Making a splash: Diving into swimming as a sport and pastime | Georgia Sports


Swimming became an official Olympic in the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. There are a number of different types of swimming competitions, varied by technique and distance. The goal for each of them is simple — be faster than the other competitors.

Judges will then award points based on the order of the fastest swimmers. The Olympic system is as basic as it gets — first place wins gold, second place wins silver and third place wins bronze. To everyone else, thanks for coming.

In the beginning, only men were allowed to compete, but that changed in the 1912 Stockholm games when two events were added for women. Swimming is one of only five sports that have appeared in every summer Olympics since, the others being athletics, cycling, fencing and gymnastics.

With such a long lifespan, it’s not surprising that the sport has gone through a few changes in its time. Before 1908, Olympic swimming took place in open waters, outside the safety of a swimming pool. Another difference in swimming over time has been the method used. The breaststroke was originally the most common form of swimming, but that’s not the case anymore. Freestyle, backstroke and butterfly are all commonly seen today.

Speaking of the Olympics, America’s swimming team had a particularly good time at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, bringing home 30 medals in total, more than any other sport. The University of Georgia also had an award-winning summer in Japan, winning 11 medals overall — seven from just swimming events.

Chase Kalisz claimed the gold medal in the men’s 400-meter individual medley. Kalisz graduated from UGA in 2017. During his time as a Bulldog he was a three-time NCAA champion in the 400-meter race.

Jay Litherland finished just behind Kalisz, ending his lap less than a minute later. Litherland finished his time at UGA in 2018.

Women from UGA took in five medals of their own in the Tokyo Olympics. Allison Schmitt led the way, finishing second in the women’s 800-meter freestyle relay and third in the 400-meter. This was her fourth time at the Olympics. She’s won at least one medal each time she’s competed. Schmitt, who graduated from UGA in 2013, was also a four-time NCAA champion.

Olivia Smoliga also competed in the women’s 400-meter relay, winning bronze alongside Schmitt. Smoliga won eight gold medals at the 2018 International Swimming Federation world championships. The International Swimming Federation is trusted by the Olympic Committee to oversee year-round swimming competitions. To this day, Smoliga is still the record holder for most gold medals won at a single International Swimming Federation event.

Hali Flickinger rounded out the Bulldogs’ swimming medalists, winning bronze in both the women’s 400-meter individual medley and the women’s 200-meter butterfly. For Flickinger, a three-time NCAA champion at UGA, this was her second trip to the Olympics. It was her first time coming away with medals around her neck.

Flickinger trained under Jack Bauerle during her time in Athens. Bauerle retired from his position as Georgia’s head swimming coach this year, ending his 43-year career as the longest-tenured coach in Georgia history. Bauerle coached the women’s swim & dive team to seven NCAA championships under his supervision.

Bauerle was added to the swim team’s Olympic coaching staff for the summer in Tokyo, where he coached a number of his former students. Baurle, a 16-time SEC coach of the year, has instructed 87 Olympians during his career. He was also the coach of the 2008 women’s Olympic swim team, which won 14 medals.

Stefanie Williams Moreno was chosen as the next coach of the UGA women’s swim team and Neil Versfeld was appointed to be her counterpart for the men’s program. Versfeld will have a slight competitive advantage over Williams Moreno, as the men’s team features a returning Olympian.

Javier Acevado, a senior at UGA, qualified to compete for the Canadian National Team in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. He didn’t claim any medals during the Games, but Acevado owns the school record in five different swimming events, so he definitely has the talent.

Time will tell what the future holds for the UGA swimming teams, but if it’s anything like the past, then the Bulldogs are swimming towards even more success.

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