Swimming has been an Olympic event since the beginning of the modern Olympics in 1894. It has spawned some of the greatest athletes the world has ever seen.
From Hawaiian swimming sensation Duke Kahanamoku and cinema-hero Johnny Weissmuller who dominated the swimming in the 1920's to modern-day heroes Mark Spitz and Michael Phelps, the Olympic swimming pool has produced some of most famous names Olympic Games history.
Johnny Weissmuller (1904-1984) is perhaps the most famous of all the Olympic swimmers though it is for his role at Tarzan that he is best remembered. In his life time he set 28 world records and he was such a superlative swimmer that many authorities still rate him as the best swimmer of all time, even ahead of Mark Spitz.
Johnny Weissmuller is perhaps the most famous of all the Olympic swimmers though it is for his role at Tarzan that he is best remembered.Weissmuller won five Olympic gold medals and became swimming’s first superstar. In his life time he set 28 world records and he was such a superlative swimmer that many authorities rate him as one of the best swimmers of all time.
Weissmuller won the 100m freestyle title at the 1924 Summer Olympics, beating Duke Kahanamoku for the gold medal. He also won the 400m freestyle and the 4x200m relay.Four years later, at the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam, he won another two Olympic titles.
At the 1924 Olympics in Paris, Weissmuller led the American waterpolo team to a bronze medal in Paris. It was the first waterpolo medal for America since the 1904 St Louis Games.
The 2008 Olympics have made the name Michael Phelps a household name. He won eight gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, breaking Mark Spitz' previous record of seven gold medals at a single Olympics. He has a career total of 16 Olympic medals. He has been called by some the greatest swimmer of all time and by others the greatest athlete of all time, it remains to be seen if his records will stand the test of time.
Mark Spitz won seven gold medals at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, an achievement only surpassed by Michael Phelps who won eight golds at the 2008 Olympics.Over his career, he has won an astounding nine Olympic gold medals, one silver and one bronze.
Before the 1968 Mexico City Olympics Spitz predicted he would win six gold medals. He fell short of his prediction as he won two as part of relay teams and one silver and one bronze. At the 1972 Munich Olympics he redeemed himself by winning seven gold medals and setting seven world records. At these Olympics he won the 100m freestyle, 200m freestyle, 100m butterfly, 200m butterfly, 4x100m freestyle, 4x200m freestyle, 4x100m medley relay.
Alexander Popov is a four-times Olympic gold medalist and dominated sprint swimming throughout the 1990's. He won the men's 50m and 100m freestyle event at the Barcelona 1992 Olympics Games, and repeated his victories at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games, becoming the first man to do so since Johnny ‘Tarzan’ Weissmuller in 1928.
With his five gold medals, and a total of nine, including silver and bronze, in two Olympic Games, swimmer Ian Thorpe became Australia's most successful Olympian.
The final of the 200 freestyle at the 2004 Olympics was possibly one of the greatest races ever. Dubbed the "Race of the Century," it featured the four fastest 200 freestyle swimmers in history; Australians Ian Thorpe and Grant Hackett, the Netherlands' Pieter van den Hoogenband and American Michael Phelps. It took an Olympic record to win as Thorpe touched the wall in 1:44.71, with van den Hoogenband in second place and Phelps just behind in third.
At the 1964 Games, Australia's Dawn Fraser won the gold medal in the 100m freestyle for the third time in three Olympics. With this medal, she became the only swimmer to win the same event at three successive Olympic Games.
She also went on a late night outing and tried to steal a Japanese flag from the Emperor's Palace. She was caught, apologized and no charges were filed. She was banned from swimming for 10 years (later reduced to four years, but she retired at the start of the ban).
Penny Heyns is regarded as one of the greatest breaststroke swimmers of all times. She is the only woman to have won both the 100m and 200m breaststroke events at the same Olympics. At the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, Heyns won both the 100m and 200m breastroke events, making her South Africa's first post-apartheid Olympic gold medalist after South Africa's re-admission to the Games in 1992 in Barcelona.
Heyns was the youngest member of the South African Olympic team at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. A year before the Sydney Olympics, Heyns set eleven world records in three months, swimming at events on three different continents.
This made her the simultaneous holder of five out of the possible six breaststroke world records, a feat that had never been achieved before in swimming history. She was also a member of the South African Olympic team at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. She won a bronze medal in the 100m breaststroke.
South Africa's men's 4x100m freestyle relay team of Roland Schoeman, Ryk Neethling, Lyndon Ferns and Darian Townsend claimed gold in spectacular fashion, setting a world record of 3:13.17 as they beat the much-fancied Australian and American teams.
Schoeman, South Africa's most successful athlete at a single Olympics, added a silver medal in the 100m freestyle and a bronze medal in the 50m freestyle to his relay gold at the Athens Games. Schoeman will be attending his fourth Olympic Games at London 2012. That will equal the South African record held by fellow swimmer Ryk Neethling and marathon runner Hendrick Ramaala.
After taking part in the 2008 Summer Olympics, Ryk Neethling became the first South African to compete in four successive Olympic Games. The highlight of his career came in 2004, when he won the gold medal and set a new world record in the 4x100m freestyle relay along with Roeland Schoeman, Lyndon Ferns and Darian Townsend.
The all-time performing synchronized swimmers at the Olympic Games are the Russian pair Anastasia Davydova and Anastasia Ermakova, who won 4 gold medals between 2004–2008.
The two won back-to-back gold medals in both the duet and team events at the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games, making them the only synchronized swimmers to claim four medals.