Competition

Competitive swimming became popular in the nineteenth century. The goal of competitive swimming is to constantly improve upon one's time(s), or to beat the competitors in any given event. However, some professional swimmers who do not hold a national or world ranking are considered the best in regard to their technical skills. Typically, an athlete goes through a cycle of training in which the body is overloaded with work in the beginning and middle segments of the cycle, and then the workload is decreased in the final stage as the swimmer approaches the competition in which he or she is to compete in. This final stage is often referred to as "shave and taper"; the swimmer tapering down his or her workload to be able to perform at their optimal level. At the very end of this stage, before competition, the swimmer shaves off all exposed hair for the sake of reducing drag and having a sleeker and more hydrodynamic feel in the water.[1] World record holder and Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps in the 400 IM. Swimming is an event at the Summer Olympic Games, where male and female athletes compete in 16 of the recognized events each. Olympic events are held in a 50-meter pool, called a long course pool. There are forty officially recognized individual swimming events in the pool; however the International Olympic Committee only recognizes 32 of them. The international governing body for competitive swimming is the Federation Internationale de Natation ("International Swimming Federation"), better known as FINA. [edit]Open water In open water swimming, where the events are swum in a body of open water (lake or sea), there are also 5 km, 10 km and 25 km events for men and women. However, only the 10 km event is included in the Olympic schedule, again for both men and women. Open-water competitions are typically separate to other swimming competitions with the exception of the World Championships and the Olympics. [edit]Swim styles In competitive swimming, four major styles have been established. These have been relatively stable over the last 30–40 years with minor improvements. The four main strokes in swimming are: Freestyle(free) Breaststroke(breast) Backstroke(back) Butterfly(fly) Events in competition could have only one of these styles or they could contain all four. The individual medley is an event that where swimmers start the race with butterfly, then move to backstroke, breastroke, and then

freestyle [2]. There are two possible distances of this event, both swum in each of the two competition pools. In the short course pool, there are 200-yard and 400-yard individual medleys and in the long course pool, there are 200-meter and 400-meter individual medleys. For younger swimmers involved in club swimming, there is also a 100-yard individual medley option in the short course pool, but this event is not often competed by swimmers over the age of 14. [edit]Dolphin kick In the past two decades, the most drastic change in swimming has been the addition of the underwater dolphin kick. This is used to maximize the speed at the start and after the turns. The first successful use of it was by David Berkoff at the 1988 Olympics, where he swam most of the 100 m backstroke race underwater and broke the world record on the distance during the preliminaries. Another swimmer to use the technique was Denis Pankratov at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, where he completed almost half of the 100 m butterfly underwater to win the gold medal. In the past few years,[when?] American competitive swimmers have shown the most use of the underwater dolphin kick to gain advantage, most notably Olympic and World medal winners Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte. While the dolphin kick is mostly seen in middle-distance freestyle events and in all distances of backstroke and butterfly, it is not usually used to the same effect in freestyle sprinting. That changed with the addition of the so-called sharkskin suits around the European Short Course Championships in Rijeka, Croatia in December 2008. There, Amaury Leveaux set new world records of 44.94 seconds in the 100 m freestyle, 20.48 seconds in the 50 m freestyle and 22.18 in the 50 m butterfly. Unlike the rest of the competitors in these events, he spent at least half of each race submerged using the dolphin kick.[3] While underwater dolphin kicking is allowed in freestyle, backstroke and butterfly, its use is not permitted in the same way in the breaststroke. In 2005, a new rule was formed stating that an optional downward dolphin kick may be used off the start and each turn, and it must occur during the breaststroke pullout. Any other dolphin kick will result in disqualification. New rules were established to curtail excessive use of underwater dolphin kicks in freestyle, backstroke and butterfly. Currently, performing the dolphin kick past 15 meters results in a disqualification.