The backstroke is one of the four swimming styles approved by the international swimming federation (FINA). It is the only swimming stroke where the swimmers begin in the water and has been an event in the Olympics since 1990 in Paris. Some of the most famous backstroke swimmers are as follows.
David Thielie was born in Queensland and was an Australian backstroke swimmer of the 1950’s and 1960’s. In 1956 he was chosen to represent the country in the Melbourne Olympic games. In 1956 the only race was the 100m backstroke in which there were 25 competitors. Theilie won the race, setting a new world and Olympic record. He then when on to win the 1960 Australian championships before deciding to defend his title in the Olympics, which he did winning a consecutive gold medal.
Roland Matthes was considered in the 1960’s to be one of the best backstroke swimmers of all time. He won a total of eight medals for East Germany in the Olympic games. During his career, Matthes was undefeated in international competitions from 1967 to 1974; he set 21 world records and won three world and four European titles. Matthes was named East German sportsman of the year seven times. He was inducted into the International Swimming hall of fame in 1981.
Peirsol was born in California and is widely considered as one of the greatest backstroke swimmers in history. He has participated in three Olympics winning a total of seven gold medals, and he also holds the world records for the 100m and 200m men’s backstroke. In 2009 at the US National swimming championships, Peirsol further lowered the world record for the 100m backstroke with a time of 51.94 making him the first ever man under 52 seconds.
Krisztina Egerszegi is a former world record holder in backstroke and one of the greatest Hungarian Olympic champions of modern times. At her first Olympics in 1988 she became the youngest ever female Olympic champion in swimming when she won the 200m backstroke at the age of 14 years and 41 days. She held the world record for the 200m backstroke for 17 years from August 1991 to February 2008 with a time of 2:06.62. She is also one of just two swimmers to ever win the gold in the same swimming event in three consecutive Olympic games.
Natalie Coughlin is an American swimmer who has represented her country in both the 2004 and 2008 Olympic games. In 2008 she became the first woman to win two consecutive 100m backstroke gold medals in the Olympics and she also became the first female American athlete in the modern games to win six medals. She has since been elected joint captain of the US women’s swimming team.
Kirsty Coventry is from Zimbabwe and a world record holder in backstroke. In 2000, whilst still a high school student, Coventry was the first Zimbabwean swimmer to reach the semi-finals of the Olympics. In the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece, she won a gold medal in the 200m backstroke and a silver in the 100m backstroke. She continued to bring in the medals in the World Championships and the All Africa Games in the following years and then went on to win four more medals in 2008 at the Beijing Olympics including another gold for the 200m backstroke which led to the head of the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee describing her as “our national treasure”. In 2009 Coventry broke the 200m backstroke world record with a time of 2:04.81.