London 2012: Swimming

Published On July 12, 2012 | By Arielle Aronson

Tell me about swimming:

Swimming is one of the most popular events at the Summer Olympics, and it rewards a number of medals that reflect its popularity. Swimmers compete in 34 medal events (16 for the men and 16 for the women plus two marathon swimming events). All of the swimming events except for the marathon (which will be held in Hyde Park) will take place at the Aquatics Centre in the Olympic Park. Approximately 950 swimmers will compete for medals in this summer’s Olympics in a variety of events that utilize the four strokes used for Olympic competition: freestyle (front crawl), backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly. These four strokes make up races that can be as short as one length of the pool (50 meters) or as long as 30 lengths of the pool (1500 meters).

What’s up with the scoring?

Scoring is simple in swimming. It’s a race – first to finish wins.

How to qualify:

Swimmers are seeded based on results from events held between March 1, 2011 and June 18, 2012. In order to qualify for the Olympics, swimmers must record a certain time in those events.

Men and women have different qualifying times, with the men’s times being slightly faster than women. For example, men must record a 22.11 in the 50m freestyle in order to qualify for the Olympics while women have to achieve a 25.27 in that same event. The seeding and times are determined by FINA, the international swimming organization.

Phelps watch:

Once again, Michael Phelps will be one of the stars of the U.S. Olympic swim team. Phelps won eight gold medals in the Beijing Olympics in 2008, the most any athlete in any sport has ever won in a single Olympics. Phelps owns 16 Olympic medals (14 gold), and is two medals away from tying gymnast Larisa Latynina of the former Soviet Union for the most career Olympic medals won by any athlete in Olympic history.

The London Olympics will be Phelps’s fourth and possibly final Olympics of his career, as Phelps announced in May that he plans to retire after this year’s Olympics. He could go out with a bang, however, as he has a chance to become the first male swimmer to win the Olympic Triple. He can achieve this by winning the same event in three different Olympics. Phelps has a chance at the Olympic Triple should he win gold in either the 400 IM, 100m and 200m butterfly, and 200m medley.

International athletes to watch:

British swimmer Rebecca Adlington will be a hometown hopeful for gold. Due to her success in previous international competition, she is already the most successful British swimmer of all time, but winning gold in her home country could be the highlight of her career.

Americans to watch out for:

Ryan Lochte looks to be Phelps’s strongest competition among male swimmers. The 28-year-old beat Phelps in a race for the first time at the 2011 world championships in Shanghai, where he finished first in the 200 medley and 200 freestyle. He won five gold medals at the event compared to Phelps’ four. Lochte is a three-time Olympic gold medalist and holds one silver and two bronze medals as well.

Natalie Coughlin, a 29-year-old from Vallejo, Ca., highlights the women’s Olympic swimming squad. Coughlin has medaled in all Olympic events she has competed in throughout her career, and she won one gold, two silver and three bronze medals in Beijing. She is one medal shy of tying the record for most medals won by a female US Olympic swimmer.

Missy Franklin is a rising star in USA swimming. The 17-year-old set a world record in the 200m backstroke at the 2011 FINA World Cup and was ranked first entering the US swim trials in the 100m and 200m freestyle as well as the 200m backstroke.

Talk like an Olympian – terms to know:

Medley – a combo event in which swimmers or relay teams compete in a race composed of a mix of a variety of strokes.

Negative split – the term used when a swimmer records a faster time in the second half of a race.

Open turn vs. tumble turn – a swimmer using an open turn must turn by touching the end of the pool with his/her hands. A swimmer performs a tumble turn by doing an underwater flip and pushing off from the wall of the pool with his/her feet.


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About The Author

Arielle Aronson is a sports writer and recent graduate from Boston University, where she earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Print Journalism Magna Cum Laude. Arielle has a passion for sports cultivated from growing up with two older brothers. She also enjoys playing the piano, reading and traveling.