Series exploring the history of the Olympics through the stories of athletes, here looking at the evolution of swimming and the development of its four different strokes.
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The Beijing Olympics, 10th of August 2008.
-It is the great Michael Phelps.
He goes in four, Phelps in four.
American Michael Phelps attempt to win his first eight gold medals
in the 400 metres individual medley.
A test of the complete swimmer.
-And talk about in the zone. Look at this, Adrian,
he is absolutely focused on what his job is.
All four strokes in one event.
Yet when the modern Olympics began,
none of the strokes existed as we know them today.
This race is the culmination of 100 years of history.
Expect him to be comfortable but fast down this first hundred.
The first leg for Phelps is the butterfly, the newest stroke.
Invented when breaststroke was pushed to its limits.
The ideal motion in butterfly is just being very streamlined,
very, very fluent.
It is hard!
It requires so much energy.
Leg two is the backstroke...
-Half a second under his world record pace. A very quick...
..which hasn't always looked so elegant.
Early backstroke was a double arm over the water backstroke.
The third legs are breast stroke...
-Phelps is leading,
Ryan Lochte, USA, is second. Let's see what's going to happen.
..the slowest stroke - perfected by the British to go faster.
When people say, "Oh, breaststroke is a namby-pamby stroke,"
it probably does look namby-pamby
but it's technically the hardest one to get right.
The final leg is the freestyle...
-Michael Phelps starting to stroke away from the field...
..tuned to perfection by the best swimmers on earth.
Pushed faster by their coaches and new technology.
'We discovered that I had a lung capacity'
over 40 or 50% larger than most people my size.
-He's trying to set Olympic history,
he's trying to set swimming history!
In 2008 Phelps swam all four strokes to perfection
and slashed the Olympic record by a massive five seconds.
This is the story of how swimmers strove to go faster
and changed their sport on stroke at a time.
The search for new ways to swim fast
started in a country with a small population but a big coastline -
80 or 90% of our population live within about 10 or 11k of the ocean
so you'd better swim otherwise you might, you're going to drown!
It's here that the story begins, in Sydney's rock pools,
built in the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean.
They are nestled into the coves, on the beaches,
where the rocks create a natural safe swimming formation,
where aboriginal indigenous people swam.
Settlers found these pools, they extended them, created walls.
In these early pools Australians would compete,
swimming the breaststroke or sidestroke and not terribly fast.
In 1898, in Sydney's Bronte Baths, something happened
that changed the whole course of competitive swimming.
A young Solomon Islander called Alec Wickham entered a race
and swam like no-one had swum before.
The defining features of Wickham's stroke
was that he actually look like he crawled over the water.
He used his arms in an action that we're familiar with today
in freestyle swimming.
This stroke was brand-new.
Arms whirling and feet thrashing,
it was forged in the powerful seas of the South Pacific.
It started winning him races in Australia...
was quickly copied and named the Australian crawl.
The real innovation of the Australian crawl
was that it streamlined the body's actions -
minimised the whole resistance of the body
and pushed all the propulsion forward,
in the direction that you want to go.
Alec Wickham proved to many people that as much as a stroke looked crazy
and was extremely demanding, it was exceptionally fast.
Soon everyone was doing it.
In 1912 two young women from Sydney, Fanny Durack and Mina Wylie,
made the 11,000 mile journey to Stockholm
to compete in the Olympics Games.
The pool was 100 metres long
and constructed in a waterway open to the sea.
The water was a chilly 15 degrees.
Here freestyle meant any stoke you liked.
Some used the breaststroke, or sidestroke...
..but in the 100 metres freestyle sprint
Fanny Durack proved there was only one stroke worth using...
..the Australian crawl.
Well, the 1912 games in Stockholm were an eye-opener for Fanny Durack.
It was dirty, it was mucky, there were no lines,
there was no lane ropes, there was no way to guide yourself where you swam.
So, it was really guessing where your arms were
and Fanny Durack found it difficult.
Towards the finish she hit the side wall
before she actually completed the race.
With her revolutionary stroke,
Durack swam 100 metres faster than any woman had done before.
In one minutes 22 seconds. Wylie took silver.
But someone else was making bigger waves in Stockholm
with his own version of the front crawl.
Like Alec Wickham,
this man brought his stroke from the islands of the South Pacific
but he swam for America.
Duke Kahanamoku was a surfing pinup from Hawaii with hands like shovels.
Nobody had seen anything like him.
He has a beautiful stroke,
a stroke that was forged in the waters and in the waves.
Everything is efficient about it.
Not only that, he came with an incredible amount of graciousness
and a smile every time he gets out of the water.
This was a wonderful spirit inside the sport
and the bottom line is you also couldn't beat him!
When the Duke won gold in 1912 he became an instant star.
His success propelling him to Hollywood,
where he rubbed shoulders with legends like Charlie Chaplin.
For the first time you could swim your way to celebrity.
Hey, wait a minute, till I cut you a coupon!
-I no ask for that, beautiful missy. A favour!
-Thank you, Corporal!
He may have been a swimming superstar
but this was a dark-skinned man from another world.
Hey, there! You! Come here!
When a black baboon like you carries bags for a white lady...
America, at the time, wasn't ready for him.
The Duke may have smashed world records
but some barriers could not be broken.
For Middle America, he would quickly be supplanted
by another swimming Olympian from closer to home
and this one would get the girl.
Johnny Weissmuller found fame as Tarzan
and that only after winning five Olympic gold medals.
he's from Western Pennsylvania, the coalmining towns,
and he epitomises what everybody is looking for in America at the time.
In 1924 the Olympics were held in Paris.
20-year-old Johnny Weissmuller came up against the reigning champion,
the veteran Duke Kahanamoku, in the 100 metres freestyle final.
The freestyle was now synonymous with front crawl
but Weissmuller was one of the generation of sprinters
who improved it.
Rather than the arms, now the feet were the engine.
'The legs are really, really important.'
If you don't keep the body in the right position by a using your legs
then you're dragging it through the water, which just will not work.
Weissmuller's kick was so powerful
his head and body rose out of the water.
So, in Paris, the two were neck and neck at 50 metres...
but Weissmuller had the technique to power ahead of the Duke
to win gold.
He was the first Olympian to swim 100 metres under the magic minute.
'This roaring, amazing success'
who sets over 60 world records in his career,
who wins five Olympic gold medals,
who is undefeated for years and years,
and when he retires, retires as a champion.
In ten years of competitive swimming Weissmuller never lost.
His example spawned a succession of American sprinters
who drilled down the 100 metres record throughout the '30s.
Swimmers from Australia could only look on
as the Aussie crawl was improved by their chief rivals.
Australia were a very long way behind the Americans.
In fact, much of the rest of the world.
We'd done so badly in the 1930s that we had to do something about it.
Australia finally had the chance to take the initiative in 1956
when the Olympics came to Melbourne.
In front of a home crowd
and visiting swimming legend Duke Kahanamoku,
Australia started reclaiming the freestyle for themselves.
-His long, powerful strokes sent him to a magnificent win.
Murray Rose in the 400 and 1,500 metres events
and Jon Henricks in the 100 metre sprint both won gold.
But it was in the women's competition
that Australia would unleash a true swimming phenomenon.
-The two Australian girls are in front
and Fraser, in lane four, is slightly ahead.
19-year-old Dawn Fraser was something quite new.
She swam like a man and she had the upper body strength of a man.
And she was tall, good solid frame, good-looking young lady.
In the 100 metres final Fraser faced fellow Australian Lorraine Crapp.
-Crapp in five, Fraser in four
as they turn together, over they go...
'It was the best race I've ever swum in my life.'
Yeah, I saw Lorraine Crapp on my side and I thought,
"Well, lady, I know I can beat you over the last 25 metres,"
and I just put in my extra sprint at the end.
-Fraser and Crapp, Fraser and Crapp!
And it's to the line... And it'll be Fraser first!
Lorraine Crapp was second, Faith Leech third.
Australia one, two and three.
'We were all teammates
'and it was good to have all teammates up there,
'one, two and three.'
Fraser was Aussie through and through.
She had a winner's mentality, was determined
and contemptuous of authority.
What Australians call a larrikin.
I guess I am a larrikin!
Erm, I enjoy life, speaking out my mind.
I'm not afraid to say that I don't like something.
I don't do anything that I don't want to do.
After all, the swimming pool was my office
and I'd like to be the boss in my office.
You're in my environment.
If you want to get that environment from me you have to beat me.
-Fraser first, Crapp second,
oh, the blanket finish for third!
Fraser didn't just win gold, she broke the world record.
Her time was 20 seconds faster than Fanny Durack's over 40 years before.
There was a key difference, however.
Olympic pools had halved in length to 50 metres.
Now swimmers had the advantage of a push off at the turn.
'Races are won or lost by a good turn or a bad turn.'
If you can make up one 100th of a second
that is sometimes the difference between winning and losing.
Fraser used an American invention from the '30s...
the tumble turn.
The way you want to tumble turn and push off the wall
is in a good squat position.
Your legs don't want to be straight cos you can't push off
and you don't want to be crunched up against the wall
cos you get no power.
But the new turn wasn't the only difference.
40 years of improvement had seen freestyle evolve into a technique
some saw as near-perfect.
'Dawn Fraser had a wonderful technique.'
She swam the pinnacle of good freestyle swimming.
Her swimming was the model for the rest of the world.
Unlike earlier freestylers,
Fraser kept her face down and breathed out underwater.
'So we tend to breath in what's called the bow wave.
So, we create a bow wave with our heads,'
so the water is here, so we're cutting through the water as best we can.
Then on freestyle, for example, we'll turn our head
and just, very slightly, breathe into the bow wave.
Try and keep as streamlined as possible and not to break the stroke.
Fraser's stroke was controlled, delicate, it in tune with the water.
She had what swimmers call feel.
'You get a feel for athletes and when you see a beginner'
and they're doing this, no feel, right?
Where somebody else can just jump in and feel the water.
And Dawn had superior feel.
'I fell in love with the water'
and I had a very good feeling of the water within my fingertips.
I think it's just the natural environment I was brought up in.
'There's something in the water'
that is very satisfying in getting it right.
In the way that you move, in an effortless way,
where the water feels like it's moving you.
In some of the longer things I do I get into a state that,
you know, is very close to meditating.
It's a lovely feeling to have your fingertips touching the water
and pulling your body through that water.
Fraser's natural talent
wasn't the only thing that brought home the gold in Melbourne.
Something much bigger was going on.
-These two Australians are well ahead , there's no doubt.
Across-the-board Australia won eight out of 13 gold medals.
-And again a win for Australia...
This was unprecedented.
The change in Australian fortunes hadn't been left to chance.
It was orchestrated by a team of coaches
who brought all the Olympic hopefuls together in one place.
They were led by Forbes Carlile.
'They had ideas about us training in Brisbane but it was too cold'
so we said, "No, we don't want to train in Brisbane,
"we want to go north."
So we went up to Townsville, almost in the tropics.
There we had an idyllic time.
But there was no lounging by this pool.
In the run up to Melbourne this was boot camp.
# You shake my nerves and you rattle my brain
# Too much love drives a man insane
# You broke my will
# But what a thrill
# Goodness gracious great balls of fire! #
'They realised that the previous coaches and trainers'
They didn't grasp the concept.
For an athlete to improve their performance
they needed to work harder.
Much harder than they can ever conceived.
Puts their body on the line.
Train to ways which were previously considered
unhealthy and unacceptable.
The first rule at Townsville was mileage,
so swimmers could gain strength through endurance.
My mileage was up to eight miles a day,
which was a lot of miles in those days.
We were doing it for six and a half days a week.
I used to do a lot of pulleys. I used to do 1,000 pulleys a day.
That's what made me very strong underneath the water.
Coach Carlile was an enthusiastic experimenter
in the new discipline of sports science.
'We used heart rates,'
we use innovations like the training clock, the pace clock in the pool.
The pace clock is now common in pools around the world
but then it was new.
It allowed athletes to do what was called interval training.
Drills at less than maximum exertion with inbuilt rest periods.
It meant they could train harder for longer.
'He might take blood, he might measure their hearts,
'he might put them in hot water baths
'to see if he can warm them up before their races.'
He was innovative, he was experimental...
and he was prepared to try just about anything.
Now, make yourself comfortable and relax from the tip of your toes...
Carlile was a pioneer in sports psychology.
..and as you slip into a deeper and deeper sleep...
One guy, you know, couldn't sleep very well at night-time -
Forbes would go like that, he'd go straight to sleep.
You'll find your training becoming easier and easier...
One of our swimmers relaxed before a race
with a bit of self-hypnosis
and they couldn't wake him up.
So they had to call me to wake him up!
Now, I'll count to three and when I get the three you'll be awake.
Well, how do you feel?
'I guess the swimming people were a little bit sceptical'
about our scientific methods, er...but we, sort of, battled on.
Nothing escaped Carlile's attention.
Down to the finest detail.
What about the hair on people's bodies?
Would it be a good idea to shave that off?
And he wasn't joking.
'Jon Henricks was probably the first.'
The Americans had woolly hair all over their chests
and if you looked underwater you'd see bubbles catching on them -
The Americans thought it was a gimmick.
It wasn't long before the rest of the world took it up!
In 1956, Australia didn't just dominate the freestyle races,
this was a nation particularly good at doing things upside down.
'You could say there's something slightly incongruous about swimming backwards, isn't there?'
I recall it being written up in the newspapers as...
The Ugly Duckling stroke!
David Theile won gold in the 100 metre backstroke in Melbourne
but his technique was very different
to when the stroke was first introduced in the 1900 Olympics.
Early backstroke with a double arm over the water backstroke
but David Theile, by 1956, had much improved on that.
By Theile's time the ultimate overarm stroke
had become the fastest way to go backwards...
..but swimmers had found a way to make it even faster.
Instead of putting straight back under the water,
the arm moved in an arc.
As the arm comes down towards level with your shoulder the elbow bends
and then the last bit of the stroke is a push down to your side.
Probably the most propelling piece of your stroke is that last bit.
Using this technique,
the arm creates more power underwater for longer.
Theile was a world record holder
but he wasn't doing everything right by today's standards.
I believed that the bit of the arc between 12 o'clock and 11 o'clock
was not very productive at propelling you forward,
so I put my arm in at 11 and one.
I thought that was important
but subsequent top-line backstrokers have shown me that that isn't so.
They all put their hand right against their ear.
Yet, in Melbourne and Rome, four years later
Theile's backstroke won him Olympic gold.
His success was testament to Australia's coaching revolution,
which shaped the generation of world-beating swimmers.
But one would outlast them all.
Dawn Fraser broke her own world record seven times
and won three consecutive Olympic golds.
She cemented her legend as the century's greatest female freestyler
when she became the first woman to break the minute barrier
for the 100 metres.
1956 was memorable for more than Australia's dominance.
A brand-new stroke was raced for the very first time.
This was the butterfly.
It emerged four years previously
in a strange race at the Helsinki Games.
This was the 200 metres breaststroke final...
but the eventual winner was using an unusual overrun technique.
It was fast but it wasn't breaststroke.
After this race, to save the old stroke from oblivion,
swimming's governing body ordered that the arms
must remain underwater.
But the novel stroke was so beguiling
it was allowed to form the basis for a brand-new Olympic medal category...
This petulant, upstart of a stroke
would push swimmers' bodies to new limits.
'The ideal motion in butterfly is just being very streamlined,
'very, very fluent.'
I mean, you want to create a space
that you can ease your arms into the stroke,
pull, pull, push and recover.
And you have to have your breathing down absolutely.
Timing is everything
cos you are lifting this part of your body up out of the water.
It is about timing and the big secret is the two leg kick.
You have to get your two leg kicks
and they have to be a little one and a big one.
And it's the big one that will push you out of the water.
I never, in all of my life,
ever, ever, ever came out of a butterfly race, 100 metres,
feeling like, "Ah, could have gone..."
I always came out, "Phew, God, I'm so glad that's over!"
It is hard! It requires so much energy.
And once your stroke falls apart,
and you can see it in the greatest athletes in the world,
the greatest Olympic events in the world, and you go, "Oh, gosh!"
You go from his beautiful, powerful streamlined, energy-efficient stroke
to, er-er-er, and believe me, you're not going anywhere there.
You might as well put pianos and monkeys and everything else on your back when swimming fly
because you feel like you're at the bottom of the pool.
It can happen to anyone,
as American Olympic favourite Carolyn Wood found out
in Rome, in 1960.
It took a special kind of swimmer to perfect this unnatural stroke.
In 1968 an 18-year-old Californian was busy doing just that.
His name was Mark Spitz.
This hot young talent already held world records in butterfly and freestyle
and would go on to become an Olympic great.
-The final of the men's 100 metres butterfly...
But in 1968, at the Mexico Games, he set himself ambitious task.
..it's Spitz, although it's Russell who's in the hotspot...
With the number of men's events having grown to 15,
Spitz made it his mission to win multiple golds.
..Spitz, and Mark Spitz, already with a gold in his pocket...
'I figured I was going to get a couple of gold medals in the relay,
and I was maybe going to win the 100 and 200 metres butterfly.
I was figuring, "I'll get five gold medals in a worst case scenario."
-With 30 yards to go, he's going to get it...
His first race was 100 metres butterfly.
..no, it's Russell on the side, it's Doug Russell on the side,
he's going to, I think, take Spitz - and he is, by a yard.
Russell, of the United States, wins the gold.
Second is Spitz, third is Wales.
And there is the greatest upset so far of the Olympic Games.
You know, I should be proud because one, I got a silver medal
but why would I want to feel proud because I was the world record holder
and I, I mean, I just failed to give my best.
And I was so disappointed in myself.
That silver medal in the 100 metre butterfly really haunted we.
Spitz had chance to redeem himself in the 200 metres event.
The race that I hate the most, the 200 fly,
there was no way to swim that easy.
For Spitz, in the middle lane, things went from bad to worse.
I just had all of the air let out of my sails, you know?
I was just flopping in the wind, basically.
The world record holder touched the wall in last place.
I was down and out and feel terrible about myself, you know.
I was just totally discouraged, to be honest with you.
Spitz was so disappointed he almost gave up swimming for goods
to pursue another career as a dentist.
He applied for a scholarship to Indiana University
but it wasn't for the quality of its dental school.
Halfway slow sprint in. Take your mark.
Indiana had the best swim team in the country.
OK, start your warm up!
It's not an exaggeration to call Indiana University,
in the 1960s and '70s, a franchise in world swimming.
Indiana University was unstoppable.
Indiana University became a magnet thanks to one man,
Doc James Counsilman.
He was the first coach to go out and get a PhD
specifically to learn how to make swimmers faster.
First 25, we'll go halfway...
At Indiana Spitz could refine his technique
by learning from the most innovative coach of his generation.
He said, "Let's examine the greatest swimmers that there are in the world
"and let me see if there is something that's unique about these people
"of why they swim so fast."
Counsilman was obsessed with the science of hydrodynamics -
the study of how water moves.
He took his camera under water
to find out once and for all, what on earth was going on.
He strapped some little lights on to our fingers,
in the diving well, got in scuba tank,
got on the bottom of the pool, turned the lights out
and he filmed us swimming across.
And all you could see in the film was the motion of our hand,
you couldn't see anything else except the lights
and he traced the hand motion from below as we swam over them.
What Counsilman found puzzled him,
his fastest freestylers weren't moving their arms straight back,
as he would expect, they were doing an "S" shape.
'If you look at every stroke we do, it's always arches, in everything.'
In butterfly you go in here and you're going to go round, come out, and back in again.
Freestyle, it's pretty much the same but with one arm.
Counsilman put forward the idea that the hands were working less like paddles
and more like aerofoils.
The movement of the hand was like wing on it's side,
pulling the body forward.
'What you're doing is you're trying to find fresh water
'to constantly move behind you'
but if you constantly find fresh water to move
then that's going to make you move further forward.
The S-bend arm movement
is the most efficient and powerful means of moving through water,
not just in freestyle but in all strokes.
Mark Spitz was a natural at it in butterfly.
While I went through the process of him examining all this technique underwater
we discovered that I had a lung capacity...
over 40 or 50% larger than most people of my size
and maybe I was a techno wizard, you know, at what I did
but if he told me to change anything on my stroke
I just don't think I would have been capable of doing that.
Mark Spitz and Doc Counsilman were a dream team.
For over four years, Spitz bettered his 200 metre butterfly time
by almost six seconds...
..but he was yet to prove himself on the international stage.
The Munich Olympics, 1972...
Mark Spitz was a new man with a new look...
..but surely no dignified swimmer would sport something so unstreamlined?
One Russian journalist had the nerve to ask, "Why?"
The next question was,
"Well, what about the moustache? You're going to shave it off?"
I don't know why I said this, I said, "No, it doesn't slow me down,"
I said. "It deflects the water away from my mouth
"and allows my head to get a lot lower and more streamlined,
"and my behind actually up.
"And so that's why I was able to break the world record
"at the Olympic trials in Chicago three weeks before."
The guy looked at me and hesitated,
and he translated it as fast as he could, into Russian.
All male Russian swimmers the next year had a moustache
and I decided on the spot, "I'm not shaving it off."
Spitz had a bold aim to match his new look - to win seven gold medals
but he overreached himself in Mexico,
could he handle the pressure of Olympic competition this time?
'During the time you're practising and training
'it's 80% physical and 20% mental'
but, for some reason, when it comes time when the gun goes off
then it's just the opposite...
..it's 80% mental and only 20% physical.
Over eight days Spitz would compete in 14 races - an immense challenge.
And time, by the way, was totally irrelevant to any of these swims,
it was strictly just to swim, pace myself,
don't expend a lot more energy than is necessary
and swim to get the gold medal.
-Spitz is really going for it!
156, 57, 58, 59, 60-2 -
it's a new world record! Mark Spitz first, second is Hall...
This time everything went according to plan.
That race was the beginning.
-Mark Spitz is now coming out. The world record is 54.6,
what's the time on the bottom right-hand side of the screen?
Everything else sort of fit into place, wasn't that difficult.
-It almost looks effortless but it doesn't look as though he's worried too much
but that man is moving terrifically through the water.
Matter of fact, it was relatively easy...
-Mark Spitz is going to win his third gold medal!
In the 100 and 200 butterfly, the 200 freestyle and two relays
Spitz beat all comers.
Well, I don't know, I'm going to dental school,
maybe I'll hang them in my dental office, I don't know.
Right now I've just got a lot of swimming left.
But the 100 metres freestyle was his weakest event
and he'd be racing Olympic champion, Australian Michael Wenden.
Michael Wenden had this tremendous amount of raw speed
and this tremendous crazy wind up windmill stroke.
I was extremely scared of his speed.
Just when everything was going his way Spitz lost his nerve.
He considered dropping out of the biggest race of his life.
It made more sense to get six gold medals out of six tries
than, all of a sudden, third or fourth
or maybe not even medal in the 100 free.
And Wenden had beaten him in the heats -
he'd had the bad luck to draw him,
beat him in the semis - he drew him again, and he was psyched out.
The pressure of his Olympic campaign was finally getting to him...
..it was down to his coach to try and persuade him otherwise.
And he said, "I'm going to tell you something,
"they're going to call you chicken if you don't swim.
"You are a world record holder and the premier Olympic swimming event
"is the 100 freestyle so if somebody else wins the 100 free
"they're going to be known as the fastest swimmer in the world,
"It's like the 100 dash in track and field.
"You're known as the fastest athlete, doesn't matter who won the marathon,
"doesn't matter who won the steeplechase, all those other events,
"you're the fastest person in the world in track,
"you're the fastest person in swimming,
"you've got to win that event and you're the world record holder."
-Mark Spitz has already made Olympic history
with five gold medals.
Can he make it six? An all-time record for the Olympic games.
There is the man.
Two length of the baths. The final of the men's 100 metres freestyle.
The Blue Riband of the Olympic Games!
Defending Olympic champion Michael Wenden, in lane seven,
had his own demons.
Spitz going up to the turn now, Spitz turns, Bure turns,
Without making excuses, I think there was the expectation from everyone
that I would be repeating what happened four years previously.
Spitz's biggest rival soon fell out of contention.
The expectations can reside in your mind, they can play havoc
and it's just those expectations that made a difference.
-Spitz is holding off! He's got about a half a metre lead!
And down on the near side, it's Murphy,
but Spitz is going to do it!
Spitz wins the gold medal! In second place...
I'm just glad that the race ended exactly, boom, right there!
That one half a stroke left.
I had zero gas left in my tank, that was it.
Last stroke was 100%, right up into that last stroke.
I could hardly get out of the water.
Spitz not only won gold...
he took a second off Wenden's 1968 world record.
The following day, Spitz completed his haul of seven gold medals.
He broke world records in every single one.
For Spitz to achieve what he did was in '72 was remarkable.
Something that still ranks right up there in terms of world achievement.
Mark Spitz was the first of a new kind of swimmer.
Multiple golds in multiple events was now the only way to greatness.
He was the first Olympian to truly capitalise on his fame,
making millions of dollars in the first year.
He never did finish dental school.
Aged just 22, Spitz retired.
By now his old mentor, Doc Counsilman,
was in charge of the American men's Olympic team
and at the Montreal Games in 1976
they went on to win 27 out of 39 medals.
But one man was there to stop the American juggernaut -
he was a Brit.
That's David Wilkie...
Scottish breaststroker David Wilkie wanted to break a cycle of defeat.
The British media at that time didn't have many potential medallists,
so therefore they made sure that they told me that,
"If you win this you're going to be the first guy
"that's won a medal for Britain in six years."
-Wilkie and Hencken -
Wilkie easy to pick out with that white cap...
Wilkie was trying to win gold
in the one stroke the Americans cared least about -
the slowest, breast stroke.
..but the neck and neck on the second 50,
David Wilkie now fractionally in front of John Hencken of America...
But it's a funny stroke to swim, breast stroke,
you have to have good coordination,
you can imagine, you know, looking at a frog
and that's how breaststroke is swum.
'We're the oddest people,'
you find the weirdest people as breaststrokers, absolutely.
'You can see them on the deck, how they walk,'
their feet tend to go out more, they, kind of, tend to waddle more!
When people say, "Oh, breaststroke's a namby-pamby stroke,"
it probably does look namby-pamby
but it's probably, technically the hardest one to get right.
-David Wilkie is absolutely superb! Look at him go!
He's now got a lead of two metres over Hencken...
Whatever the its reputation, it was good enough for a British gold.
Were it not for David Wilkie we would have won every gold medal.
Our David stopped Goliath in his tracks.
For young British swimmers, Wilkie's victory was a revelation.
I remember watching Wilkie, at 12,
winning the gold medal.
When I was 12 I was, kind of, small, bit shy, bit puny
and coming third, fourth and fifth in my swimming races,
and I thought, "That's a good thing to do."
-You know, he seemed popular!
Wilkie was doing something quite differently
from the technique of the time,
where the breaststroke was a, kind of, a flat stroke,
and Wilkie was bringing it quite high,
and bringing his shoulders and half his back out of the water.
So we were already starting to have conversations
about copying his technique, actually.
Wilkie's dipping breaststroke
was imitated by a generation of male and female Olympic swimmers.
The stroke has evolved to become much more fluid,
in fact we almost have this butterfly movement in the breast stroke now.
'Breaststroke is a one stroke, which you have to get timing right.'
You're trying to do these two conjoined things,
if they go wrong it doesn't work,
you, kind of, pull yourself backwards and forwards.
You've got to get your back out the water,
imagine trying to get a dry spot in the middle of your back.
By 1988 the 12-year-old boy had grown up,
now with a powerful breaststroke of his own,
Moorhouse attempted to emulate his hero at the Seoul Olympics.
-Schroeder of the United States is also going well
but Moorhouse is breaking it down!
There's only ten metres to go - can he get it?
He's coming through very quickly indeed!
This is a tremendous finish - it's going to be a fingertip touch!
And... Moorhouse has got it! Gold for Britain!
102.04 by Adrian Moorhouse.
Moorhouse won with a 100th of a second to spare.
The first, sort of, feeling I had
was I actually feeling sorry for the guy that came second.
And then I got over that! It took me about ten seconds!
Thinking, "OK, yep, OK, I've won."
Lid flips off and you go, "Whoa, I've just done THAT thing!"
So it all, sort of, comes in, floods in.
-That lasted about two minutes.
Then it settles into a something quite fantastic, really.
I don't look at the medal very often
but I know what it feels like to be an Olympic champion.
That same year, in the women's event,
East Germany won ten out of 15 gold medals.
'These were fine athletes, you know,'
tuned athletes but they were tuned in a different way than we were tuned.
You know, they were tuned through a system.
A system that was there to make sure that they won at all costs.
Their ascent to the top of the podium
had started 12 years previously.
American Wendy Boglioli came up against them in 1976.
'They were so fast...'
but I, actually, was gaining on them and I thought,
"Oh, my gosh! Really, I have this great chance!"
-Wendy Boglioli of the United States is coming back at Kornelia Ender
but Ender is just managing to stay ahead
as they come up with, now, 12 and a half metres to go.
I got extremely excited my last 12 yards, 12 metres.
I can remember every single stroke that,
I can remember every little bit.
It's almost as if it was in slow motion.
I touched the wall, without a doubt I thought I had sack it.
-It's Ender home first,
second is Pollack, third is Boglioli.
I looked up and I went, "Third".
Then I went, "No, third, I medalled, no, third is good!"
But as the East Germans won gold after gold
rumours circulated that they weren't clean.
'These women were big women -'
'We knew that East Germans were taking something,'
the frustrating thing was not being able to prove it or get something done.
In 1980, 17-year-old British hopeful Sharron Davies
found herself facing the East Germans at the Moscow games.
-This girl Schneider has a lead of...
getting on for 30 metres now.
And Sharron Davies is going to win the silver medal!
'That was what was the hardest thing to deal with, really.'
Was training every day knowing you were having to beat that
as well as, you know, just get your performance right.
Davies took the silver medal behind Petra Schneider.
The East German women dominated throughout the '80s
but when the Berlin wall came down in 1989
an incriminating set of files came to light.
They appeared to show a state-sponsored programme
had been supplying athletes with performance enhancing steroids.
We found out what they were giving them
was making roughly a 9% increase on their performance,
which meant that you can take an average club swimmer
and turn them into a world record holder within six months.
I had a hard time believing anyone or any country
could be that dishonest at something so special
that you work your entire life for.
who treats the Olympics like that?
Swimming had stared into the abyss...
but other nations were relying on old-fashioned hard work
to get to the top.
In 2000, the Olympics were due to be staged in Sydney.
As in Melbourne, over 40 years earlier,
Australia had a lot to prove.
You've really just got nice rhythm moving but before...
Don Talbot was installed as coach.
My goal has always been to be number one in the world, no other way.
And the Americans are number one, that's who we're going after.
Talbot had a trump card,
he was a 17-year-old freestyler from Sydney called Ian Thorpe.
There's no parts missing, everything is in place -
mental approach, mental toughness, mental strength,
feel of the water, his massive kick that he can switch on and off.
This was a new era in swimming,
Thorpe combined an extraordinary talent
with an extraordinary physique.
He was six foot five with size 14 feet.
'The thing is, with swimming, the larger your hands are,
'the larger your feet are, the more water you can catch.'
He was perfect physique for swimming,
in the fact that big feet, big hands, he's got a lot of propulsion
that he could catch an awful lot of water.
We just were convinced he was a fish, really.
Thorpe's first test came early in the Sydney games -
two old foes, Australia and America,
would contest an historic race on the first day of competition.
At 8.15pm eight teams walked out
to compete in the 100 metres freestyle relay...
..the ultimate in team sprinting.
In the crucial final leg,
Ian Thorpe would face US anchorman and super-sprinter Gary Hall Jr.
'I had an immense amount of pressure on me,'
people just assumed that I'd win.
Thorpe's specialism wasn't sprinting but middle distance.
And for me, I'm 17, I'm a kid, I had not been to an Olympics before,
I didn't know what was going to happen.
Just days before, Gary Hall had boasted that the Americans
would, "Smash the Aussies like guitars."
'When people start making brags like that'
they mustn't be sure of themselves.
If they're not sure of themselves then we're going to beat 'em.
-Full line-up -
Sweden in one, Brazil - two, Germany - three,
USA - four, Australia - five...
American had history on its side -
in 36 years of this race at the Olympics the USA had won every time.
-Michael Klim is going out hard...
First in for Australia was Michael Klim.
..what a magnificent start for the Australian!
He's on world record pace - 22.83 record paces. 22.33...
'We knew that if we could get Klimmy out,'
not be swamped by the Americans, then we could get them.
..he is going after these Americans!
He wants them, he wants to eat them for dinner...!
The race was living up to its hype -
in the first leg Klim smashed the 100 metres record.
Over the next two legs the pair of swimming super powers
forged ahead of the field.
And coming into my leg I realised that we're even
and, you know, the whole time I had asked the other guys,
"I need a lead, I need a lead, I need a lead!"
It would all come down to the final leg -
Thorpe versus Hall.
'I couldn't go any faster on the first lap,
'that's as fast as I can go.'
Away they go for the final 50...
'I also remember doing the turn and pushing off,
'and realising they are so far ahead of me right now!
-They're matching slots now!
Thorpe locked horns with Hall. They've got about 15 metres...
'I knew this was going to be the time that it was,
'you make a mistake, you stuff this up.'
..Hall and Thorpe, Thorpe's in front!
Thorpe and Hall, Thorpe goes in!
-I cannot believe he's done that!
Australian team of Klim, Fydler, Callus and Thorpe
but, my word, I cannot believe that Thorpe's done that!
I'm not usually that excitable but I was excited about that,
it was good to see,
and doubly because one, we won that event and set new world record,
but because we beat the Americans!
With three gold and two silvers,
Thorpe was the 2000 Games' most decorated athlete
but he had something other than his size and talent,
his trade mark all-in-one bodysuit
that turned him from plain old Ian Thorpe into the Thorpedo.
'The biggest thing that the swimsuits have done'
was it created a rigidity in people's upper body, their torsos,
which meant that they didn't have to have
the finesse that you need in swimming
to be able to create an anchor point to put power.
At Athens, in 2004, six out of eight finalist in the 200 metre freestyle
had their own version of the suit.
Questions started to be asked, "How far should technology go?"
The issue was when it became a suit that physiologically helped you.
So, compress the muscle, stop lactic acid building up,
i.e. gave you an advantage physically
rather than just a slip through the water.
'To some degree it's like wearing an outboard motor.'
'Swimming is meant to be accessible to everybody.'
If you say it's £300 for a suit,
well, Mums can't go and buy £300 suits for their son or daughter,
which last, you know, a couple of months.
You know, a sports rule,
a little pair of swimming trunks, a pair of goggles and off you go.
-Thorpe is leading, van den Hoogenband coming back a little,
Phelps coming back too - the gold goes to Thorpe!
In 2009, swimming's governing body finally decided
technology had gone too far
and banned full-length suits from international competition.
The controversy is far from over.
It would be like asking skiing to go back to wood skis
and leather boots with spring binding.
What effect would that have on skiing?
Well, they wouldn't go down the hill as fast
but the same people would still be winning.
The Beijing Olympics 2008.
Swimming reached for new heights
when one man attempted to take the sport into unknown territory.
23-year-old American Michael Phelps
set out to become the first man to win eight golds in one games.
Over eight days, Phelps competed in 17 races -
three more than Mark Spitz had raced in '76.
'Second is not what Michael Phelps is about.'
I don't see him being very interested in coming second.
He is very talented
but he one of the talented people that does the work as well
and so it's a winning combination, go figure!
Phelps won gold in the 200 freestyle,
the one and 200 butterfly and three relay events.
'Everything just kept falling into place.'
I knew I could do it but I didn't know if I was going to. I hoped to.
-Michael Phelps is just powering away.
Look at this, he's got clear water
between him and the rest of the field...
I think there were a lot things that had to pretty much be perfect
for me to be able to do it and I'd say it was pretty perfect.
..oh, how much does it mean? Seven golds in seven days...
Phelps had a secret weapon -
he'd perfected the most important innovation of the last 20 years -
the underwater dolphin kick.
'Underwater you're going to go faster than the surface'
cos you're more streamlined and you can cut through water, there's less resistance.
When you're on the surface there's more drag and resistance, it's slower on the surface.
That's why you maximise as much as you can under the water.
This kick is perfectly suited to Phelps -
he's six foot four with short legs in proportion to his body.
'If you look at swimmers and you actually did analysis on their body,
'the one's that are better at underwater fly kick'
tend to have shorter legs
cos if you've got slightly shorter legs
your tail's a little bit more whippy.
'His fly kick is just phenomenal,
'he's got flexibility, a real whip,'
and you can see him take half a metre,
a metre off some of his rivals.
If there's one event that showcases Phelps' talent it's the medley.
All four strokes in one race.
It not only decides who is the greatest all-rounder,
it's the embodiment of a century of swimming history.
First the gruelling butterfly,
a stroke perfectly suited to Phelps' body shape...
..then the incongruous backstroke.
Once an ugly duckling, now sleek and elegant...
..next the undulating breaststroke -
designed for comfort, improved for speed...
..and finally the freestyle.
Over 100 years in the making - streamlined and smooth.
No-one in history had swam these four strokes faster.
-Michael Phelps takes the gold medal
in the men's 400 metres individual medley. A stunning swim!
This was a masterclass in modern swimming.
Once every four years you have the opportunity to go to the Olympics
and represent your country...
..it's the highest level of competition
and, you know, brings the best athletes together
to compete as hard as you can for an Olympic gold medal.
I can remember every single moment.
On the 17th of August 2008 Michael Phelps made history
when he won his eight gold medal in Beijing.
He set new world records in six events.
The Aquatics Centre for London 2012...
..a far cry from the outdoor enclosures in Stockholm
a century ago.
This is a tightly controlled environment.
The pool, three metres deep from start to finish,
is a warm 26 degrees - the optimum temperature for speed.
In the modern Olympics 950 swimmers will compete across 34 events.
Many nations have upped their game, including Great Britain.
British coaches and British athletes in swimming
are a feared group of people now.
In the lead up to Beijing,
coaches like Bill Sweetenham brought to the British team
a new winning mentality.
It takes courage to say, "I'm going to win."
I hope when I have left they believed that they could win
and we're going to win.
One athlete typified this drive for success.
In 2008 Rebecca Adlington became Britain's most successful Olympic swimmer ever
when she took on the world,
not in the traditional breaststroke but the fastest stroke -
-Could be! Adlington's going to be the gold medallist!
Oh, my goodness, it is!
In the 800 metres she had not just the gold
but the world record in her sights.
'I wanted to get near it,'
I wanted to be the first girl to get at least a second inside of it
and I just, kind of, that was my focus.
All I was thinking is, "I want to get this world record!"
This was a record that had stood for 19 years.
-Absolutely brilliant, the world record,
oh, it's gone by 2.1 -
a massive, massive world record!
'I wanted that record so bad.'
I must be insane to want to keep pushing my body that hard
and, kind of, go but I want to, I want to go faster!
Rebecca Adlington is part of a new breed of Olympic swimmers.
who have reaped the rewards of a revolution in training,
sports science and technology.
This generation of Olympians will swim faster.
How they do it will be up to them.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
This series telling the history of the Olympics takes to the water to explore how swimmers have swum faster and faster to win gold.
From its earliest beginnings in chilly waterways open to the elements, the Olympic swimming competition has driven the development of technique in all the four strokes.
Faster, Higher, Stronger reveals how the front crawl first evolved in Australia after a Solomon Islander introduced the stroke from the rough seas of the Pacific. How the butterfly grew out of the breaststroke, but only after swimmers began swimming the older, more sedate stroke with a double over-arm action to go faster.
Combining cutting-edge filming techniques to analyse performance, period reconstruction and unique archive footage from the very earliest Olympics onwards, the programme includes interviews with great Olympic champions such as Mark Spitz, Dawn Fraser and Ian Thorpe, as well as contributions from British medal winners Sharron Davies, David Wilkie and Adrian Moorhouse.