The freestyle swimming style was thought to have originated in Australia, which is partially true. The style used to be called the “Australian Crawl” because competitive swimmers from Australia won events in this style. Freestyle is said to have originated from the Pacific islands, possibly from the Solomon Islands.
There is a story that is probably true about a boy from the Solomon Islands who went to work in Australia in the 19th century. He used to swim in one of the local pools using this move and someone pointed out that he looked like he was crawling. A swim coach took the basics of this stroke and refined it into what is today’s freestyle. The Aussies were winning races with this shot and the world took notice.
The first modern Olympic Games in 1896 had only four swimming events, three of them freestyle. Two of these events were the 100-meter and 1500-meter freestyle races that were held in open water. In 1922, Johnny Weissmuller was the first person to break the one-minute mark in the 100-meter freestyle swimming in 51 seconds, then called the Australian front crawl.
He held this record for over 17 years. He also won five Olympic medals and 36 national championships and never lost a race in his ten-year career. He later went on to play Tarzan in a series of films, always shown swimming in a small body of water or fighting an alligator underwater.