When we researched the history of breaststroke it took us back to the stone age when people were performing a frog like action with their legs when trying to move through the water. We have decided to talk about the history from when it became a stand alone competitive stroke at the Olympics. The first time this happened was at the St. Louis Olympics back in 1904. It was competed over 440 yards.
A study done by David Armbruster in 1928 found that bringing the arms forward under the water actually slowed the swimmer down considerably. A new technique was developed where the hands and arms came back to their starting position over the water.
Another technique development found that a dolphin kick with the arms recovering out of the water would actually be faster. The leg action broke the rules so it turned into the butterfly stroke. Breaststroke kick and butterfly arms was used by most competitors by the 1930’s. It wasn’t until 1952 that the two strokes, butterfly and breaststroke were completely separated with their own set of rules.
In the 1950’s swimmers began to swim breaststroke underwater. At the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, Masaru Furukawa from Japan won the Gold Medal by swimming all but 5 meters underwater for the first 3 laps and half the last lap underwater. This lead to many other swimmers taking on the tactic but as more and more passed out FINA changed the rules limiting how far underwater a swimmer could swim.
In the 1960’s FINA changed the rules again to ensure that the arms could not go past the hips except for the first stroke immediately after a start or turn. In the 1990’s swimmers began to launch their hands over the water again in the recovery period which was allowed as long as the elbows did not break the surface of the water.
More recently in the mid 2000’s it was found in underwater footage that some swimmers, including the then World Record Holder, Kosuke Kitajima were performing a dolphin kick off the start and turn. Because these kicks could not be seen from the surface of the water, FINA changed the rules that 1 dolphin kick is allowed from each start and turn.
FINA – www.fina.org