Learn about this Summer Olympic sport

April 27, 2012

United States Olympian Michael Phelps (left) swims to win a gold medal in the men's 200-meter individual medley at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

Swimming has been an Olympic sport since the first Summer Games in Athens, Greece, in 1896. But back then, events weren't held in a 50-meter pool like they are today. Swimming events in 1896 took place in the Mediterranean Sea.

Rules of the Game

There are 34 swimming events, 17 each for men and women. They range in distance from 50-meters sprints to 10,000-meter marathons. In addition to single-stroke events, where athletes swim the butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke or freestyle, there are also events called medleys, where athletes swim all four strokes in one race. Competitions for men and women are almost identical, except for the distance in the freestyle event (800-meters for women and 1500-meters for men)

Each swimming event is divided into heats. Preliminary heats determine who is fast enough to move on to the semi-finals. The fastest swimmers from the semi-finals move on to swim in the finals. In the finals, swimmers compete for the Gold, Silver and Bronze medals.

Swimming isn't the only Olympic water sport. Others include diving, synchronized swimming and water polo.

Click here to read about table tennis at the Olympic Games.

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