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Fact of the Day

May 27, 1999

Robert Duenkel, Executive Director of the Interntional Swimming Hall of Fame, has announced that Charles Steedman (1830-1901), "The First Great Australian", has been selected in the Pioneer Category for induction into the International Hall of Fame for the year 2000. Duenkel said that ISHOF's selection of Steedman was largely the result of Cecil Colwin's historical research on the life of Charles Steedman, first published in "Swimnews" magazine. ("Two Firsts For Steedman", "Swimnews", February, 1999)

Charles Steedman, born in London. England, on the 9th of July, 1830, was self-educated and excelled at everything he set out to do. Steedman became a champion swimmer in England and Australia, two countries more than 15,000 miles apart, an unusual achievement in the mid-19th century. As swimming's first internationalist, he shared England's more advanced knowledge with his new countrymen.

In 1867, Steedman published "Manual of Swimming", a 270-page work with the first descriptions of racing strokes and how to train. Published in Melbourne," this was the first text written by a champion swimmer, able to speak from practical experience. A London edition, six years late, made this first technical contribution to the new sport of "speed swimming internationally popular. Charles Steedman died in North Williamstown, Victoria, Australia, on the 14th of June, 1901.

On hearing the news of Steedman's selection to the International Swimming Hall of Fame, Forbes Carlile, Doyen of Australian coaches, said: " 98 years after his death! This IS belated recognition. Steedman could lecture today with credibility. He was 'The First Great Australian'."

Quotes from Steedman 's "Manual":- "The fleet swimmer has to overcome two difficulties which do not obtruct in the same degree the progress of the slow swimmer: 1st. The actual resistance of the medium in which he is moving, which is augmented in the ratio of the square of the speed. 2nd. The increased space which he has to cover in each unit of time, which is increased in the ratio of the speed.

Now, it has been proved by experiment, that to overcome these difficulties, and to be able to move through the water at twice the speed of a slow swimmer, a rapid swimmer will have to exert an effective power equal to the cube of the power exerted by the other; hence the fleet swimmer, because of his greater expenditure of power, and because of the greater resistance he meets with as a consequence of that expenditure, cannot proceed in the water at a speed more than about double of that of the slow swimmer.

Steedman's reference to the "crawl stroke" on page 194 of "The Manual", was the first reference to crawl swimming in the literature, predating any subsequent mention by at least thirty years.