Swimming strokes explained

Feb 132005
Authors: Justin Shaw

So let's see a show of hands of how many people know about the events the CSU swimming team competes in during each meet. Anybody? Well, everyone has seen the occasional Olympic swimming race, but did they really pay attention to the details? Such details include the length of the race and what style it is.

Swimming is full of intricacies that most people might miss if they aren't really looking hard.

First, there is the classic backstroke, in which, obviously, all swimmers must remain on their back throughout the race. Each swimmer must also have some part of her body breaking the water's surface at all times. The only exception to this rule is when she is turning under the water. At the end of the race, a swimmer's shoulder must be vertical to the wall, and she must touch the end of the racing course with her head, hand or forearm. The backstroke is typically a 100-meter race.

Another race at a swim meet is the freestyle. The freestyle can be for a distance as short as 100 meters and can be as long as 1000 meters. This race allows swimmers the freedom of competing with any form they choose. There aren't many regulations for the freestyle, except a swimmer cannot be completely submerged for more than 15 seconds and her head must break the water's surface. Times that are received for freestyle races can only count as freestyle times and may not be used for any specific stroke records.

Another event at swim meets is the breaststroke. In this stroke, the swimmer's arms have to move simultaneously and in the same horizontal motion without any changing in the movement. The swimmer's hands have to be pushed together from the breast. At each turn and at the finish the swimmer has to touch the wall with both hands at the same time above or below the water. The head may be under the water, provided it breaks the surface at some point during any part of the last stroke cycle of the race.

Lastly, there is the butterfly stroke. After the start and after each turn, the swimmer's shoulders must be at or past the vertical toward the breast. The swimmer is allowed one or more leg kicks but only one arm pull underwater. The first arm pull after the start and after each turn must bring the swimmer to the surface of the water. A swimmer can be completely underwater for a distance of no more than 15 meters after the start and after each turn. At each turn and at the finish, the swimmer's touch of the wall has to be made with both hands simultaneously at, above or below the water surface.

Then there are medleys that combine all the strokes. There are two types of medleys: the team medley and the individual. Both of these races have the same principle, but some require a team of four swimmers and some only require one person.

The rules of a team medley go like this: 1) Each of the four team members swim an equal part of the race. 2) The four different legs of the race incorporate the four types of swimming used in the individual events: backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly and freestyle. 3) All relay team members have to swim in their specified form within the rules for the team's results to be eligible. The medley relays are typically 200-meter races. Individual medleys have the same concept as the team relay, but one person must complete all four phases by themselves.




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