Overcoming Health Issues when Swimming

If you have health issues and want to swim, don*t worry. Many common complaints such as asthma, verrucas and eczema can be handled effectively in the pool, and the health benefits of swimming will always be there. Here is a look at some of the most common health concerns raised by swimmers strategies to manage them.

Asthma and Swimming

Swimming actually has huge benefits for asthmatics, and many sufferers excel in the sport. The controlled breathing that is required to swim helps asthma sufferers to regulate their breath and can reduce the number of attacks. However, it is important that swimmers do have an inhaler to hand if they have been advised to use one in the event of an attack.

Adrian Moorhouse winning gold in the 1988 Olympic Games
Adrian Moorhouse winning gold in the 1988 Olympic Games

 

The condition is very common indeed and affects 1 in 7 children in the UK, along with 1 in 25 adults. However, many asthmatics do become excellent swimmers. For inspiration you only need to look at fellow sufferers such as Adrian Moorhouse, who won gold in the 100m breaststroke event in the Seoul Olympics, or Rebecca Adlington, the four-time medal winner at the London and Beijing Olympic Games.

Despite suffering from Asthma, Becky Adlington won double gold at the 2008 Olympic Games
Despite suffering from Asthma, Becky Adlington won double gold at the 2008 Olympic Games

 

The key is to use the medication that your doctor has advised you to use. There are two main categories: asthma relief, and prevention. Both are delivered via an inhalation mechanism and have colour coding to assist with identification.

Using Relievers

Relievers are coloured in blue – one common one is branded as Ventolin. These act to open the user*s airways and encourage easy breathing. They tend to be used following the appearance of symptoms but can also be used in some cases to offer a brief period of protection against certain key attack triggers, including exercise.

 

Preventative and corrective medication can be used for asthma
Preventative and corrective medication can be used for asthma

 

Users swimming competitively must be very careful to stay within advised levels of maximum dosage, using the WADA guidelines accordingly. The only exception is in an emergency. High levels of use may ultimately trigger a positive result in a competition situation for doping. In a sports context, the blue inhaler can also be used for preventative purposes if the user feels that training may lead to an attack. Ideally, this should be taken around 15 minutes before the start of training – for example, when arriving at the pool. The effects last two to three hours, so repeated use within a training session shouldn*t be necessary.

Using Preventers

These products can effectively prevent the occurrence of an asthma attack by protecting the delicate airway lining and preventing it from narrowing. There are two primary types of product in this category. Inhalers based on steroids, such as beclomethasone (marketed as Becotide) are coloured brown. Cell membrane stabilisers using sodium cromoglyclate (marketed as Intal) are coloured white.

 

Prevention is the best way to manage asthma
Prevention is the best way to manage asthma

 

These products are not suitable for treating an asthma attack, as they will not provide immediate relief. With regular use, they can take up to 14 days for their effects to kick in. If the condition is triggered through an allergy, sodium cromoglycate is a useful product, and some doctors may also prescribe additional oral tablets or long-acting inhaler products as a back-up control measure.

 

Different inhalers have different purposes.
Different inhalers have different purposes.

To treat asthma, the British Thoracic Association sets the standard, and it offers a guideline plan to manage the condition. This essentially involves moving up different treatment levels until control is attained. The user is encouraged to step down a level if their symptoms are successfully brought under control, and over-treatment is cautioned against.

To test the medication you take, and its status within anti-doping regulations, a good resource to visit is www.globaldro.com

Remember too that the breathing taught in swimming will offer excellent preventative and management strategies for those who struggle with asthma, helping swimmers to stay in control of their breathing and manage it calmly and in a controlled manner.

Protecting the Skin

Prolonged periods of time in the pool can dry even the healthiest skin due to high chlorine levels. This can lead to itchiness, red patches and even eczema, particularly for those with allergies. Some people, including swimming legend Ian Thorpe, are allergic to chlorine and must take special care with their skin regime. Happily, there are several practical steps that you can take to enjoy healthy skin in the pool.

 

Famous Aussie swimmer Thorpedo (Ian Thorpe) is allergic to chlorine
Famous Aussie swimmer Thorpedo (Ian Thorpe) is allergic to chlorine

 

Firstly, remember that dehydration is a key cause of skim damage, especially when chlorine is present. You can prevent this by drinking water regularly before, during and after your training session. The easiest way to assess your hydration level is to check your urine. It should never be a darker colour than light yellow. Don*t overload your system with periodic influxes of high-volume hydration. Instead, drink little and often, and carry water with you. Some swimmers also like to use sports drinks, but your body simply needs water from a hydration perspective (and many commercial preparations offering high energy and performance boosts are simply full of sugar and caffeine).

 

Stay hydrated. Sipping water before, during and after exercise will help
Stay hydrated. Sipping water before, during and after exercise will help

 

After you swim, take a good long shower to make sure your skin is completely clean and that no chlorine is present on the surface. Also wash your swimming costume thoroughly after your session – this will prevent rashes and help your costume to last for as long as possible too.

 

Always shower thoroughly after swimming in chlorine
Always shower thoroughly after swimming in chlorine

 

Pay careful attention to any areas of rubbing and chafing – around costume edges particularly. If you find any, protect them with a good layer of Vaseline, or they will become susceptible to further damage.

You may also want to look around at different pools to find if some suit your skin more than others. Chlorine concentrations do differ, and some pools are even based on ‘Ozone’ systems, which have very tiny proportions of the chemical compared to standard pools.

 

Some sensitive skins suffer from chlorinated water
Some sensitive skins suffer from chlorinated water

Use a good-quality emollient on your skin to keep it soft, conditioned and hydrated. This needn*t be expensive – E45 or an Aqueous cream will do the trick. Other good brands include Dermol lotion, and your pharmacist may be able to recommend others as needed. Simply apply a liberal layer after your swimming session, and repeat this as often as needed. Rub it in well and allow the lotion to absorb into your skin before you dress. Just be careful with creams made from Lanolin, as some people do have allergies to them. If your skin is very dry and suffering from eczema, speak to your chemist about buying a preparation made from 0.5pc hydrocortisone. This will make a rapid difference. If problems still persist, go and see your doctor.

 

Use emollient products to stave of dry skin
Use emollient products to stave of dry skin

 

Dealing with Verrucas

Most swimmers will have had a verruca at least once in their life, and children seem to be the most prone to picking them up in leisure centre pools. They are essentially warts on the feet, and they are a real nuisance. They are highly infectious and painful, and a lot of effort has been put into trying to rid swimming pools of verrucas, but to little avail. Most pool managers and coaches view them as being a nuisance only. Like most types of wart, a verruca is simply a viral infection that affects the different layers of growing skin. the feet can be protected by using a latex swim sock. The virus attacks where the skin is damaged, which explains why children are more susceptible due to their developing immune systems and tendency to have small cuts and grazes on their feet, hands and knees. Skin on the feet is easily damaged when wet, especially when walking over foot mats.

Protect from infection with these latex swim socks
Protect from infection with these latex swim socks

 

Most people gain immunity in time, as with most viruses. Usually, by the time a swimmer is a teenager, he or she will no longer be getting verrucas. Some immunity may also be affected by hormonal control.

Most skincare specialists and dermatologists prefer not to treat these plantar warts, as they are also known. Many believe that there is an advantage in allowing children to get verrucas so that they gain immunity. This is why children are generally no longer encouraged to wear plastic socks at the pool or elasticated knee bandages. A waterproof plaster is generally felt to be sufficient

Most enlightened swimming professionals also are happy to allow children with plantar warts to continue with their swimming practice and other barefoot activities, knowing that the benefits of physical exercise and sport far outweigh the irritation of having a verruca.

There are some cases where it is worth treating a plantar virus, but this is only when pain or tenderness on the sole of the foot becomes intolerable. This is usually because the wart has an accumulation of hard skin around it. A simple pumice stone can help to treat this problem. Most expensive wart treatments on chemists’ shelves should be avoided, as they don*t work to any real degree. Warts do eventually disappear, and they cause no harm. If a doctor does assess a nasty verruca and problems with it that do require treatment, curettage is offered under local anaesthetic. This is only for a very small number of nasty cases, however. The vast majority of cases can and should be left alone.

 

Talk to your coach and whoever else needs to know but no need to stay away from the pool with a verruca
Talk to your coach and whoever else needs to know but no need to stay away from the pool with a verruca

 

In conclusion, there is no reason to let your swimming dreams fade away if you experience these common problems. With a strategy to manage them and conversations with people that need to know about your condition, particularly your swimming coach, you can enjoy your sessions in the pool and greatly improve your health and well-being in the process.

Competitive Swimming

If you’re interested in swimming competitively, there’s bound to be something for you or for your child, if your little one is showing excellent promise. From grass-roots and fun competitions with an emphasis on community and participation to the upper echelons of achievement and the Olympic programme, there’s something for everyone to aspire to.

 

Kids love to get into competition at an early age
Kids love to get into competition at an early age

 

Swimming competitions basically fall into two main categories – short course competitions and long course.

 

The London Olympic 50m Swimming Pool
The London Olympic 50m Swimming Pool

 

The latter are held in a full-size 50-metre pool – the type you see at major sporting events. Short course events are held in the standard 25-metre pool that most people will be used to from their local leisure centre. The Olympic events are held in the full-size 50-metre pools, but some international competitions are also held in 25-metre pools, so it depends on the event.

 

25m race pool ready for the World Swimming Championships
25m race pool ready for the World Swimming Championships

 

The primary difference for the competing swimmer is that he or she will need to carry out more turns in short course events and can generate greater momentum during the race from the power-off move from the pool’s wall.

Events to Suit Each Athlete

Swimming competition programmes will include a range of events in each of the strokes – freestyle, butterfly, backstroke and breaststroke – in distances of between 50 metres and 200 metres. The freestyle also has a 400 metre event as well as a long-distance freestyle, which is 800 metres for women, and 1,500 metres for men.

Butterfly is just one of the strokes in swimming.
Butterfly is just one of the strokes in swimming.

 

There are also individual medley events for women and men which see competitors use each stroke for different lengths. Relay races are also included as a team event, covering 4 x 100 metres, 4 x 200 metres and 4 x 50 metres in short course competitions.

 

Swimming take overs have to be timed to perfection
Swimming take overs have to be timed to perfection

 

The UK competes in a variety of competitions annually. The main long course events are usually held in the summer, and the primary short course events tend to be held at the end of the year. Most swimmers will find plenty of national events to fill a season, with the primary event for seniors being the British Swimming Championships. For junior swimmers, the two highest events to aim for are the ASA Summer National Championships and the British Summer Nationals.

 

 

Marathon Swimming

There is also an outdoor swimming discipline which became more high-profile after a 10-kilometre race featured in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. These marathon races can be held in any sizeable body of outdoor water, such as lakes, seas, canals, rivers and reservoirs. Most events will vary in duration from just one kilometre to an incredible 80 kilometres. However, at top competition level, the usual distances are 5 kilometres, 10 kilometres and 25 kilometres.

Open water swimming is gaining in popularity
Open water swimming is gaining in popularity

Although there have been marathon swim races throughout history, the world’s swimming governance authority, FINA, didn’t recognise it as a formal competitive sport until 1986, and at this point the events were added to the official international swimming competition calendar.

 

World records for open water vary because of the varying water conditions
World records for open water vary because of the varying water conditions

 

The Beijing 2008 Olympics saw a 10-kilometre race taking place, with Team GB taking half of the medals available. It’s interesting to note, however, that records for marathon swimming are not held by FINA because of the variations in venues, which include water temperature and conditions along with the weather.

The Gift of Swimming

Stepping in to a swimming pool or any type of deep water, opens up your body to a powerful mix of reactions to benefit both body and soul.

Water Can Tone Certain Body Parts

muscles

Swimming is well known for being an excellent form of exercise, and regular swimming will see you improve your cardiovascular fitness, tone up and probably drop a couple of pounds in the process. As a muscle-building exercise, the resistance will see you becoming leaner and denser, as muscle is less ‘fluffy’ than fat pound for pound and creates that beautiful athletic shape that everyone desires. However, one other great fact about swimming is that its supports targeted toning of ‘trouble spots’ for those that feel they have them. For example, breaststroke works your legs, hips, bottom and groin and your arms too. Butterfly is a powerful and high-energy stroke which works your upper body and core in particular. Kickboards will strengthen kick technique and build strength in your legs. In the same vein, a pullbuoy between your thighs will focus on your pulling technique and work your upper body. To improve your catch through the water and add extra resistance for toning your arms and shoulders, try paddles, available for all levels of resistance training and hand sizes. Mix it up  and enjoy a full body workout every time.

Water Can Confuse Your Body

Your circulation speeds up when you are in water. The circulatory pattern between your heart and lungs and your arms and legs will go faster, which will have a strange effect overall and make you think you need to wee. Why? Because this faster movement makes your body think that you must have drunk a lot of liquid, and so your kidneys begin to automatically produce greater amounts. Most swimmers will recognise this need to go for a wee the minute that they get into the pool. It’s not just psychological. Don’t risk allowing yourself to become dehydrated, though, in a bid to reduce this effect – it’s always far more important to stay adequately hydrated and drink during training to allow for maximum performance benefits. Bring a bottle to training sessions and sip on it occasionally. Try water with a pinch of salt and sugar and some fruit juice mixed in for taste. This acts as an isotonic drink to rebalance your electrolytes without your needing to spend money on expensive – and often highly calorific – commercial drink preparations. For recipe ideas check out these healthy DIY Isotonic Drinks.

diy isotonic drinks

Water Cools Your Body Down Faster Than Air

Your body is naturally familiar with water and air, but both elements act in varying ways. For example, on a spring day when warmth of around 20 degrees hits your skin, the conducting effect rapidly takes this warmth away – up to twenty-five times faster than air does. This is because water conducts heat quicker due to its greater density. This will give you a refreshing and energising cool sensation on a warm day and will act to boost your circulation and help you to warm up. Cold-water swimming also offers similar benefits – as you get out of the water, there is a rapid drop in core body temperature. This means you need to dry and get dresses rapidly to avoid the risk of hypothermia. Always dress appropriately if swimming outdoors – a wetsuit is usually recommended unless it’s the middle of summer and particularly hot.

Your Muscles May Cramp Up

When cold water comes into contact with your warm body, your blood supply rapidly slows and your blood vessels constrict. This leads to the painful sensation of cramp, or muscle spasm. There is nothing worse than getting into the pool and experiencing cramp in your legs or feet. It can also be dangerous when people are wild-swimming and in challenging conditions or deep water. To reduce the risk of it occurring, make sure you are taking enough sodium and potassium to keep your blood vessels open and fully functioning. Most of us get enough sodium, or salt, in our daily diets, but very hot weather can deplete levels through sweating. Lots of heavy exercise will have the same effect, which is why you can also cramp up after a long training session. Potassium is found in various foods, but bananas and coconut water are both very good choices. Try taking a broad-spectrum multi-vitamin too.

leg-cramps

Water Works Your Whole Body

Swimming works your entire body at once, with your lower body, arms and core all needing to engage to deliver the stroke. This means that it is a total cardio workout, and this alone sets it apart from other sports such as walking or running, which tend to focus on your legs, bottom and thighs. It also allows you to work at your own pace. You can be a complete beginner or an Olympic-level athlete and you will get a superb workout – without any equipment or kit required beyond a few absolute basics. Yet another reason to love swimming.

It Is Low-Impact

Swimming doesn’t strain joints like other forms of sport or exercise can. People who start running on the road regularly often experience pain in their joints, particularly the knees, and this is due to the high impact of running and jogging, especially if you do so on hard surfaces or in poor shoes. Swimming works the whole body in different directions and offers a powerful resistance workout but without jarring movements. The buoyancy is the key to reducing the impact on your joints, and this makes it a great form of rehabilitation exercise or beginner’s exercise, as well as an ideal choice for elderly people, pregnant women and those looking to get fit from scratch or get strong again after an injury.

Swimming Is Mood-Boosting

tumblr_n5rman5SgZ1srh82go1_500

When you swim, your body releases endorphins which make you feel good. Swimming is a particularly strong influence on mood because of the combination of warm water and the sensation that comes with being weightless. Studies have showed that there may even be an evolutionary reason for this powerful mood boost, but certainly the sensation of being warm, supported and comfortable is a powerful means of feeling good. Capitalise on it by enjoying some purely relaxing sessions at the pool and enjoy a good shower and wind-down afterwards with beautifully scented products that provide an additional boost. Lavender is great for winding down in the evening, and peppermint or grapefruit can be a wonderful energy booster to help capitalise on your exercise-induced high.

Water Protects Your Heart

Incredibly, being in the pool also has protective benefits for the heart. When you dive into water, your heart effectively switches into a type of ‘power-save’ mode, switching down a notch to around 60 bpm from around 80 bpm. This is because it knows that water doesn’t provide oxygen, and it compensates by using as little as possible in order to preserve stores.

Water Is a Powerful Healer

Water has long featured in many cultures for its ability to heal and replenish. The Japanese love natural and heated outdoor pools, which are usually heated via geothermal or volcanic energy. The Swedes love saunas and steam baths, and the British love Jacuzzis. From the nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century, hydrotherapy treatments were greatly in demand and respected by doctors. Mineral waters gave great benefits to the body and mind, and natural sources led to towns such as Buxton and Bath becoming hugely popular destinations with those wanting to ‘sample the waters’. Even today, hydrotherapy is used for mainstream therapies such as spinal injury treatment, nerve weaknesses and cardiac problems.

spa

Water Has Powerful Mental Benefits

There is a powerful connection between the brain and water, which has been explored by neuroscientists and is a growing field of research. The state of ‘blue mind’ represents the meditative state that the brain enters into when a person is in the water, bringing a sense of peace, well-being and unity. Scientists explain that because the human body is made up of around two-thirds water, the brain goes into a powerfully beneficial state when it is near or within water. The water effectively works to give the brain a break from the stimulation that dominates our life – both visual and auditory. An escape from gravity also allows your muscles to rest and relax. Remember that over three hundred muscles are needed simply for you to stand up.

woman-relaxing-in-water

With your brain in relaxation mode, the network that governs insight and creativity is naturally activated. This can lead to new insights, benefits to health and also peak performance. It may be hard to find relaxation in a busy pool during training night or at the weekend, but if you can find a quiet pool to swim in when it is peaceful and half-empty, you will really feel the benefits. Remember too that even having a calming deep bath provides valuable benefits. Try using Epsom salts in the water to give your body lots of valuable magnesium and other minerals and to detox heavy metals and the chemicals that your body regularly comes into contact with when swimming in a chlorinated pool.

So next time you get into the pool, think about the myriad of powerful health and well-being benefits the water is having on your mind and body, and remember all over again how you love the waer and how it loves you right back.

Is the future of British Swimming in danger?

 

Becky Adlington winning gold at the Beijing Olympics
Becky Adlington winning gold at the Beijing Olympics

 

Former Team GB Olympian and retired champion Rebecca Adlington has said that recent figures showing a drop in swimming participation are worrying and that action needs to be taken to ensure school children learn this vital life skill.

Sport England released an Active People Survey that found almost 250,000 fewer people are swimming once a week or more, with the figures showing a year-on-year decline from 2013 to 2014. The figures were a surprise to the industry, which would have expected to see a spike in participation rates following the ‘Olympic effect’, particularly with a number of the swimmers from Team GB becoming inspirational household names.

A similarly significant drop was shown in children’s swimming participation rates. Adlington, the winner of two gold Olympic medals, has said that she would support moves to make swimming a compulsory part of school education.

School swimming should be compulsory
School swimming should be compulsory

A Life Skill

She has said that swimming is a life skill and the only sport that allows participants to gain the skills needed to save a life. She added that this was far more important than the winning of any medal and said that she felt ‘shocked’ that Britain’s inhabitants lived on a tiny island where water was never further than 70 miles away and yet nearly half of all school children were unable to swim.

It is essential for all children to know how to swim
It is essential for all children to know how to swim

Adlington’s comments came as she appeared on the Sky Sports Sportswomen show. She explained that nearly half of all children are currently unable to swim even 25 metres – one length of a pool – before they are 11. To tackle this, she has set up the Becky Adlington Swim Stars programme to help young people learn how to swim. There are already 3,000 under 11s on the programme, which started after the London Olympics.

 

Different Expectations

She added that an expectation gap also remains a problem, with many parents believing that swimming-lesson provision was the responsibility of the school and with schools believing that it is the responsibility of parents. It’s a challenging balance, and other countries are taking the teaching of life skills far more seriously than the UK. Adlington also pointed to countries such as America and Australia, which teach swimming as a compulsory part of the school education.

 

School swimming should be part of the school curriculum
School swimming should be part of the school curriculum

 

The same survey also showed that the figures for women who swam regularly also dropped by 10pc, which is another area of concern.

Jennie Price, the CEO of Sport England, expressed her concerns about the figures and the fact that the Amateur Swimming Association had no conclusive insights into the drop in participation figures – particularly after the London 2012 Olympics, when a spike would have been expected.

 

There has even been a drop off in Women that swim regularly
There has even been a drop off in Women that swim regularly

 

The next stage for the sport will be trying to understand the reasons behind the drop. This could be because of lack of access, the cost of swimming lessons, a general decline in sports participation or the closing of pools. Further research will now take place to assess the depth of the problem before strategies are developed to promote the value of swimming to the nation, position it firmly within the educational system and ensure that the government provides the right funding support to facilitate this work.

 

Too many pools and lidos have been closed down
Too many pools and lidos have been closed down

 

Some of the Greatest Olympic Swimmers

The next Olympics will be held in Rio 2016, and the world’s swimming elite are already training hard for this ultimate event. With a global audience of millions, Rio promises to be a truly spectacular event. Records will undoubtedly be broken in the pool, and a new crop of athletes will become household names. The major games since London have already seen some of 2012’s times smashed, so the prospect of Rio is extremely exciting indeed. While we gear up for the big event, it’s a great point to remember some of the greatest swimmers of all time and wonder which new names will be added to this list in just one year’s time.

Mark Spitz – USA

 

Mark Spitz – aka Mark the Shark – was born in 1950 and is one of the most iconic swimmers in history. Now retired, he achieved an incredible seven gold podium spots at the Munich Olympics in 1972. This record was only ever beaten by Michael Phelps, when he swept up eight gold medals in Beijing – more of which below. Mark Spitz took nine Olympic gold medals during his peak between 1968 and 1972. He also took a silver and a bronze medal, as well as a haul of other titles, including five Pan-American gold medals, eight US National Collegiate Athletic Association honours, thirty-one Amateur Athletic Union awards and more. During his competitive swimming years, he managed to set an incredible 33 new world records, and his name in the hall of fame was assured when he was awarded the ‘World Swimmer’ accolade three times – in 1969, 1971 and in 1972.

Michael Phelps – USA

 

Born in 1985, Michael Phelps is also known by his nickname of the Baltimore Bullet. He has already won an incredible sixteen Olympic titles, as well as six silver medals and two bronzes, which he took home from the 2004 Olympics in Athens. At the next Olympics – the 2008 event in Beijing – he swept the board with eight gold podium spots, consolidating his place in the history books. By achieving this haul, he has equalled the record for eight medals at just one Olympics – twice. This record is shared by Alexander Dityatin, the Russian gymnast who also took home eight medals from the 1980 summer games in Moscow.

By taking home eight top spots at the Beijing Olympics, he managed to nudge the legendary Mark Spitz into second place, as he only managed to win seven gold medals at 1972’s Munich Olympics. In terms of total medals won at the Olympics, there is only one athlete ahead in the league table – another gymnast from the Soviet Union. Larissa Latynina has taken an awesome 18 medals – included nine gold medals – in three Olympic Games.

Phelps’ performance, persona and athleticism have helped him to win the coveted World Swimmer Award no fewer than six times. He has also taken home the annual American Swimmer award on eight occasions. In total, he has been awarded a jaw-dropping 59 international competition medals, of which 50 were gold medals. These were won at the Olympics, the Pan Pacifics and the World Championships.

Ian Thorpe – Australia

 

The Thorpedo adding to his medal haul
The Thorpedo adding to his medal haul

 

Born in 1982, retired Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe is better known as the Thorpedo, and today he is a well-known commentator and sports personality. The former legendary freestyle swimmer has the Australian swimming medal haul record, having won five Olympic golds. At the World Aquatic Championships in 2001, he also took home six golds, earning him another record. He has gained 11 golds at the World Championships, which puts him in the second spot when it comes to records. He has also been honoured as the Swimmer of the Year on the world stage on four occasions, and he is the first person to have been honoured in this way. When it comes to the Australian Swimmer of the Year award, he held the top spot every year during 1999 to 2003. His incredible achievements have made him a hugely popular and well-known athlete in Australia and beyond, and he has also been given the Young Australian of the Year award in 2000.

Grant Hackett – Australia

 

Born in 1980, Grant Hackett is a retired swimmer who was famous for his performance at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and the 2004 Summer Games in Athens, taking home the gold in the 1500m freestyle on both occasions. This achievement secured his place in the record books as one of history’s greatest distance swimmers. He also took home another gold at the Sydney games for his place in the 4 x 200m freestyle relay. He is particularly well regarded for his versatility across different events, having won world records in the 800m freestyle, 1500m freestyle, and second and fourth places in the 400m and 200m events respectively. He still dominates the 1500m event and has taken home a cool ten gold medals at the World Championships.

Johnny Weissmuller – Austro-Hungarian

Born in 1904, Weissmuller was one of the best swimmers of all time and also a legendary actor. He was hugely well known in the 1920s for his swimming achievements and won five golds at the Olympic games, as well as 52 medals at the American National Championships. At the same time, he set an incredible 67 new world records in the sport. After he retired from the sport, he became famous for portraying Tarzan on the big screen and took on the role in 12 Hollywood films. He is still the best-known actor for his portrayal of Tarzan and his trademark distinctive yell is still copied today.

Krisztina Egerszegi – Hungary

Not forgetting the girls, Krisztina was born in 1974 and is one of Hungary’s greatest modern Olympians, with a former world record under her belt. She took home five gold Olympic medals across the 1988, 1992 and 1996 Olympics and also jointly holds the record for winning the same event across three consecutive games.

Deborah Meyer – USA

Born in 1952, Debbie Meyer was legendary at the 1968 Summer Olympics for winning three events – the 200m, 400m and 800m races at Mexico City. By taking three golds in a single Olympic games, she got a world record – and all at the tender age of 16, as she was still a student at the time.

Kristin Otto – German

 

Born in 1966, Kristin Otto took the accolade of being the first female swimmer to sweep six gold medals at one Olympic Games – at the Seoul games in 1988.

Matthew Biondi

Born in 1965, Matt Biondi won 11 medals over three summer Olympics – 1984, 1988 and 1992. He took eight gold medals, two silver medals and one bronze. He also managed to set seven new world swimming records during his career in the 50m freestyle and 100m freestyle events. At the Seoul Olympics in 1988, he took home five gold medals and also confirmed his legendary status by setting new records in the relay events and 50m freestyle.

Rebecca Adlington – UK

And who could forget the well-loved Rebecca Adlington, who turned 26 this year. Rebecca shot to fame as a household name after she took two gold medals at the 2008 Olympics. She won two bronze medals at the London 2012 event – in the 400m and 800m freestyle races. She also held the 800m world record for freestyle at 8:14.10. She retired after the London Olympics and is now a well known personality.