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SwimmingSwimming is an Olympic and Paralympic sport, which is contested by individuals and teams. It is a popular spectator sport in the United States, United Kingdom, Commonwealth nations, and other parts of the world. The prestigious international governing body for the sport is Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA). Swimming is divided into several disciplines such as freestyle, butterfly, backstroke, and breaststroke. Events can be in long course (50 metres) or short course (25 metres) format, with individual and team events held in each. Professional swimmers compete in pools. Tournaments and meets are usually held within individual countries. The most popular team format is the relay event. The season format is typically divided into several stages: the regular season, the conference championships, and the national championship. The regular season typically runs from late September to March, and is the longest part of the season. During this time, the swimmers compete in several competitions in their respective countries. The top swimmers in each conference then advance to the conference championships to compete against each other for a spot in the national championships. The national championship is the most important event of the season, and is where all the best swimmers from the various countries compete. At the end of the championships, the medal winners are awarded in each event. The Paralympic sport is also contested in the swimming venue, where differently abled persons are able to compete on an even playing field. The governing body for the disabled swimming is the International Paralympic Committee. The Paralympic events usually coincide with the Olympic swimming schedule. Swimmers like Katie Ledecky, Ryan Lochte, Michael Phelps, Sun Yang, and Sarah Sjöström are among the most popular athletes in the sport. Ledecky currently holds world records in the 400m, 800m, and 1500m freestyle. Phelps has earned a total of 28 medals at the Olympic Games. Other notable swimmers include Cielo, César Cielo Filho,Ryōrishi Irie, and Ruta Meilutyte, among many others. Swimming is not only a popular competitive sport, but also an anaerobic exercise which provides benefits to people of all ages. Not only does it improve cardiovascular fitness, but it can also increase muscle strength, improve motor skills, and promote flexibility. Swimming is a low-impact exercise, which makes it ideal for those with physical limitations as well as older adults. Swimming has existed for thousands of years and is popular in many countries around the world. It has been featured in the Olympic Games since 1896 and is regularly contested at international events such as the World Aquatics Championships and the Commonwealth Games. Swimming has also produced some of the most celebrated champions in the world, including Olympic champions like Michael Phelps and Mark Spitz.