Competitive swimming at the Olympic and international level is governed by the Federation Internationale de Natation (FINA). Most swim meets and swim programs follow their guidelines, especially to move forward to an international level. In modern Olympic games, there are 16 pool events for women and men.
All swimmers must wear swimsuits and goggles. If they are swimming during an Olympic game, the swimsuits will usually be pre-approved. Most swimmers also choose to wear swim caps. All of these items help a swimmer by decreasing any drag at the forefront.
Olympic swimming pools are 50 meters long and at least 25 meters wide. The pool has to be at least 2 meters deep, if not deeper. The deeper a pool is, it can make a swimmer "faster" as the waves will not interfere with the swimmer as they will not bounce off the bottom. Each pool will have at least 8 swimming lanes that are 2.5 meters wide. The lane ropes that separate the swimmers and lanes, also help minimize turbulence and waves.
On each end of the pool, there are elevated starting platforms that breaststroke, freestyle, and butterfly swimmers use. These blocks also have handles for backstroke swimmers near the water so they can use it for starting their race. When the electronic signal is initiated (beep for swimmers), an automatic timing system starts. When swimmers touch their designated end wall touchpad, the timing system is stopped.
Swimming has four different types of styles:
Freestyle, also known as front crawl, uses an alternating leg and arm action while breathing to the side. This is the fastest way from each end of the pool. Swimmers who compete in freestyle use a forward start off from the starting block. They complete a flip turn at each end of the wall. They can finish the race by touching the wall with any part of their body, but usually, it's their hand. During a freestyle race, the swimmer must break the surface with their head before or at 15 meters from the start and each turn.
Backstroke means swimmers must have their "belly up" when they are swimming. The only exception is when they are completing their turns. They use alternating arm action and leg action, similar to the freestyle but "upside-down." When starting the backstroke race, swimmers will start with their feet against the wall, and holding onto the starting grip. At each wall, backstrokers complete a flip turn and might include a few fish-kicks or dolphin kicks to help start from each wall and surface before swimming. Once they complete the race, they must still be "belly-up" and touch the wall, usually with their hand. During a backstroke race, the swimmer must break the surface with their head before or at 15 meters from the start and each turn.
Breaststroke, uses an arm pull, with the arms pushing out into a "Y" shape, and then sweeps in where both the hands meet under the swimmer's face and then extends forward. When swimming this stroke, each half of the body mirrors the other. The legs slightly mimic a frog kick, but they should not break the surface of the water. When swimming the breaststroke race, swimmers will use a forward start with the help of the starting blocks. They are permitted one breaststroke pull-out before the swimming begins. When breaststrokers touch the wall, they complete open turns, in which both hands touch the wall and then they rotate and push off. Unlike freestyle and backstroke, breaststroke does not have a distance limit on how far the swimmer can go underwater without breaking the surface of the water. They must break the surface of the water after each cycle of the pull and kick. They can finish off the race by using both hands to touch the wall.
Butterfly, swimmers will be completing an arm pull but as if they're doing the front crawl. For the butterfly kick, most swimmers line their legs up parallel to one another and try to create a big fin with their feet and legs. They start the race with a forward start off, with the starting block and complete open turns. They must use both hands to touch the wall, rotate, and push off. Similar to freestyle and backstroke, they must break the surface of the water before or at 15 meters from the start and each turn. Swimmers finish this race by using both hands to touch the wall.
Swimmers can be disqualified for various reasons. False starts are when swimmers start swimming before the official signal is given. Swimmers may also be disqualified for acting in an unsafe manner, having unsportsmanlike behavior, and even holding up another swimmer in the water. Swimmers should also refrain from entering the pool before a race has finished or trying to dip their goggles before the start of an event. Lastly, swimmers must also complete their race in the same lane and should avoid grabbing onto the lane dividers.
All swimmers are required to wear swimsuits and goggles. If they are swimming for the Olympics, the swimsuits must be pre-approved. Many of these swimsuits are also closely regulated by the FINA. Olympic sized pools are 50 meters long and at least 25 meters wide. They have to be at least 2 meters deep. If the pools are deeper, it usually helps the swimmers as a deeper pool can sometimes also mean faster times. The increased depth can minimize waves and bounce from them. Lastly, pools will need to be divided into at least 8 lanes.
The four swimming strokes are freestyle (usually front crawl), backstroke, breaststroke, and butterfly. Freestyle (or front crawl) uses an alternating arm and leg action, and while the swimmer breathes to their side. Backstroke is when the swimmer is "belly-up" and uses the alternating arm and leg action. Breaststroke is when swimmers use an arm pull, with the arms pushing out into a "Y" shape. Then their arms sweep in where both the hands meet under the swimmer's face and then extend forward. Lastly, the butterfly stroke is when swimmers complete an arm pull but as if they're doing the front crawl.
Both freestyle and backstroke require a flip turn at each end of the wall. The swimmers might include a few fish-kicks or dolphin kicks to help start from each wall and surface before swimming. Both breaststroke and butterfly require the completion of open turns. This is where both hands touch the wall and then they rotate and push off. When their feet touch the wall, the rotations must be "belly-down."
Freestyle requires swimmers to start the race by using the forward start off from a starting block. They must end the race by using any part of their body, usually the hand to touch the wall. Backstroke requires swimmers to start with the "belly-up" position and hold onto the starting grip. Similar to freestyle, they must end the race but use any part of their body to touch the wall. Breaststroke requires swimmers to start the race by using the forward start from the starting block. They can end the race by simultaneously using both hands to touch the wall. Butterfly swimmers start the race by using the forward start off from a starting block. Similar to breaststroke, they can end the race by simultaneously using both hands to touch the wall.