Teaching Tuesday: The First World Championships

 Who else is excited for the big meets this summer??? As excitement builds for the 18th FINA World Aquatics Championships in Gwangju, Korea, Swimming World reflects on the origins of this truly great event. Swimming is really a special sport for all of us!

Prior to 1973, there was only one chance to compete against the best in the world, and that happened every quadrennium. Back then, the Olympic Games were the world championships. There were no FINA Cups or Series for our stars to shine between Olympic Games, and training focused on a four-year cycle.

The man primarily responsible for changing that was Dr. Harold “Hal” Henning, a dentist from Chicago who was the USA’s FINA Bureau member. As head of the AAU’s Swimming Committee in the early 1960s, Dr. Henning had championed the idea of establishing a swimming hall of fame. As a FINA Bureau member, he helped build a consensus for FINA to recognize the Hall as FINA’s Hall of Fame.

After that, he started talking up the idea of a FINA World Championships to be held between the Olympic Games. Over the next few years, he worked tirelessly to build a consensus among the Federations, but doing so in those days was very difficult, especially for an American. It was in the midst of the Cold War, and the challenges facing FINA were threatening to destroy the organization’s credibility.

Thankfully swimming has taken off and it only continues to grow even bigger! Make sure to stay tuned to watch some of the worlds best swimmers as they compete this summer.