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Summer Olympics Swimming: 10 Terms Every Fan Should Know

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Per its official website, the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games will feature 34 men's and women's swimming events, which will take place between Saturday, July 28 and Saturday, August 4. Thirty-two of the races will be held in a 50-meter (54.68 yard) long by 25 meter (27.34 yard) wide swimming pool in the Aquatics Center, located in the Olympic Park. The men's and women's 10-kilometer (6.21 mile) marathon swimming competitions will take place at Hyde Park.

Athletes in these events will compete against each other at various distances. Depending on the type of race, the competitors will propel themselves forward by using one of four strokes: the front crawl, the backstroke, the breaststroke, or the butterfly. Swimmers competing in events that are longer than 50 meters, except for the marathon swimming competition, may have to swim the length of the pool several times.

People who are new to the sport might be unfamiliar with some of the terms that the announcers use when discussing the swimming contests. They should find these 10 definitions helpful. Unless otherwise noted, all of the information comes from the London Summer Olympics' official website.

Medley Races: Per the Federation Internationale de Natation (FINA), the sport's governing body, swimmers competing in individual medley events will spend a quarter of the race performing each of these strokes: the butterfly stroke, the backstroke, the breaststroke, and the freestyle stroke, in that order. In medley relay races, four-person teams will compete against each other. As noted by Sports Illustrated, the squad's first swimmer will use a backstroke; its second competitor will utilize a breaststroke; its third swimmer will rely on a butterfly stroke; and he team's final athlete must swim freestyle.

Freestyle: According to FINA, an athlete in a freestyle event can use any swim stroke that he or she chooses. In medley races, FINA mandates that freestyle movements cannot be backstrokes, butterfly strokes, or breaststrokes.

Butterfly: Per FINA, athletes throw both of their arms forward at the same time to begin the stroke. They must keep their arms moving in unison throughout the stroke. The swimmers' legs must also kick at the water simultaneously; they cannot alternate leg movements.

Long Course: A 50-meter (54.68 yard) long pool like the one at the Aquatics Center. A short course would use a pool that is only 25 meters (27.34 yards) long.

Negative Split: This term applies to instances in which a swimmer completes the second half of a race in a faster time than the first half.

Open Turn: Swimmers execute this move when they touch the end of the pool with their hands at the completion of a lap.

Tumble Turn: "An underwater roll at the end of a lap, which allows swimmers to push off from the end of the pool with their feet."

Drafting: Per The Telegraph, this term refers to a swimmer who stays within the wake left by a competitor in order to conserve energy.

Dolphin Kick: According to the BBC, it refers to a type of kick that an athlete can perform while fully submerged underwater (eg. right after a lap turn). The swimmer will move his or her legs in a whip like motion that is similar to the manner in which a dolphin utilizes its flipper.

Tapering: Per The Telegraph, this term refers to a training technique in which swimmers gradually reduce their training "over a period of three to four weeks before competition to ensure that they are fully … rested" on race day.

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The author is a freelance writer and an avid sports fan.

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