“Take your mark, Get Set, Go.” These are the words one hears at the beginning of each race. With swimming, it is important to know the process of each stroke, and how they all come together to create an event. There are four different strokes in the relay, and four swimmers are chosen to swim one stroke each. In addition to the four strokes, there are two other steps involved; the setup, and start. Here are the six steps to successfully completing a 400 Medley Relay.
In a Medley Relay (as opposed to an Individual Medley) the order of strokes is Backstroke, Breastroke, Butterfly then Freestyle. This order allows the person swimming backstroke to start in the water. For the rest of the strokes, you must dive off the block. There are many requirements for each stroke, and many rules to know before the race begins.
1. Before you begin:
Requirements are for you and three other people to be in your relay. When swimming in a competition there are rules to which you will need to adhere. You each will need to wear a swimsuit, cap, and goggles. Make sure your swimsuit is approved for the meet; certain compression suits are water-resistant, and if worn will result in disqualification. Also, you will need a 25-meter pool in which to swim. Once all swimmers have everything needed, you are ready to start.
All four people in the relay will need to line up behind the assigned block, ensuring that you are in the right order and know exactly what distance you are expected to swim. (Thinking you are swimming a 200 when in reality you are swimming a 400 can result in swimming the wrong strokes and cause disqualification.) After you are in the proper order, you wait for your turn to swim.
3. 100 Back
The first person in the relay will get in the water; grab onto the metal bar under the block, place your feet on the black T located on the wall, and wait for the whistle. When the whistle blows, pull up on the bar, arch your back, and roll your neck so your chin touches your chest. Next, push off and put your arms above your head in a streamlined position, and enter the water. While underwater, dolphin kick 15 meters, then pop up, pulling one arm to your side. Rotate your arms so they move opposite of each other until you see the flags, which are located five meters before the wall. After you see the flags, take two more strokes, flip on your stomach, and push off the wall, then immediately turn on your back and swim the next 25 meters. You will swim and do a flip turn two more times before you are on your last 25. To finish backstroke, you must touch while on your back. When you see the second set of flags, take two strokes, then stretch one hand until it hits the wall. At that point, your teammate performing the breaststroke will dive in.
4. 100 Breast
As the backstroker comes to the finish, the breaststroker stands on the block preparing for the switch. When the previous swimmer touches the wall, you jump off the block and dive into the water. Once under the water, your hands break the streamline. Your hands separate above your head, and as you move them in unison to your hips, do one dolphin kick. A Breaststroke kick (legs in, out, together) follows, as you bring your hands in front of your face, and come up out of the water. Repeat this motion of arms and legs until you reach the wall. At the wall, touch with both hands, pull one elbow back quickly in the water and put the other hand by your ears as you go into the streamline position. As you push off the wall with your legs to turn around, finish the streamline and do a breakout stroke. Continue the breaststroke all the way to the wall. In your last stroke, do one big push, hit the wall, and draw your legs into the wall so your teammate performing the butterfly can start.
Just as in Breastroke, the butterfly swimmer waits for the previous swimmer to come to the wall. The butterfly swimmer makes sure to keep hands in sync with the previous swimmer’s last few strokes. Once the breaststroker touches the wall with both hands, the butterfly swimmer dives in. Butterfly is unique in that as soon as you hit the water, start your dolphin kicks (legs together, going up and down). Streamline to the 15-meter mark, where you pop up and start butterfly arms.
Start with your arms in front of the head, push down to the hips, then come up out of the water back to the original position. Touch the wall with two hands and use your core, to pull your feet up to the wall. As you push off the wall, bring both hands back above your heads and complete the streamline position. Continue this stroke to the end of 100 meters. It is important that you touch the wall with both hands at the same time to finish.
Freestyle is the fastest of the four strokes. Freestyle dives in and streamlines with butterfly kicks up to the 15-meter mark. Then you break out and start the classic freestyle stroke, making sure your arms reach as far out as you can in each stroke. At the first three walls, do a flip turn and continue the fast-paced stroke. At the end of this leg of the race, touch forcefully into the wall to complete the race.
The 400 IM is not an easy race. It encapsulates all four of the competitive swim strokes into one event. You must work as a team to swim; each person is equally important. Practicing will improve your performance, and will reduce your time. If you follow these six steps, you and your teammates will successfully swim a 400 Medley relay.