Swimming Canada



SO-VerThe sport of swimming has been recorded since prehistoric times; the earliest recording of swimming dates back to Stone Age paintings from around 7,000 years ago. Competitive swimming as we know it today started in the United States started around 1800, mostly using breaststroke. Swimming was part of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 in Athens. In 1902 the front crawl was introduced to the Western world.  Butterfly was developed in the 1930s and was at first a variant of breaststroke, until it was accepted as a separate style in 1952.

Competitive swimming became popular in the nineteenth century. Swimming is an event at the Summer Olympic Games, where athletes compete in 16 of the recognized events each. Olympic events are held in a 50-meter pool, called a long course pool.  There are forty officially recognized individual swimming events in the pool; however the International Olympic Committee only recognizes 32 of them.

Open water

In open water swimming, where the events are swum in a body of open water (lake or sea), there are also 5 km, 10 km and 25 km events for men and women. However, only the 10 km event is included in the Olympic schedule, again for both men and women. Open-water competitions are typically separate to other swimming competitions with the exception of the World Championships and the Olympics.

Most swimming sport events are held in special competition swimming pools, which are either long course pools such as those used in the Olympic Games (50 m) or short course pools such as those used in the FINA World Swimming Championships (25 yards or 25 m but generally 25m). Competition pools have starting blocks from which the competitor can dive in, and possibly also touch-sensitive pads to electronically record the swimming time of each competitor.


Para-swimming is Swimming Canada’s fully integrated swimming program for persons with a disability from grassroots to elite.

Para-swimming combines a broad range of disabilities into three categories
Functional disabilities
Amputees/Dysmelia; cerebral palsy/head injury; spinal cord injury/polio; dwarfism
Others (Major joint restrictions, coordination restriction, limb paralysis/weakness)

Visual disabilities            
Blind; visually impaired

Intellectual Disabilities  

Para-swimming grew out of several different movements in the 1940’s and 1950’s. During this time, four international sports bodies, divided by means of medical disability eventually combined to form the modern day Paralympic movement. Swimming Canada became the first integrated National Sports Organization in 1993.

Today, a “sport-first” approach is being taken and international groups have moved towards representing specific sports, with consideration of a person’s disability as a secondary factor. The world sport governing body for persons with a disability, including swimming, is the International Paralympic Committee and it operates with sport specific committees that oversee the development of sport for the disability groups.



There are several types of officials, which are needed to manage the competition.


The referee has full control and authority over all officials. The referee will enforce all rules and decisions of FINA and shall decide all questions relating to the actual conduct of the meet, and event or the competition, the final settlement of which is not otherwise covered by the rules. The referee takes overall responsibility for running the race and makes the final decisions as to who wins the competition. Referees call swimmers to the blocks with short blasts of his or her whistle. This is the signal for the swimmers to stand next to their blocks. Starters call missing swimmers if necessary. Then the referee will blow a long whistle that will tell the swimmers to step on the block. For backstroke otherwise known as back crawl events, the long whistle is the signal for the swimmers to step in the water. The referee will then blow another long whistle, signaling the swimmers to grab the gutter or the provided block handle (for backstroke/back crawl events only). The referee will then hand over control to the starter.


The starter has full control of the swimmers from the time the referee turns the swimmers over to him/her until the race commences. A starter sends the swimmers off the blocks and may call a false start if a swimmer leaves the block before the starter sends them.

Clerk of Course:

The clerk of course assembles swimmers prior to each event, and is responsible for organizing (“seeding”) swimmers into heats based on their times. Heats are generally seeded from slowest to fastest, where swimmers with no previous time for an event are assumed to be the slowest.


There are three timekeepers for each lane. Each timekeeper takes the time of the swimmers in the lane assigned to him/her. Unless a video backup system is used, it may be necessary to use the full complement of timekeepers even when automatic officiating equipment is used. A chief timekeeper assigns the seating positions for all timekeepers and the lanes for which they are responsible. The chief timekeeper collects from the timekeepers in each lane a card showing the times recorded and, if necessary, inspect their watches. One timer will be timing with a stopwatch, another recording it down, and one making sure everything is valid.

Inspectors of Turns:

One inspector of turns is assigned to each lane at each end of the pool. Each inspector of turns ensures that swimmers comply with the relevant rules for turning as well as the relevant rules for start and finish of the race. Inspectors of turns shall report any violation on disqualification reports detailing the event, lane number, and the infringement delivered to the chief inspector of turns who will immediately convey the report to the referee.

Judges of Stroke:

Judges of stroke are located on each side of the pool. They ensure that the rules related to the style of swimming designated for the event are being observed, and observe the turns and the finishes to assist the inspectors of turns.

Finish Judges:

Finish judges determine the order of finish and make sure the swimmers finish in accordance with the rules (two hands simultaneously for breaststroke and butterfly, on the back for backstroke, etc.)