PHOENIX, Arizona, September 12. TODAY would have been the 100th birthday of the great runner Jesse Owens, who flourished in the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. Instead of using today’s Throwback Thursday video to highlight Owens’ accomplishments, we are bringing you an exciting look at the men’s 200 breaststroke final from the 1936 Olympics.
That event witnessed the dawn of a revolution in the sport of swimming. For several years starting in the late 1920s, breaststrokers had skirted the rules of the stroke and started recovering their entire arms over the water while still using a breaststroke kick. This was not illegal in the sport, as the only rule for the pull required simultaneous movement of both arms on the same plane. The idea for the over-the-water recovery was to reduce drag that the underwater recovery presented.
At the 1936 Games, this practice of using butterfly arms during a breaststroke race was not widely used, as many believed it to be too taxing. (Butterfly became an official stroke in the 1950s, and underwater recovery for breaststroke became a hard-and-fast rule shortly thereafter.)
In this video of the 200 breast final provided by the International Swimming Hall of Fame, you can see a few swimmers using the butterfly recovery arm stroke at various points in the race, but for the most part, the “regular” breaststroke is commonly performed.