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Butterfly Stroke Invented in Iowa Pool

Today, there are four recognized strokes in competitive swimming. It wasn't always that way. 

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RJ Hemmingsen, a freshman at the University of Iowa, holds the Iowa State High School Athletic Association's record for the 100 yard butterfly.

University of Iowa Head Swimming Coach Marc Long says the butterfly stroke wasn't officially recognized until the 1950s, but its story starts in Iowa in the 1930s.

Coach David Armbruster, head of University of Iowa swimming in the 1930s, was looking for a way to make the breaststroke faster. He modified the arm movements, so that swimmers would pull their arms forward above the water instead of below it. 

"That was the first step to it becoming the butterfly," Long explains. "The dolphin kick that goes along with the butterfly stroke was actually developed separately."

Butterfly Stroke Invented in Iowa Pool
RJ Hemmingsen, Iowa high school state record holder for the 100 yard fly, talks with Ben Kieffer about learning the stroke.

 Jack Seig, a swimmer coached by Armbruster, developed the kick. In University of Iowa lore, the kick developed because of a campus wide celebration called "The Dolphin Show." 

During this River to River interview, host Ben Kieffer talks with Long... and then gets a swimming lesson. 

Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River
Lindsey Moon is IPR's Digital Producer