Summer Olympic Games 1996 – 2012
South Africa is far ahead of the rest of the continent in swimming for complex economic and historical reasons. In most of Africa, there are few public swimming pools and little culture of swimming as a leisure form. By contrast, Chad le Clos was introduced to the sport in a private pool at home, as was Kirsty Coventry, from neighbouring Zimbabwe.
Private swimming pools are also common in Australia but its success goes back to the beginning of the twentieth century, and was carved from rocks of its ocean tidal pools.
It is a different story for landlocked Hungary, where pools are a feature of its prevalent thermal baths. Some even argue that the low cost heating gave it an early advantage in swimming and water polo. Alfred Hajos won the first Olympic swimming gold in 1896.
Japan dominated in the 1930s, shocking the United States by collecting more medals at its home Games in Los Angeles in 1932. It has a particularly good record in breaststroke.
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Next: Nose clips at the ready – for the leading countries in synchronised swimmming