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Paris Olympics 2024: What are the four types of swimming strokes?

Paris Olympics 2024: What are the four types of swimming strokes?

  • PublishedMay 25, 2024

Heading into the Paris Olympics, the U.S. leads the all-time swimming gold medal count with 257 gold medals.

WASHINGTON — Swimming at the Olympics is a competitive event that brings together swimmers from all over the world.

The 2024 Paris Olympics will feature 17 swimming events per gender and four different strokes across a range of distances. 

Swimming events are broken down into four strokes: freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly. For the individual medley events, all strokes are used. 

An Olympic-sized swimming pool, which is 50 meters long, is divided into eight lanes for the events. 

Heading into the Paris Olympics, the U.S. leads the all-time swimming gold medal count with 257 gold medals. 

Olympic Swimming categories


Given the name, this event allows swimmers to use any style of swimming they prefer. 

Most swimmers opt for the front crawl, which features an alternating overhand motion of the arms and a scissor or flutter kick to propel swimmers forward. It is the fastest stroke of the four featured in the Olympics. 

  • 50m
  • 100m
  • 200m 
  • 400m
  • 800m 
  • 1500m 


Like the front crawl, the backstroke combines an alternating motion of the arms with a flutter kick. The notable difference between the two is that swimmers compete with their face and chest facing up out of the water.

Out of the four strokes, the backstroke is the only one where athletes are not facing down – posing a challenge for swimmers when tracking their position in the pool. Downward-facing strokes allow swimmers to look at the black line on the pool floor as a point of reference.


The breaststroke is the slowest of the four categories and can be difficult for athletes to master. It is a highly technical stroke where the swimmer’s arms must perform synchronous semicircular movements while keeping their elbows underwater. 

The kick, a simultaneous thrust of the legs, is known as a “frog kick” or “whip kick.”

During breaststroke, some part of the swimmer’s head must break the surface of the water during each stroke cycle.   


The most physically demanding stroke is the butterfly. It features a simultaneous overhead swinging of the arms combined with a dolphin kick – a movement when both legs are moving up and down together. Athletes often appear to be leaping out of the water with each stroke. 

The technique for the butterfly stroke originally comes from the breaststroke, but swimmers recover their arms above water instead of beneath it. 


In addition to the four strokes, there are medley events that use all four strokes in the same race. 

The two kinds of medleys are individual and relay, which is devised of a team of swimmers.

Individual medleys require swimmers to use each of the four strokes for one-fourth of the race in a specific sequence: butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle. 

Medley relays are made up of a team of four athletes and each member will swim a different stroke. Like the individual medleys, it also follows a sequence: backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly and freestyle.

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