26 August 2019

London 2012: Bluffer’s guide to swimming

July 23, 2012

Swimming is one of the easiest Olympic sports to understand with races in the pool being conducted over the middle eight lanes of a 50 metre long pool and including a variety of distances, from 50m (one length) all the way up to 1500m (30 lengths).

The marathon 10km race takes place in open water.

Venue: Aquatics Centre, Olympic Park (swimming) and The Serpentine, Hyde Park (marathon swimming)

Date: 28 July – 4 August (swimming) 9-10 August (marathon)

Jargon buster

Negative split: A race tactic in which a swimmer completes the second half of a race faster than the first half.

Tumble turn: Underwater roll at the end of a length which is used in backstroke and freestyle. It allows swimmers to push off from the end of the pool with their feet.

Drafting: Swimming in an opponent’s wake to conserve energy, similar to slipstreaming in cycling and Formula One.

Long course: A 50m pool of the type used in Olympic competition, as opposed to a short course measuring 25m.

Medley: A combination event in which a swimmer or team swims separate legs of backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly and freestyle.

Open turn: A type of turn in which swimmers must touch the end of the pool with their hands.

Basic rules

Swimmers use four strokes: freestyle (or front crawl), breaststroke, backstroke and butterfly.

Backstroke swimmers start in the water with their feet against the wall and their hands holding on to a starting grip. In the other three strokes, swimmers start by diving into the water from a starting block.

The first athlete to touch the electronic finishing touchpad at the end of the pool in each race is the winner. In breaststroke and butterfly, swimmers must touch the wall with both hands simultaneously.

The biggest change from 2008 is the new rules on swimwear. Gone are the impermeable, full-body suits that allowed a staggering 25 world records to be broken in Beijing.

Male swimmers are now restricted to a pair of textile shorts and women to textile suits that must not extend above the shoulder or below the knee.

One to watch

In the swimming event Beijing double gold medallist Rebecca Adlington and in the 10km event Beijing silver medallist Keri-Anne Payne.

Olympic rivalry? Three time Olympic medallist Rebecca Soni (US) and Olympic gold medallist Leisel Jones (Australia) in the breaststroke events. Adlington will be up against world champion Federica Pellegrini in the 400m freestyle and Dane Lotte Friis in the 800m event.

Who’s the gold medal favourite? After such an impressive victory at the 2008 Beijing Olympics winning two gold medals in the 400m and 800m freestyle, GB’s Rebecca Adlington is definitely tipped to win gold again this time around.

Who to follow on twitter…




Swimming Olympic fact

If the two fastest competitors finish with an identical time then a ‘double gold’ scenario can occur.

The first official tie for a gold medal in Olympic Swimming history came in Los Angeles 1984, when American teammates Nancy Hogshead and Carrie Steinseifer swam identical times in the 100m Freestyle.

The Women’s Sports Magazine

Image credit: Speedo

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