Throwback: 2009 World Games 200 Meter Obstacle Swim (Race Video)

Jared Anderson
by Jared Anderson 5

September 16th, 2015 News, Video

It’s not quite Thursday yet, but here’s a throwback for the week: we’ve got race video from a unique event in swimming – the obstacle swim.

This video comes from the 2009 World Games in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, and features 8 A finalists competing in a 200-meter obstacle swim.

The “obstacles” here are pretty minor, but still have a big impact on the race. Two ropes run across the pool at what appear to be roughly the 12- or 13-meter marks off of each wall. The swimmers have to submerge completely in order to make it under each rope.

It’s not a huge change, but does add pretty significant time to each swimmer’s race. The winner goes 1:55.01 in a long course meter 200 freestyle – bear in mind that this was 2009, when the likes of Paul Biedermann were going 1:42.00 in the individual, no-obstacle 200 free.

The other big change appears to be in underwater kicking. With the obstacle coming so close to the wall, swimmers have to cut their underwater kicking short in order to surface, then re-submerge to get under the obstacle.

The 2009 World Games took place in July of 2009, only a few months before FINA banned buoyant bodysuits, and you can clearly see the relics of that supersuit age in the video.

Pool swimming was not contested at the 2009 World Games in the form we know it, but the obstacle swim appeared as part of the “lifesaving” classification.

Believe it or not, obstacle swimming was once a relatively mainstream swimming event. It appeared in the 1900 Olympic Games, with more interesting obstacles: swimmers swam in an open water course, and had to climb over a pole, then climb over a row of boats, then finally swim under a second row of boats within the 200-meter course.

The above video comes to us courtesy of Robert Hendricks on YouTube.

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Lennart van Haaften

I’m wondering why they don’t stay underwater until after the rope at the start. Maybe that’s not allowed.


This event is one of the oldest for freshwater lifesaving and was designed to test your skill at speed of recovering a body underwater and surfacing – it eventuated morphed in the 200m obstacle race without recovering a dummy. It is still held in lifesaving championships in countries like Germany, Austria and South Africa. Nowadays there is a separate dummy race in which you start from the blocks, swim 25m and dive down and recover a 45 pound dummy (filled with water) and race back doing breaststroke kick on your back holding the dummy in from of your chest.

Steven K

This race is still very popular all over the world in lifesaving. WR now down at 1.53.33! no suits! New Zealand hold top 2 best times ever! ?

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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