3 Reasons Why the World Falls for Swimming Every Olympic Year

Photo Courtesy: Jmex

By Lillian Nelson, Swimming World College Intern

As a lifetime member of the swimming community, I’ve seen our sport through the good times and the bad. Over my many years in the sport, I have noticed a trend. An Olympic year trend.

Every four years, when the Summer Olympic Games roll around, all sorts of people come out of the woodwork and seem to all of the sudden be infatuated with the sport of swimming. To those people, we say welcome. The more, the merrier.

During this special time, millions of people tune in to watch the best of the best compete at the highest level possible, and view the awe-inspiring thrills that we as swimmers experience in our own way all the time. Swim team enrollment shoots way up, and the big guns, such as Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Matt Grevers, Natalie Coughlin, and Missy Franklin, are commonly recognized as idols not only solely in the swimming community, but in the general community around the world as well.

Swimmers have a lot more respect from others than we realize, though it is common for us to overlook, as we are constantly grinding with our heads down, hoping that these hours and hours of hard work will help us shave off milliseconds from our best times at the end of the season.

So what draws in the non-regulars to our sport?

1. Epic Finishes

BEIJING, CHINA AUGUST 11TH, 2008--USA' Garrett Weber-Gale, left, and Michael Phelps celebrate with Jason Lezak, in the pool, the gold medal in the 4x100 Freestyle Relay at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Photo Courtesy: Wally Skalij

Swimming is very unique in that there tend to be a lot of extremes reached, especially when the odds are stacked up against us. Just when you think someone is about to tap out, they push themselves into their fifth gear, and produce something even more goosebump inducing than you ever thought to expect.

Take the legendary men’s 4×100 freestyle relay at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. When Jason Lezak dove in as Team USA’s anchor leg, it was pretty obvious that we were going to need nothing short of a miracle to happen for us to win. And Lezak pulled off just that by reeling in the massive Frenchman Alain Bernard. Then there it was: another USA Olympic gold.

I remember watching that race from my living room couch with some friends and family, and every single person in that room was jumping up and down screaming. Non-swimmers included. The whole natatorium erupted and shocked the world. And we were all left with our jaws on the floor. It was the excitement of the race’s end that was utterly contagious and brought our whole country, if not the whole world, together.

2. Swimmers’ Personalities


Photo Courtesy: Ubcwwong

Hearing the background stories of athletes, how they grew up, what their interests are, etcetera, adds an extra layer of respect.

There is no one single type of personality for our athletes either. We range from the Ryan Lochte types– the veterans who never fail to give us a giggle, but at the same time we know they work harder than anyone else in the water and crave success as much as they do oxygen. To the Katie Ledecky types– they’re on the younger side, well spoken in interviews, they have already accomplished so much, yet still have a lot of excitement in the career they have ahead of them.

No matter what personality traits shine through, swimmers tend to have some good ones. We aren’t afraid to be goofy with our fellow teammates, but when it’s racing time, we flip the switch, and get ready to do what we came to do.

3. It’s never the wrong time to start swimming.


Photo Courtesy: peasap

Swimming is a lifetime sport, so there is never really a wrong time to get going with it. There are so many different levels of competition in the realm of swimming that no matter where you begin, there is always something to look forward to and work toward.

Whether you are four years old and race your first 25 freestyle, or 74 years old and swim your first full lap without stopping, the swimming community accepts all.

When people of all ages, backgrounds, and places of origin come together every four years to compete in the Olympic Games, the whole world of spectators are brought together, bodies pumped full of adrenaline, occasionally teary-eyed, and absolutely inspired. Every. Single. Time.

No matter what your relationship with swimming is, it is never a bad time to get in the water and just keep swimming.

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6 years ago

These are 3 reasons, but in the USA, I think it’s more because swimming opens the Olympics, there are lots of events and lots of US medalists, because the US has always been in the top 2 teams for as long as I can remember, and often #1. Also people aren’t sick of it because they haven’t seen it for 4 years so the novelty factor is always there. I wish they would give out team medals for swimming, men’s and women’s (not necessarily combined). Gymnastics does both individual and team.

6 years ago

I think you have the wrong 4×100 free relay picture from the Beijing Olympics in 2008. It was Phelps, Weber-Gale, Jones and Jason Lezak bringing it home..

Maybe you could re-post the correct pic.

Thanks much

6 years ago

It’s awesome. It’s awesome. It’s awesome.

6 years ago

Michael Phelps maybe?