By Dr. G. John Mullen, Swimming World Contributor
Swimmers are fascinating. Not to be biased or anything, but they are. Swimmers have superhuman-like capabilities. They can make their bodies do weird things. And they have some rather strange rituals. These 15 weird facts about swimmers will give you a new appreciation for the sport.
1. Freedivers can hold their breath for more than 10 minutes.
How long can you hold your breath? Go! If you are like most people, you start to feel panicked at about 30 seconds. People in good health and with proper training can hang on for at least 2 minutes. Freedivers take the cake. A freediver can hold his/her breath for as long as 10 minutes. The world record for breath-holding is 22 minutes, which is currently held by Stig Severinsen.
2. The average high school swimmer swims 1 million strokes per season.
Think about that for a minute. You don’t even have the time to count to a million, meanwhile, some swimmer is well on his/her way to swimming a million strokes by the end of the season. Stress and high stroke counts increase the risk for shoulder injury and disability among swimmers.
3. Swimmers can flex their toes to the ground.
Foot and ankle flexion is important for swim performance, which means swimmers work hard on increasing the toe-point. Swimmers can sit down with their legs stretched out in front of them and point their toes all the way down to the ground.
4. The odds of swimming in the Olympics are slim to none.
On average 1850 swimmers will make it to the Olympic trials. Of those swimmers, nearly 50 of them will actually make the Olympic swim team.
5. The oldest stroke is the breaststroke.
When you jump in the water, what is the first stroke you do? For many it is the breaststroke, which is possibly the oldest swim stroke there is. Swimming has a history that dates as far back as the 1st century BCE.
6. Swimmers sweat in the pool.
Swimmers lose just as much sweat in the pool as any other athlete loses on land. There is, however, not enough research to tell us how much sweat swimmers actually lose in the water.
7. Most of the nation’s population cannot swim.
A 2014 American Red Cross survey revealed that half of Americans cannot swim. Fifty-five percent of Americans can perform 5 basic swimming skills; 33 percent of African Americans report knowing the 5 core swimming skills; and men are more likely to report they know the 5 basic swimming skills.
8. The world’s youngest internationally competitive swimmer is only 10.
In 2015, at the age of 10, Alzain Tareq became the world’s youngest competitive swimmer in a World Championships. The Bahrainian girl competed against swimmers who were twice her age. She finished her 50-meter butterfly meet in 41.13 seconds.
9. The world’s oldest swimmer is 100 years old.
In 2015, another world record was set. This one was set by Mieko Nagaoka, who is 90 years older than Tareq, from Japan. Nagaoka is the first centenarian to finish the 1500-meter freestyle swim.
10. Women weren’t allowed to compete in Olympics until 1912.
Swimming became an Olympic sport in 1908, but women were not allowed to participate until 1912. Australian swimmer, Fanny Durack, became the first woman to win a gold medal in the 100-yard freestyle in the same year.
11. Diana Nyad swam from Cuba to Florida.
Then 64-year-old Diana Nyad became the first person ever to swim the 103-mile trek from Cuba to Florida. Nyad had attempted the swim at least six times prior to her record-breaking swim.
12. Some open water swimmers poop in the water.
You know you were wondering about this. Yes, some open swimmers have had to poop during in the water. The actual number of swimmers who defecate in the water is hard to determine because no one wants to admit to dropping a deuce in the water.
13. Shaving isn’t just for removing hair.
Swimmers shave to increase performance. While many believe swimmers shave to reduce drag and to look better in a suit, studies suggest that shaving actually increases the sensitivity of a swimmer’s skin in the water. The hyper-awareness allows swimmers to “feel the water” and its pressure so they can adjust to improve technique.
14. Children can take swim lessons as early as 12 months.
Parents begin swim lessons with kids as early as 12 months. In 2009, drowning risks reduced by 88 percent when children between the ages of one and four participated in formal swimming lessons.
15. Swimmers use nearly every muscle in their bodies.
While there are so many people out there to dismiss swimming as a “real sport,” swimming is one of the most intense sports there is. Why? Swimming is an all-body exercise. Yes, swimming uses more muscles than baseball and football.
Swimmers are a weird bunch, but in a really great way. Who can say they knew even half of what is on this list? Better yet, only a few can saw they have actually done anything on this list. What are some of your favorite facts about swimmers?