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Swimming Tips for the Fan

Like any sport, competitive swimming is confusing to watch if you never participated in swim meets yourself. However, as a spectator sport, you can really start enjoying swimming quickly. Below are a few suggestions for how to learn more about the sport.

1. Read about the sport. Learn the basics of the 4 major strokes (crawl/freestyle, backstroke, breast-stroke, and butterfly), the events, and scoring basics.
SportSpectator Fan's Guide to Swimming: Our 10-minute guide to the sport.
Wikipedia: Good wiki community write-up on the competitive swimming.
USA Swimming- Swimming 101: A basic guide by the national governing body of swimming.

2. Understand the role of records. At all levels, records are an exciting element of the sport.
Personal Record: A personal record (sometimes called a PR) is a great accomplishment for any level of swimmer. The goal in every race is to improve over one's best time for that event. Winning a race is obviously important, but the only thing a swimmer can control is his own performance.
Other records: Historical times are used as a benchmark for swimmers. The highest record to hold is a world record (very, very rare). There will also be records for just about every level of swimming (Olympic records, college records, state high school records, club records, etc.). Another prestigious accomplishment for elite swimmers is to win an Olympic medal (also very rare).

3. Appreciate good techinique. Watch the best swimmers to appreciate good technique. Here are some suggestions for observing techinque:
CSTV: Find clips of previous races.
DartSwim: This is a training tool for swim technique, but some of the free video clips are a good place to start observing techinque from the best swimmers in the world.

1. Read about diving basics on the following sites.
SportSpectator Fan's Guide to Diving: The page of our guide focusing on diving.
Wikipedia: Good wiki write-up on diving.