The most interesting and difficult technicalities of all four swim strokes come together in the medley. In this particular race you must cover the set distance performing all four swim strokes in the following order: butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, freestyle.
The first medley race dates back to 1952, although back then there was no difference between the breaststroke and butterfly and so you only had to swim the backstroke, breaststroke and front crawl. One year later the butterfly was added as the first leg in the USA and shortly afterwards the Amateur Athletic Union made it compulsory, making the medley what it is today.
Since the first leg is the butterfly, a medley race begins from the starting blocks at the edge of the pool.
The distinctive thing about the medley is that you change swim stroke after each quarter of the race.
The first change from butterfly to backstroke involves an ordinary butterfly turn (after touching the wall simultaneously with both hands, you draw your knees quickly to your chest, places toes against the wall and then push off), after pushing off you should be on your back, so that you can start swimming the backstroke.
The second change from backstroke to breaststroke is slightly more complicated. In this case you touch the wall with one hand while still lying on your back or having slowly rotated onto one side, but the shoulder you have rotated should never be more than perpendicular to the bottom of the pool, otherwise you will be disqualified. After touching the wall, make either a backwards tumble turn or tuck your legs behind your buttocks ready to place your feet against the wall and push off.
The first part of the transition from breaststroke to freestyle should be performed like a breaststroke turn: touch the wall simultaneously with both hands, draw your knees up towards your chest, place your feet against the wall, push-up powerfully and then swim the final freestyle leg.
This is the most intricate, complete and tricky race of all, because you have to swim all the different strokes; it is the most interesting and requires the most dedication to training, but it is also the most fun and will really help you improve your swimming.
After all…variety is the spice of swimming!