If we look back in swimming history we find that it all relates back to the U.S. trying to become more in line with what was happening in international and Olympic competition.
Swimming has been in Olympic competition since its rebirth in 1896. The first swimming events were originally done in open water and in yards and the original mile was swam in the correct distance of 1760 yards. Similar to the 440 yard tracks of that day, 55 yard swimming pools were built in the U.S. due to the ease and accuracy they provided when it came swimming even proportions of a mile. A swimmer could easily swim a half a mile by doing 880 yards or a full mile of 1760 yards.
This system worked until the first meter pool was used in the 1908 London Olympics. The use of the imperial system made sense to the international community outside of the U.S. and swimming events then became modeled after popular meter events that were present in track and field, like the 1500 meter race.
As the international scene began to change to 50 meter pools, the U.S. had to keep up in order to keep their athletes competing internationally. It was easy for some organizations to change their 55 yard pools into 50 meters (which works out to be roughly about a foot) or even common smaller 25 yard pools. For many local pools this wasn’t an affordable solution so the 25 yard pool stuck around. This explains a lot when also asking the question why Americans have a short course yard season in the winter and a long course meter season in the summer.
In the end, the original name the ‘mile’ stuck around through all these changes and became the competitive event we know today.
Looking to do true mile in the pool? Follow these guidelines and you will be good to go!
- 1760 yards is 70.4 lengths of a 25 yard pool
- 1610 meters is 32.2 lengths of a 50 meter pool
- 1610 meters is 64.4 lengths in a 25 meter pool