Swimming is a hugely physical and demanding sport, with athletes competing over distances from 50m to 1,500m in the pool. Swimmers need huge strength and stamina to power themselves through the water, as well as perfectly honed technique.

Olympic swimming encompasses the four major strokes of freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly and the sport featured in the first edition of the modern Olympic Games at Athens 1896.

Despite the early adoption of the sport, Olympic swimming didn’t move indoors to a pool until London in 1908 where events were held in a 100m pool, twice the length of the current day venues.

At the turn of the 20th century, Annette Kellerman, an Australian swimmer, toured the United States performing water acrobatics. Her shows proved very popular and a sport was born.

The sport was developed further by Katherine Curtis, who had the idea of combining water acrobatics with music. Her students performed at the 1933-34 Chicago "Century of Progress" Fair, where the announcer, former Olympic swimming gold medallist Norman Ross, coined the term "synchronised swimming".

Synchronised swimming was later popularised by American film star Esther Williams, who performed water ballet in several American movies. The competitive aspect was developed around the same time when Frank Havlicek, a student of Katherine Curtis, drew up a set of rules.

A relatively recent discipline, synchronised swimming became an Olympic sport for the first time in Los Angeles in 1984, with solo and duet events. These events also took place at the Olympic Games in 1988 in Seoul and in 1992 in Barcelona. Atlanta replaced them in 1996 by a water ballet for eight people. Since the 2000 Olympic Games, the Olympic programme has included the team event and the duet. 
Alongside rhythmic gymnastics, synchronised swimming is the only exclusively female Olympic sport.

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