Where, and when, were the first FINA World Swimming Championships held?

By way of clarification, the global governing body for water sports, including swimming, was founded as the Federation Internationale de Natation Amateur (FINA) in July, 1908, but officially renamed World Aquatics in January, 2023. Furthermore, it is important to make the distinction between the World Aquatics Championships, formerly the FINA World Championships, and what was known, until December, 2022, as the FINA World Swimming Championships (25m).

Both competitions are open to all member federations, but the former features all six aquatic sports overseen by World Aquatics, namely swimming, artistic swimming, open water swimming, diving, high diving and water polo, while the latter is exclusively a swimming championship. At the World Aquatics Championships, swimming events are contested in a long course, 50-metre pool and, at the World Swimming Championships (25m), as the name suggests, in a short course, 25-metre pool;

for this reason, the latter championship is known, colloquially, as the ‘Short Course Worlds’.

The World Aquatics Championships is, by some way, the older of the pair, having first been hosted by the Tašmajdan Sports and Recreation Centre in Belgrade – which is now in Serbia, but was, at the time, in Yugoslavia – between August 31 and September 9, 1973. In terms of scheduling, between 2001 and 2019, the World Aquatics Championships were staged biennially, but the Covid-19 pandemic threw future plans into disarray. The 2021 event, originally scheduled for Fukuoka, Japan, took place in Budapest, Hungary in 2022 instead, with future events planned for Fukuoka in 2023, Doha, Qatar in 2024, Kallang, Singapore in 2025 and Budapest again in 2027.

The first edition of World Swimming Championships (25m) took place in in Palma de Mallorca, Spain between December 2 and December 5, 1993. Like the World Aquatics Championships, the event is staged biennially, in the intervening years, albeit that the 2020 championships, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, were delayed by a year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

How many gold medals did Jessica Long win on her Paralympic debut?

Born Tatiana Olegovna Kirillova in Bratsk, Russia on February 29, 1992, Jessica Long was adopted by an American couple, Beth and Steven Long, as an infant and grew up in Baltimore, Maryland. She suffered from a severe congenital abnormality known as fibular hemimelia, which meant that she was born without calf, ankle or heel bones, leading to the amputation of both legs, below the knee, when she was 18 months old.

However, in her autobiography, ‘Unsinkable’, published in 2018, Long wrote, ‘I had the freedom to be alone with myself, completely unlimited by my circumstances or my body while doing what I loved. I think that’s why I took to swimming with such ease.’ She joined her first competitive swimming team in 2002 and, the following year, was named ‘Female Swimmer of the Year with a Disability’ by her local governing body, Maryland Swimming.

In September, 2004, Long burst onto the international stage at the XII Paralympic Games in Athens, Greece. Still only 12 years old, she was the youngest member of the US Paralympic team, but nonetheless won three gold medals. On September 20, in the women’s 100-metre freestyle event S8, she was the fastest of the eight qualifiers for the final and confirmed her superiority by winning the gold medal in a new paralympic record time of 1:09.67. Four days later, in the women’s 400-metre freestyle event S8, she repeated the dose, winning the gold medal in a new paralympic record time of 5:07.88. In between times, on September 22, alongside team-mates Ashley Owens, Erin Popovich and Kelly Crowley, Long also won a gold medal in the women’s 4 x 100-metre 34-point freestyle relay.

How many British men have won Olympic gold medals in the 200-metre breaststroke event?

The breaststroke event, at the time contested exclusively by men, over 440 yards, or approximately 400 metres, made its Olympic debut at the Games of the III Olympiad in St. Louis in 1904. The event was shortened to 200 metres at the Games of the IV Olympiad in London in 1908 – which was the first time that Olympic swimming events took place in a purpose-built swimming pool, as opposed to open water – and has been contested at every Olympic Games since.

The inaugural event, swum in a 100-metre pool dug into the infield of the newly-opened White City Stadium, London in July, 1908, was won by Englishman Frederick Holman, who beat Scotsman William Robertson and Swede Pontus Hanson in the final. In that final, Hanson held a definite lead after 50 metres, but was joined at halfway by Robinson who, in turn, was overhauled by Holman on the final lap. Holman drew away in the closing stages to win by two yards and, in so doing, set the first officially recognised long course world record for the men’s 200-metre breaststroke, 3:09.2.

Since 1908, the only other British man to have won an Olympic gold medal in the 200-metre breaststroke event was Scotsman David Wilkie, who did so at the Games of the XXI Olympiad in Montreal on July 24, 1976. Silver medallist, behind American John Hencken, at the Munich Olympics four years earlier, Wilkie set a new Olympic record of 2:18.29 in his heat and, in the final, reversed the previous placings with his old rival, winning the gold medal in a new long course record time of 2:15.11. Wilkie was, in fact, the only swimmer from outside the United States to win one of the 13 gold medals available in Montreal.

Who was the oldest Olympic swimmer to win a medal?

The oldest Olympic swimmer to win a medal was American Dara Torres, who was 41 years, 4 months and 2 days old when, alongside teammates Natalie Coughlin, Rebecca Soni and Christine Magnuson, she won a silver medal in the women’s 4 x 100-metre medley relay at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China. Representing the United States at her fifth Olympics, making her the first swimmer to do so, Torres also won silver medals in the 50-metre freestyle and 4 x 100-metre freestyle relay events, thereby her tally of Olympic medals to twelve. Alongside compatriot Jennifer Thompson she is, jointly, the most successful female Olympic swimmer in history.

Born in Beverly Hills, California on April 15, 1967, Torres was, in fact, already the oldest female Olympic swimmer to win a medal. On September 23, 2000, at the age of 33 years, 5 months and 8 days, she swam the anchor leg in the final of the women’s 4 x 100-metre medley relay at the Sydney Olympics; alongside teammates Barbara Bedford, Megan Quann and Jennifer Thompson, she not only won the gold medal, but also set a new world record time of 3:58.30. However, her three medals in Beijing made her the oldest Olympic swimmer, male or female, to win a medal.

The previous record was held by William Robinson, who was born in Airdrie in North Lanarkshire, Scotland on June 23, 1870 and was 38 years and 25 days old when he represented Great Britain at the 1908 Summer Olympics in London. Robinson won the silver medal in the inaugural men’s 200-metre breakstroke event at White City Stadium, thereby setting a record that would stand for a century.

Which is the most played sport in the world?

According to audience research company GWI (formerly GlobalWebIndex), the most popular participatory sport in the world is swimming, although the percentage of Internet users taking part varies significantly from region to region across the globe. In North America, where 32% of those questioned said they swam regularly, and in Europe, where 26% of respondents did likewise, heads the list of most played sports. In the Asia Pacific region, Latin America and the Middle East and Africa, where 39%, 20% and 32% of subjects, respectively, said that they were frequent swimmers, swimming ranked second, behind badminton in the case of Asia Pacific and behind association football, or soccer, in the other two regions.

However, it should not be forgotten that the Asia Pacific region includes the two most populous countries in the world, China and India, and is home to 4.3 billion people, or 60% of the global population. The vast populace of the region accounts not only for the dominance of swimming worldwide, but also for the fact that badminton – which does not feature in the top five participatory sports in any other region, but is routinely played by 44% of surveyees in Asia Pacific – ranks second on the global list.

Beyond the top two places, association football, or soccer, which is unquestionably the most popular spectator sport in the world, is only the third most played. Participation figures of 37% in Latin America and 41% in the Middle East and Africa are tempered by much lower figures in Asia Pacific (27%), Europe (21%) and, particularly, North America (13%), where the ‘beautiful game’ is less popular than not only swimming, but also exercise classes, basketball and cycling.