Not only does Michael Phelps have more Olympic medals than any other swimmer, but he is also the most decorated Olympian, period. With a combination of 23 golds, 3 silvers, and 2 bronze, no one is anywhere near reaching him in any sport.
Swimming’s start in the Olympic Games came in 1896 with the freestyle or the breaststroke. Prior to its appearance in competition, swimming was an act learned for man’s survival.
First Man Learned to Walk, Then Swim
Men swimming is something depicted in cave paintings dating back some 9,000 years ago. Clay tablets dating back 7,000 years reveal similar images, and Egyptian hieroglyphics show men swimming 4,500 years ago. Man needed to learn to swim to survive including being able to cross rivers, to fish for food, and to escape rising waters from flooding.
It was the National Swimming Society of Great Britain formed in the 1830s, which began the modern-day form of swimming competitions toward the end of the 19th century. Only involved men. Clad in woolen suits from their knees to their elbows, these athletic men raced against each other using an older form of the breaststroke, in newly-created indoor pools.
The backstroke was added to the Olympics in 1904. Women’s swimming events began in 1912, and today men and women athletes have close to identical competitions. The only exception is the freestyle distance event, which for women measures 800 meters and for men 1,500 meters.
The top swimmers in the world come from the US. Before Phelps, Mark Spitz earned 11 Olympic medals including nine golds. Jenny Thompson is the most decorated woman with 12 total medals, 8 of which are gold.
All in all, US swimmers have earned a total of 462 swimming title competitions blowing the others out of the water, according to the World Atlas. Germany, earlier as East and West, and then Unified combined comes in second with 145 titles, and China right behind that at 140.
Who Goes to the Pool?
In the past half-century or so, backyard pools became popular throughout the US. They are commonly found in apartment, townhouse, or condominium complexes. Many high schools around the country have pools and swim teams. And, those pools are often open during the summer months as public pools for community use, when kids and families go out to play and cool off.
Swimming is attractive to many as a form of low-impact exercise. Pools can be found in many local gyms, often with specific times for specific usages such as lap swimming, or low-impact aerobics.
Whether you are looking for a way to entertain the kids, a sport for the growing athlete, a new form of exercise, or a place to float a raft while sipping a margarita, check out the nearest pool to you, which may actually be in your own backyard.