Swimming as an actual sport wasn’t widely practiced until the 19th century. The sport wasn’t entered as an actual competitive Olympic discipline with the 1896 Games.
According to the Olympic Channel, swimming is one of only disciplines to have appeared in every Summer Olympics since 1896. The other sports being athletics, artistic gymnastics and fencing.
First freestyle (front crawl) and breaststroke were included as official strokes, with backstroke ccadded in 1904. Butterfly was injected into the 1956 Olympic program to complete the final four stroke disciplines still featured today.
Olympic swimming also originally took place solely outdoors. It wasn’t until 1924 when indoor pool drainage systems were introduced that marked lanes carried competition inside.
Women’s swimming became an Olympic sport in 1912 at the Stokholm Games. However, initially women only compete in the 100m freestyle and 4x100m freestyle relay events. Eventually the women’s events steadily rose, including a bump from just eight events to a total of fourteen in 1968.
Tokyo 2020 will represent the first Summer Olympic Games when the men’s and women’s events will be identical in number, distance and discipline. Originally just a women’s event, the men’s 800m freestyle has been added. Conversely, previously only for the men, a women’s 1500m freestyle event is now included. Mixed gender relays will also now be contested in Tokyo.
Photo by Mia Gracia Tabili