Why Does The Medley Start With The Backstroke?

Last Updated on August 1st, 2023

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The swimming medley is traditionally set up with the backstroke first because it will be the slower form out of the four swimming during that race.

Not to mention, the backstroke starts in the water, which can make a transition from another form difficult as both swimmers will be in the pool at the same time.

The other forms will not require the swimmer to start in the water, allowing the next leg athlete to jump over their teammate and push the race forward without hesitating or running into another swimmer mid-race.

Man doing backstrokes in a pool - Why Does The Medley Start With The Backstroke?

Was Backstroke Chosen at Random?

As mentioned earlier in the article, the reason for the backstroke for starting off the race will be to prevent any logistics issues or unnecessary collisions in the water.

From the starting block, a racer who swims the backstroke will want to start in the water and begin the race, so, and no, this is not just some random selection.

This is so to avoid swimmers running into one another. It just is common sense once you take a moment to think about the logistics. This will allow the swimmers to focus on swimming hard and fast to win a race and possibly a medal.


Does Medley Relay Start with a Dive?

No, the three swimming techniques besides the backstroke start with a dive from the starting box once the teammate has tapped the wall.

This allows the next swimmer to start their race unabated and free from obstruction that could slow them down, an added element of difficulty for the team medley.

As said above, this is why the backstroke will start the team medleys, and individual medleys will not have the issue of swimmers running into one another.

This is why it can start with the butterfly, then followed by the backstroke, butterfly, and down the stretch with a Freestyle sprint.


How Do You Start a Sprint Medley?

Let us add some context, the sprint team medley relay will be a four-by-one-hundred race that will start with the backstroke expert, again because they start in the water, and getting this stroke out of the way is the most sensible strategy yet developed.

The swimmer will then thrust themselves backward, possibly utilize an upside-down dolphin kick or two, and begin executing their technique.

As far as the individual medley sprint goes, there will be no changes as well to the order in which the race is performed. Most races start with a gunshot, a loud noise that will cause the body to snap into action and begin accelerating.


Was it Always Like that?

As a matter of fact, no, it has not always been that way; before the acknowledgment of the butterfly in 1952, the races were only a three-stroke competition. Then, the one hundred and fifty meters was known as the ‘three-strike medley.’

Afterward, once the butterfly was established, the race expanded to a four-stroke medley and has maintained the same format ever since.

Another fun fact is that the four-hundred-meter races have been in effect since the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, but it was not until the games held in Los Angeles in 1984 that the two-hundred-meter race was officially a part of the Medley schedule.


What Comes after a Backstroke?

To start with the individual, the Medley starts with the butterfly and is followed by the backstroke. After that, the racer must perform the breaststroke and finish with a sprint using the Freestyle.

As far as the team competitions go, as we mentioned earlier in the article, the backstroke will lead off the race.

To be followed by the fastest at the breaststroke, then the best at the butterfly, followed by the strongest freestyle swimmer to anchor the team. Before the next leg can swim, a competitor must touch the wall as a sort of tap-out, tap-in situation.


Final Thoughts on Why do they Start with the Backstroke for the Medley

The summer Olympics is full of fast-paced racing action, whether it comes from the races on the track, out on the roads and trails, or in the pool.

Each competitor is the best athlete their countries have to offer, each striving and pushing themselves since youth to become an Olympic medalist.

Swimming Medley is a rather innovative sport, adding a new leg to the race after years of having three-stroke Medleys. The history of this race has hosted some of the sport’s best athletes, including Michael Phelps and Marcus Spears.

Yet our future competitors will break the records, pushing the limits of the human body further into advanced evolved forms.