- Medley swimming
Medley is a combination of four different swimming styles into one race. This race is either swum by one swimmer as individual medley (IM) or by four swimmers as a medley relay. (Note: the terms for events are never just "medley"--they are either referred to as "Individual Medley"/"I.M." or "Medley Relay".)
Individual medley consists of a single swimmer swimming equal distances of four different strokes within one race.
Individual medley consists of four strokes. Usually each stroke has an equal part of the overall distance, i.e. 1/4 of the overall distance is swum in one stroke. The strokes are swum in this order:
- Freestyle, with the limitation that freestyle does not include backstroke, breaststroke, or the butterfly. Most swimmers use the front crawl.
There are a number of competitions swum regularly in individual medley, by both men and women. The competitions are limited in that every distance must consist of at least 4 lengths (100 yd. or m.) or a multiple of 4 lengths (200 or 400 yd. or m.), 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.
- 25 m/yd individual medley: Swum in short course (25 m/yd pool) competition only. This is not an Olympic event. Must begin with a front flip off the blocks.
- 100 m/yd individual medley: Swum in short course (25 m/yd pool) competition only. This is not an Olympic event.
- 200 m/yd individual medley: Swum in both short course and long course (50 m pool) competitions. This was an Olympic event once in the 1968 Summer Olympics, Mexico City, Mexico. After that, the event was not swum in Olympic Games until the 1984 Summer Olympics, Los Angeles, United States. The event has been swum ever since.
- 400 m individual medley: Swum in both short course and long course competitions. This has been an Olympic event since the 1964 Summer Olympics, Tokyo, Japan
The technique for individual medley events does not differ much from the technique for the separate events for the four strokes. The main difference is the turning technique needed at the transition from one stroke to the next stroke. Each section has to be completed as described by the stroke rules of this section.
The butterfly section has to be ended with both hands touching the wall at the same time, but has to leave the wall on the back for backstroke. Swimmers may do this by pulling the knees underneath of their body after touching the wall with both hands, and then rolling backwards on their back, or swinging one arm back and rolling over onto the side of the arm swung back. During the roll in the first method the arms are not stretched, but rather hold close to the body with the hands a few centimeters in front of the chest. This reduces the rotational moment and allows for a faster turn. At the end of the backwards roll the swimmer sinks under water and extends over the head. The swimmer then pushes off the wall with both legs and starts the regular underwater phase of backstroke, usually a dolphin kick for up to 15 m before surfacing and swimming normal backstroke.
The backstroke section has to end with touching the wall while lying on the back. For the subsequent breaststroke the swimmer has to leave the wall on the breast. Most swimmers prefer to do an open turn, simply driving the feet into the wall. The swimmer is then under water face down and extends the hands forward before pushing off the wall with both legs. The swimmer continues with the regular breaststroke, consisting of a gliding phase, an underwater pull-down, and another gliding phase before surfacing and swimming normal breaststroke. A newer, but not required technique for the backstroke to breaststroke turn is a backflip turn. The swimmer touches on his or her backside with one hand. After touching the wall, the swimmer tucks their knees up to their stomach and flips around so that their feet are touching the wall pointing down and they can push off of the wall on their stomach. Another, arguably faster variation of the new backstroke to breaststroke turn is very similar to the regular forward flipturn. The swimmer goes into the wall with their leading arm outstretched behind their head. The swimmer then touches the wall and immediately goes into a frontflip and proceeds with the breaststroke portion of the race. With this turn, it is crucial that the swimmer remains technically on their back until they touch the wall, which means that the front of the body should be rotated chest-side up more than it is chest-side down, otherwise the swimmer will be disqualified.
The breaststroke section has to be ended with both hands touching the wall at the same time while on the breast. A normal breaststroke turn is usually used to turn and push off the wall. After leaving the wall the freestyle underwater phase is initiated, followed by regular freestyle on the surface after up to 15 m underwater. For medley events, freestyle means any style other than backstroke, breaststroke or butterfly. Some form of front crawl is typically used.
Medley relay consists of four different swimmers in one relay competition, each swimming one stroke.
Medley relay is swum by four different swimmers, each swimmer swimming one of the four strokes. 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 finishing previous 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:
- Freestyle, the only limitation the use of a competitive stroke. Most swimmers use the front crawl.
There are a number of competitions swum regularly in medley relay, both by men and women.
- 4×50 m/yd medley relay: Swum in both short course and long course pools. This is not an Olympic competition.
- 4×100 m/yd medley relay: Swum in both short course and long course pools. This was the first Olympic medley competition and is swum since the 1960 Summer Olympics, Rome, Italy. The first Olympic butterfly event itself was first swum in the previous 1956 Summer Olympics.
Standard United States high school swim meets have short course events, that is the lengths are typically swum in a 25 yard or meter long pool. The only relay event swum in State or Sectional Championships is the 4×50 yard medley relay.
Many collegiate programs hold competition in the 4×50 medley relay, 4×100 medley relay, and 4×200 medley relay.
The technique for medley relay events does not differ much from the technique for the separate events for the four strokes. The first swimmer swims the backstroke normally. The only difference for the following swimmers is that there is no start signal, but rather the previous swimmer completing his or her turn by touching the wall signals the start for the subsequent swimmer. It is very important for the next swimmer off the block to accurately judge the time at which the swimmer in the water will touch the wall. A fast reaction could result in a significant time gain in the race, but a false start (diving early) will result in a disqualification. Relay exchanges often win or lose a race for a team.
These are the official rules of the FINA regarding medley swimming:
- In individual medley events, the swimmer covers the four swimming styles in the following order: butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle.
- In medley relay events, swimmers will cover the four swimming styles in the following order: backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly and freestyle.
- Each section must be finished in accordance with the rule which applies to the style concerned.
Freestyle includes a special regulation for medley events:
- Freestyle means that in an event so designated the swimmer may swim any style, except that in individual medley or medley relay events, freestyle means any style other than backstroke, breaststroke or butterfly.
Additionally, the normal rules of relay events apply:
- In relay events, the team of a swimmer whose feet lose touch with the starting platform before the preceding team-mate touches the wall shall be disqualified, unless the swimmer in default returns to the original starting point at the wall, but it shall not be necessary to return to the starting platform.
- Any relay team shall be disqualified from a race if a team member, other than the swimmer designated to swim that length, enters the water when the race is being conducted, before all swimmers of all teams have finished the race.
- The members of a relay team and their order of competing must be nominated before the race. Any relay team member may compete in a race only once. The composition of a relay team may be changed between the heats and finals of an event, provided that it is made up from the list of swimmers properly entered by a member for that event. Failure to swim in the order listed will result in disqualification. Substitutions may be made only in the case of a documented medical emergency.
- Any swimmer having finished his race, or their distance in a relay event, must leave the pool as soon as possible without obstructing any other swimmer who has not yet finished their race. Otherwise the swimmer committing the fault, or their relay team, shall be disqualified.
- There shall be four swimmers on each relay team.
World records 200 m individual medley Ryan Lochte (USA) 1:54.00 Shanghai, China July 28, 2011 400 m individual medley Michael Phelps (USA) 4:03.84 Beijing, China August 10, 2008
World records 200 m individual medley Stephanie Rice (AUS) 2:08.45 Beijing, China August 13, 2008 400 m individual medley Stephanie Rice (AUS) 4:29.45 Beijing, China August 10, 2008
- A listing of how the World Records have progressed over time can be found here: 100 IM, 200 IM, 400 IM and Medley Relay.
Olympic or long course world champions in individual medley
Olympic Champions in Men's 200 m Individual Medley Olympic Champions in Men's 400 m Individual Medley World Long Course Champions in Men's 200 m Individual Medley
1973: Gunnar Larsson (SWE) • 1975: Andras Hargitay (HUN) • 1978: Graham Smith (CAN) • 1982: Aleksandr Sidorenko (URS) • 1986: Tamás Darnyi (HUN) • 1991: Tamás Darnyi (HUN) • 1994: Jani Sievinen (FIN) • 1998: Marcel Wouda (NED) • 2001: Massimiliano Rosolino (USA) • 2003: Michael Phelps (USA) • 2005: Michael Phelps (USA) • 2007: Michael Phelps (USA) • 2009: Ryan Lochte (USA) • 2011: Ryan Lochte (USA)
World Long Course Champions in Men's 400 m Individual Medley
1973: Andras Hargitay (HUN) • 1975: Andras Hargitay (HUN) • 1978: Jesse Vassallo (USA) • 1982: Ricardo Prado (BRA) • 1986: Tamás Darnyi (HUN) • 1991: Tamás Darnyi (HUN) • 1994: Tom Dolan (USA) • 1998: Tom Dolan (USA) • 2001: Alessio Boggiatto (ITA) • 2003: Michael Phelps (USA) • 2005: László Cseh (HUN) • 2007: Michael Phelps (USA) • 2009: Ryan Lochte (USA) • 2011: Ryan Lochte (USA)
Olympic Champions in Women's 200 m Individual Medley Olympic Champions in Women's 400 m Individual Medley World Long Course Champions in Women's 200 m Individual Medley
1973: Andrea Hubner (GDR) • 1975: Katherine Heddy (USA) • 1978: Tracy Caulkins (USA) • 1982: Petra Schneider (GDR) • 1986: Kristin Otto (GDR) • 1991: Lin Li (CHN) • 1994: Lü Bin (CHN) • 1998: Yanyan Wu (CHN) • 2001: Martha Bowen (USA) • 2003: Yana Klochkova (UKR) • 2005: Katie Hoff (USA) • 2007: Katie Hoff (USA) • 2009: Ariana Kukors (USA) • 2011: Ye Shiwen (CHN)
World Long Course Champions in Women's 400 m Individual Medley
1973: Gudrun Wegner (GDR) • 1975: Ulrike Tauber (GDR) • 1978: Tracy Caulkins (USA) • 1982: Petra Schneider (GDR) • 1986: Kathleen Nord (GDR) • 1991: Lin Li (CHN) • 1994: Guohong Dai (CHN) • 1998: Chen Yan (CHN) • 2001: Yana Klochkova (UKR) • 2003: Yana Klochkova (UKR) • 2005: Katie Hoff (USA) • 2007: Katie Hoff (USA) • 2009: Katinka Hosszú (HUN) • 2011: Elizabeth Beisel (USA)
- Swim.ee: Detailed discussion of swimming techniques and speeds
Styles of swimming Competitive Competitive variations Other KicksEggbeater kick • Flutter kick
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