower blood pressure.

Swimming has been found to be an excellent way to prevent the risk of serious diseases such as cancer, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis as it improves circulation, controls blood sugar levels and strengthens bones.

Get involved

From beginners to experts, children to adults, courses are run at swimming pools throughout the United Kingdom for those looking to take part.

For beginners, it is essential to receive tuition from qualified coaches to ensure that you learn the different strokes to help you swim in a safe way. Other than that, all that is needed are some swimming trunks or a swimming costume.

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Swimming explained (Part one)

There are more than 1,500 swimming clubs in the UK, and they provide the best foundation for those looking to develop as swimmers.

Visit the British Swimming,Swim Ulster,Scottish Swimming and Swim Wales websites for information about the different membership schemes.

British Swimming is working with the BBC to get the UK into the pool in a celebration of swimming called the Big Splash.

A wide range of activities, including competitive races, swimming lessons and aqua aerobics, are being put on in swimming pools throughout the country.

Sign up to British Swimming's mailing list to be sent details of the latest events and use their pool finder to find out where you can get started.

British Swimming's Swimfit scheme offers free online coaching tools that provide a gym style work-out programme for the pool.

More on the British Swimming website

Want to get involved with sport in your local community? Why not Join In ?

'Join In Local Sport' aims to get as many people as possible to turn up and take part in activities at their local sports facilities on 18/19 August, 2012 - the first weekend between the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The aim of the initiative is for every sports club and community group in the UK to put on a special event in a bid to encourage more people to get involved as members, supporters or volunteers.

More than 4,000 local sports clubs will be opening their doors to host events and show people just how they can get involved.

As well as tips on playing sport there will be information on coaching, supporting and how to help out.

Find an event near you.

The competition format at London 2012

  • From Saturday 28 July to Saturday 4 August, 900 athletes will compete in the pool events at the Aquatics Centre.
  • On Friday 10 August, 50 athletes will compete in the men's and women's open water 10km events at Hyde Park's Serpentine Lake.
  • Swimming has 34 medal events for men and women at London 2012.
  • All pool events begin with heats and move through qualifying rounds until medals are decided between eight finalists.
  • The heats are all seeded according to International Swimming Federation (FINA) rankings, with the top seeds placed in different races.
  • The higher an athlete is seeded, the closer to the centre lane of the pool they are placed.
  • For 50m, 100m and 200m events, the top 16 swimmers from the heats progress to the semi-finals, and the top eight from these compete in the final.
  • In 400m, 800m, 1500m and relay events, eight swimmers progress from the heats straight to the final.

More on the London 2012 website

The rules at London 2012

Swimming events are divided into freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, individual medley, relays and open water.

Freestyle (front crawl), backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly are the four strokes used in Olympic competition. All four feature in the individual medley and individual relay events.

The swimming pool at the Aquatics Centre is 50m long, 25m wide and 3m deep. It is divided into 10 lanes, although only the centre eight are used in races.

The distance of Olympic races in the pool varies from 50m (one length) to 1500m (30 lengths).

For each race, the winner is the first athlete to touch the electronic finishing pad at the end of the pool when the set distance is completed.

More on the Team GB website

Ones to watch

The women won five of the six medals four years ago and are set to lead the way again, with double Olympic champion Rebecca Adlington (400m freestyle and 800m freestyle) the likely star.

Ellen Gandy is tipped for gold in the 200m butterfly, while Keri-Anne Payne is open water world champion.

Michael Phelps faces stiff competition from US team-mate Ryan Lochte, who won five titles at last year's World Championships. Their men's 200m freestyle contest could be the race of London 2012.

Australian world champion James 'The Missile' Magnussen is an exciting prospect in the 100m freestyle, as is 17-year-old six-footer Missy Franklin of the USA in the women's 200m backstroke.


Swimming was not widely practised as a sport until the early 19th century but has been an Olympic sport since the first modern Games in 1896, when all the disciplines were held in open water. London 1908 was the first to use an indoor pool.

The first Olympic swimming competition in 1896 featured just three races and was staged in the Mediterranean Sea in the Bay of Zea.

Alfred Hajos of Hungary survived icy water and 12-foot waves when winning the 1500m gold and said afterwards: "My will to live completely overcame my desire to win."

Backstroke was added in 1904 and the butterfly in 1956. Women's swimming became Olympic in 1912 at the Stockholm Games.

Johnny Weissmuller won five gold medals in 1924 and 1928 before gaining international fame as Tarzan.

On one day in 1924 he won two swimming golds and a bronze in water polo.

More on the IOC website