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All About SWIMMING

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SEE ALSO: DIVING

OVERVIEW

Swimming is competed in both as an inidividual and as a team sport. The competitors swim a set distance, the fastest being the winner. Competitions are held in four main swimming styles: backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, and freestyle.

DETAILED RULES

Backstroke

The swimmers line up in the water, facing the edge of the pool. They may grip the pool edge or rail with their hands, but their feet must be on the wall and under the water, but not curled over the edge of the pool or the gutter. On the starting signal they push away from the wall.

Competitors must swim on their backs during the race. They can use a somersault turn to turn around at the end of the pool, after they have touched the end. Swimmers must remain on their backs at all other times until they have finished the race.

To finish, the head or hand must touch the finishing line (or the edge of the pool).

Breaststroke

The competitors step up to the back of the starting blocks at the referee's call. Then they step forward to the front of the blocks and get into their starting positions. When all swimmers are still, the signal will be given, and the race will start.

The body must be kept in a fairly straight horizontal line across the water, one part of the body cannot be much deeper than the rest. The hands must be pushed forward together from the breast and brought back on or under the surface of the water.

When the legs kick, the feet must be turned outwards on the backward movement. During each complete cycle of arm and leg movements, the swimmer's head must come above the surface of the water - on the first stroke and after turning in the water, the swimmer can remain under water for one stroke.

To finish, both hands must touch the finishing line (or the edge of the pool).

Butterfly

The competitors step up to the back of the starting blocks at the referee's call. Then they step forward to the front of the blocks and get into their starting positions. When all swimmers are still, the signal will be given, and the race will start.

The arms are brought forward at the same time to enter the water at a point in front of the shoulders, and then pulled backwards while under the water. The arms must move together, and the shoulders must remain parallel with the surface of the water.

The legs must also be moved together, not alternately.

Freestyle

The competitors step up to the back of the starting blocks at the referee's call. Then they step forward to the front of the blocks and get into their starting positions. When all swimmers are still, the signal will be given, and the race will start.

The swimmers can swim with any stroke they wish, and the rules relating to the technique of backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly do not apply. In turning at the ends of the pool, and finishing, the swimmer must touch the end of the pool. They can do this with any part of the body.

A stroke often used in freestyle swimming is the front crawl. Each arm is brought over past the head and into the water, and the legs perform a kicking action. The swimmer's head will often turn from side to side to face the opposite way from the arm that is in the air so that they can breathe.

In freestyle, any stroke or variant can be used and the front crawl does not have be used, and if it is, it does not have to be exactly as above, but it often is for speed.

Medley events

In individual events, competitors swim an equal distance of four strokes. The order is butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle. In medley relays, each swimmer swims one stroke for the set distance. The order is backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, and freestyle.

Olympic distances

All distances are in metres, and for men and women, unless specified. Each distance is competed in as separate events, for example, the 100m race of a given stroke is a separate event from the 200m race for that stroke.

Backstroke 100m 200m
Breaststroke 100m 200m
Butterfly 100m 200m
Freestyle relay 4 x 100m 4 x 200m
Medley 200m 400m

Medley relay 4 x 100m

Freestyle 50m 100m 200m 400m 800m (women) 1500m (men)

Fouls and misconduct

False starts
In international competition the starter may call two false starts, but after the second, will warn the competitors that if there is a third false start, the offending swimmer will be disqualified. This applies whether they have made a false start before or not.

Disqualifications
A swimmer may be disqualified for:

Lane positioning - the spearhead principle

In each event the competitor with the fastest entry time is placed in the central lane, with the other swimmers in rank of entry time placed either side, with the slowest swimmers on the outside. Theoretically, the swimmers will form a v shape in the pool, with the fastest swimmer in the middle. However, all swimmers swim the same distance regardless of lane.

Officials

International requirements state a referee, a starter, at least two placing judges, two turning judges, and if there are no electronic timing devices, at least three timekeepers per lane, with further timekeepers to take the times of first and second in each race.

The referee has overall control and ensures that rules are obeyed. The starter ensures that each swimmer is in the correct lane and with the referee, decides on false starts.

Placing judges decide the order of finishing, and also monitor the turns in the water made by the swimmers. Stroke judges make sure the swimmers' techniques are correct. Turning judges observe all turns and relay changes.

Timekeepers record times of the competitors. There may be a chief timekeepers who keeps overall time. For Olympic events, electronic timing must be used.

Equipment

Competition lengths can vary. In the Olympic Games, a 50 metre length (55 yards) pool is used. The pool is divided into eight lanes, numbered one to eight from right to left. Each lane is 2.5 metres (8 feet 2 inches) wide, the total width of the pool being 21 metres (23 yards). Each swimmer must remain in their own lane during races.

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