Races that Changed Swimming Forever

World-class swimmers have paved the way for what the sport looks like today since swimming was added to the Olympic Games in 1896. Many people don’t become legends in their lifetime, but there are swimmers who have done something that has forever changed the sport. This is why we highlight some of the most historic races in swimming history. Let’s have a closer look at them.

Team USA, 2008 Beijing Olympics

There were many memorable swimming moments at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. In the men’s 400-meter freestyle relay, Team USA’s victory stands out from the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Michael Phelps, Cullen Jones, Garrett Weber-Gale, and Jason Lezak pushed hard for another relay victory. The last time Team USA won was 12 years ago. The French were six-tenths of a second ahead of the Americans going into the final 50 meters. In a remarkable comeback, anchor Jason Lezak clocked a 46.06, setting a new world record, and capturing the gold medal for Team USA.

Skinzfan23, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Women’s First Olympic Swimming Event

The Olympic Games in Stockholm in 1912 marked an important milestone for the sport of swimming: Women were allowed to participate for the first time. Two events followed: the 100-meter freestyle and the 4×100-meter freestyle relay. It was held on a swimming course located in the heart of Stockholm. Australian Fanny Durack set a world record with her 1:20.1 time over 100 meters freestyle – which is still a remarkable record even today.

The Story of Simone Manuel

The name Simone Manuel is undoubtedly familiar to anyone who follows swimming. Her Olympic debut came during the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. In the Rio Olympics, Manuel won four medals, but one of them helped cement her place in history. Manuel is the first African American woman to win an individual swimming gold medal after she tied for first in the women’s 100-meter freestyle event. Manuel was 3rd at the 50-meter mark, but near the finish line, she touched simultaneously with Canadian swimmer Penny Oleksiak. As a black swimmer, she works to improve the diversity in the sport.

JD Lasica from Pleasanton, CA, US, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Olympics’ Youngest Gold Medalist

The Japanese swimmer Kyoko Iwasaki won the 200-meter breaststroke at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics when she was 14 years old. In the 50 meters before the finish, she overtook the event leaders though she wasn’t favored to win. Her time dropped by 5 seconds from her entry time to 2:26.65. That is the fastest time you could see from a 14-year-old.

The Oldest Individual Gold Medalist

There are very few athletes who will be able to compete at more than one Olympics. Ervin is one of the few exceptions. During his career, Ervin competed at three Olympics! His 19 years old twenty-meter freestyle performance earned him the gold in 2000. As a 35-year-old, he became the oldest swimmer to win an individual gold medal by winning the 50 free in 2016. Also, he may well be the first swimmer to get two gold medals at the same event 16 years apart.

JD Lasica from Pleasanton, CA, US, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Winning Every Olympic Swimming Competition

A swimmer winning gold in every event at the Olympics is extremely rare these days. A notable exception though is the year 1920. Ethelda Bleibtrey won gold in 3 events at the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium. Her wins included the 100 and 300-meter freestyles, as well as the 4×100-meter freestyle relay. But that’s not all. Her freestyle stroke was not even her best stroke during all three races, but she still managed to set the record for all three of them. She was a fantastic backstroker. Can you imagine what she would have accomplished if there were backstroke events?