Rules for Freestyle
Freestyle rules and regulations are the most flexible of the different swimming styles. Swimmers can use any type of stroke. Competitors will swim face-down and use side breathing techniques.
Freestyle races begin with a forward-facing dive from a starting block or the side of a pool. The only rules freestyle swimmers must account for are the following:
- Freestyle swimmers may not push off the bottom of the pool.
- Freestyle swimmers' bodies must break the water's surface throughout the race.
- Freestyle swimmers' heads must break the surface within 15 meters after a turn.
- Freestyle swimmers must touch the far wall with any part of their body.
- Freestyle swimmers must finish by touching the wall with one hand.
Rules for Breaststroke
The breaststroke begins with a forward start. Swimmers will swim with their bodies on their breasts for the duration of the race, except during turns after a wall touch. Then, they can make any type of turn they want. The breaststroke is reminiscent of a frog swimming through the water and consists of the following:
- Stroke: Arm movements must occur simultaneously and stay horizontal. Swimmers push their hands forward from the breast and must not pull them past the hip line. A swimmer's head must break the water for every stroke.
- Kick: Swimmers can perform a single butterfly kick at the start and after each turn. Otherwise, both legs must kick simultaneously and on the same horizontal plane. Feet must turn outwards during propulsion.
- Finish: Both hands must touch simultaneously at any position under or above the water.
Rules for Backstroke
The backstroke is unique as swimmers start in the water with their backs turned to the direction they will be swimming. Their hands must grip the edge of their launching point, and after pushing off, they must remain on their backs for the entirety of the race.
Backstroke rules and regulations are lenient, with some swimmers calling the backstroke the "upside-down freestyle." Swimmers use alternating strokes and kicks throughout the race as long as part of the body consistently breaks the water's surface. They must stay on their back for the entirety of the race to avoid disqualification. Some turns allow the shoulders to move vertically, but once the turn is complete, they must resume their position. To finish, swimmers must touch the wall while still on their backs.
Rules for Butterfly
The butterfly begins with a forward-facing dive. In addition to any kind of turn, the swimmer will perform the following:
- Stroke: Swimmers must bring their arms forward over the water and pull them back under the water simultaneously. The head should consistently break the water's surface for breaths. Shoulders should be at or past the vertical position toward the breast.
- Kick: Using a dolphin kick, feet and legs must move simultaneously in an up and down motion.
- Finish: The swimmer must make the touch with both hands simultaneously at any position under or above the water.
Rules for Medley
Medleys or individual medleys are races in which swimmers use each type of stroke for one-fourth of the total distance of the race. Swimmers must abide by the specific rules for each type of stroke during that portion of the race. For instance, if a swimmer obeys the rules for freestyle, breaststroke and butterfly during those portions of the race, but turns from their back during the backstroke, they will be disqualified. Medley races demand the following:
- Swimmers must start with a front-facing dive.
- Swimmers must use the different strokes in this order: butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke then freestyle.
Rules for Relays
Relays involve four swimmers competing as a team. In a freestyle relay, all swimmers will swim however they choose. In a medley relay, each swimmer will swim their section of the race using the proper form for that portion. Freestyle relays begin with a forward-facing dive. Medley relays begin in the backstroke position and proceed in the following order: backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly then freestyle. Swimmers must wait to launch until their teammate touches the wall.
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