World Facts

Countries Producing The Best Competitive Swimmers

Ranked by sums of Olympic Golds and FINA World's across all contested disciplines therein, Americans and Germans have long dominated the pool and open water.

The International Swimming Federation, or Federacion Internationale de Natation (FINA), is the official organization that organizes and administers international swimming competitions for the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Competitive swimming first started to attract international attention in the 19th Century. It is one of the event groups in the Summer Olympics, within which swimmers compete for 16 separate Olympic events. Open water swimming is also included in the Olympics, alongside those events in the pool. There are four types swimming styles used in international swimming competitions. Namely, these are freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke, and butterfly. The fall and winter season events are reserved for 25 meter pools, while spring and summer season events take place at venues with 50 meter pools. The rankings listed below are inclusive of Gold medal titles won at FINA World Championships and Olympic Games by countries across all disciplines since the time they first started fielding a national team to compete therein.

11. Canada, 27 Titles

Canada has a competitive record boasting of 27 Gold Titles won in FINA and Olympic Games championships in swimming combined. Swimming Canada is the official body that oversees competitive swimming there, inclusive of diving, synchronized swimming, and open water swimming. Canada first participated in the London Olympic Games in 1908. One of the country's swimming traditions is the "polar bear plunge", one that sometimes whole families take part in during New Year's Day. Other variations are the "polar bear dip" and the "polar bear swim", which are also celebrated in wintertime across many parts of the northern country.

10. France, 27 Titles

France has grabbed a total of 27 Titles in competitive swimming since it first participated in international level swimming and the Summer Olympic Games. All competitive swimming in France, including diving, synchronized swimming, and open water swimming, are overseen by the French Swimming Federation. Public swimming in France just got weirder recently, with swimming pool rules prohibiting men from wearing anything in the pool but tight, Speedo-style swimwear. Reasons behind this restriction is the thought that some men wear their shorts from home to public pools and get them dirty. "Wild swimming" in France is also a favorite activity, and one that is said to be similar to cliff diving in Mexico. The most sought after places to go for wild plunges are the pristine crater lakes of the Masif Central, the hot springs of the Pyrenees, and the emerald pools of Provence.

9. Italy, 33 Titles

Italy has won 33 Titles in competitive swimming over the course of its participation in international level swimming events and the Summer Olympics. The Italian Swimming Federation has produced the best swimmers continuously for more than half a century. It has garnered many European and world championship victories and Olympic medals for Italy. It handles all aspects of competitive swimming in the country. The Tiber River is the traditional swimming venue for fun-seeking Italians on New Year's Day. Open water competitions are also held in Italy from Capri to Naples.

8. Great Britain, 35 Titles

Great Britain has been competing in competitive swimming for generations, and has a total of 35 Titles in FINA and Olympic championships. British Swimming oversees the qualification, selection, training, and fielding of its swimmers in international events. These swimmers take part in the Summer Olympic Games and international level championship events. The British also have swimming traditions like the "Loony Dook", which is an annual swimming tradition and icy water plunge with thousands participating on New Year's Day, and this is celebrated in South Queensferry, Scotland. Christmas Day and New Year's Day swim races are also held by the South London Swimming Club in the biggest fresh water pool in South West London.

7. Netherlands, 35 Titles

The Netherlands has won over 35 major international Gold Titles since its participation in the Summer Olympic Games and international swimming championships began. The Dutch are known for their love of outdoor swimming. Dutch swimmers participate in the traditional icy outdoor plunge on New Year's Day en masse in the North Sea in Scheveningen, Netherlands. The Royal Dutch Swimming Federation oversees Dutch swimmers and swimming events, from local amateurs to international and Olympic events. The Swim Cup is an international swim event held annually in April in Eindhoven that is also an Olympic qualifying event every four years.

6. Hungary, 56 Titles

Hungary has won 56 Titles in competitive swimming since the country entered international swimming championships and the Summer Olympic Games events. The Hungarian Swimming Federation is the body that regulates and oversees its swimmers all the way from local to international events. Outdoor pools in Hungary are immensely popular as the country is landlocked and without an ocean. Swimming in the frigid waters of the Danube River during the holiday season is a traditional activity for fun-seeking Hungarians. Hungarian swimmers in the Summer Olympics also have a tradition to keep, as the country has won more swimming golds at home than any other that has hosted an Olympics.

5. Russia/USSR, 115 Titles

The Russian Federation, once under the banner of the USSR along with several other former Soviet Socialist Republics, has participated in many international and Summer Olympic Games, and in combination with the former Soviet Union, has garnered 115 Titles in competitive swimming. The Russian Swimming Federation is the body that regulates swimmers in Russia for competitive swimming, and that includes diving, open water swimming, and synchronized swimming in international events and participation in the Summer Olympic Games. Winter swimming is another traditional swimming activity done in open water or unheated pools at 0°C (32°F) in Eastern Europe and Russia during the Epiphany celebration. Polar bear plunges on New Year's Day are another set of traditions in swimming in Europe. The USSR as a union has garnered more competitive swimming medals than Russia as a single nation has in the years since the latter's dissolution.

4. Australia, 136 Titles

Australia has won 136 Titles in international swim meets and the Summer Olympic Games. The "Dolphins" is the name that people often use to refer to Australia's swimming team. Swimming Australia is the organization responsible for regulating competitive swimming in Australia. It was founded in 1909 and has its headquarters in Belconnen, Canberra, Australia. The organization is responsible for the training of the island nation's swimmers for international events and the Summer Olympic Games. It also conducts the screening and training of all Australian swimmers at levels ranging from amateur competitions all the way to the national team at the elite level for international events. Aussies in the Antarctica region make their own icy water swimming plunge during the winter solstice as a traditional event.

3. China, 140 Titles

China has over the years competed in international swimming at a high level, and has won 140 total Titles in that category in the Summer Olympic games and FINA championships. China started competing in 1952, and has won many medals in swimming. The Chinese Swimming Association was founded in 1957. It has its headquarters in Beijing, China. The organization governs the Chinese swimming team in local and international events. It is a nonprofit sports organization, and a non-governmental body that is responsible for China's swimming teams, including those athletes in such other events as diving, synchronized swimming, water polo, and open water swimming. It is also a FINA member. In Harbin, China, the ice swimming tradition takes hold every New Year's Day.

2. East/West/Unified Germany, 145 Titles

The East, West, and now, once again, unified German teams have won 145 Titles in international swimming competitions. These events include diving, synchronized swimming, water polo, and open water swimming. The unified swimmers of Germany won medals in the 1956, 1960, and 1964 Summer Olympic competitions. In 1956, Saarland also joined the unified team. However, for the Winter Olympics in 1968, the Socialist Republic of East Germany and US-backed West Germany competed separately. The next Olympics in 1972 saw both nations once again compete separately, and they were officially listed as two nations. In 1990, after the reunification of the east and west, only the Federal Republic of Germany existed. Today, Germany competes as one nation in all international athletic events. Swimming traditions in Germany include swimming in festive costumes in icy waters during the winter season as a means of celebrating Christmas Day and New Year's Day.

1. United States, 462 Titles

The United States has won 462 Titles in international swimming competitions, including medals in the Summer Olympic Games. USA Swimming is the official body that regulates competitive swimming in the US. It maintains its headquarters at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It handles all aspects of the sport, including fundraising and sports medicine programs. It also handles all levels of swimming meets in the country, from local to international level ones all the way up to the Olympics. The Olympic Trials are held every four years and see the fastest American competitors joining the trials. The polar bear plunges are a holiday tradition in the US, with amateur participants plunging and swimming in icy water to raise funds for charity.

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