Swimming 101

4 mn read



Let’s start by knowing what exactly swimming is? Swimming is an individual or team racing sport that requires one’s entire body to move through the water. The sport usually takes place either in a closed or an open pool. The two highest levels a swimmer can take part are- 

  • The Olympics is the highest level in which a swimmer can take part. Usually, when a swimmer wins an Olympic gold medal and hears his country’s national anthem being played during the ceremony, he feels like he has achieved everything he has to. 

  • The Fina (International Swimming Federation) championship is the international federation recognized by the International Olympic Committee. Fina championship is usually held once in two years, and multiple swimmers come to take place; when they win over here, they move to the next level the Olympics.


When a person first enters the pool to learn how to swim, they are taught how to kick in the water, move their arms in the water, and breathe. Gradually they progress to learn complete strokes of swimming.


Swimming is not an easy sport every time one swims; he/she uses every muscle in their entire body. It takes a lot of hard work, practice, and dedication to shine at the sport. 


Swimming is an individual and a team sport; the team sport consists of two types of relays-

  • Freestyle Relay

  • Medley Relay

The individual events include four types of strokes-

  • Freestyle

  • Butterfly

  • Backstroke

  • Breaststroke

The term ‘freestyle stroke’ is sometimes used as a synonym for ‘front crawl’ as front crawl is the fastest swimming stroke. Freestyle is a swimming competition category in which competitors are subject to a few limited swimming stroke restrictions. Freestyle races are the most common of all swimming competitions; they vary from a distance starting from 50 meters to 1500 meters.

The butterfly is a swimming stroke swum on the chest with both arms moving symmetrically accompanied by the butterfly kick. The butterfly’s peak speed is faster than that of the freestyle stroke due to the synchronous pull/push with both arms and legs, which is done quickly. Yet since speed drops significantly during the recovery phase, it is slightly slower than freestyle, especially over longer distances. Compared to all the other three strokes, the butterfly is the hardest as it requires a good technique and strong muscles. The Olympics conducts 100m and 200m races for the butterfly event. It is the newest swimming style swum in competition.

Backstroke, also known as back crawl, is a stroke that is swum on the back. This swimming style has the advantage of easy breathing, but swimmers’ disadvantage is not seeing where they are going. Swimmers usually use the backstroke flags to identify how close they are to the wall. The swimming style is similar to an upside-down front crawl or freestyle. Both backstroke and front crawl are long-axis strokes. The Olympics conducts 100m and 200m races for the backstroke event.

Breaststroke is a swimming style in which the swimmer is on their chest, and the torso does not rotate. The stroke is similar to the movement of a frog in the water. It is the most popular recreational style due to the swimmer’s head being out of the water a large portion of the time, and that it can be swum comfortably at slow speeds. In most swimming classes, beginners learn either the breaststroke or the freestyle (front crawl) first. However, at the competitive level, swimming breaststroke at speed requires comparable endurance and strength to other strokes. Some people refer to breaststroke as the “frog” stroke, as the arms and legs move somewhat like a frog swimming in the water. It is the slowest of all four strokes. Breaststroke is considered as the oldest of swimming strokes. The Olympics conducts 100m and 200m races for the breaststroke event.

There is one more category in individual events, and it is called “Individual Medley.”The individual medley consists of a single swimmer swimming equal distances of four different strokes within one race. Both men and women regularly contest several competitions in the individual medley. The competitions are limited in that every distance must consist of either four lengths of the pool (100 yards or meter) or a multiple of four lengths (200 or 400 yards or meter) so that no stroke must change mid-length. Regardless of the length of the individual medley, each stroke comprises a quarter of the overall distance. The strokes are swum in this order

  • Butterfly

  • Backstroke

  • Breaststroke

  • Freestyle

The Olympics conducts 200m and 400m races for the individual medley category.

Let’s come to the team events now. Freestyle relay is an event where four swimmers for a team compete by swimming equal distances of the pool in freestyle stroke. The Olympics conducts relays of 4 x 100m, 4 x 200m. Each swimmer swims 100m or 200m respectively.

Medley relay is swum by four different swimmers, each swimming one of the four strokes. The stroke order is different than for the individual medley. Backstroke is the first event as backstroke is started from the water. If backstroke were not the first event, the starting backstroke swimmer and the previously finishing swimmer could block each other. The remaining strokes are sorted according to the speed, with breaststroke being the slowest and freestyle being the fastest stroke. The order of the strokes is as follows:

  • Backstroke

  • Breaststroke

  • Butterfly

  • Freestyle

The Olympics conducts the 4 x 100m (men, women, mixed) medley relay.





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