skip navigation

The Basics of Olympic Swimming Rules

By Mat Luebbers, ThoughtCo., 10/11/18, 12:00PM CDT


Backstroke swimmers must be "belly-up" whenever they are swimming, with one exception (on their way into a turn). 

At the international and Olympic level, swimming is governed by FINA (Federation Internationale de Natation). 

It also governs water polo, diving, synchronized swimming, and masters swimming. The complete set of swimming rules for all aspects of the competition are available on the FINA website.

Any country that has a swimming program and swim meets to move swimmers onto the international stage set that country's swimming rules based on the FINA rules.

Olympic swimming uses four basic swimming styles or  strokes. Freestylebackstrokebreaststroke, and butterfly (or all four within one race — that is called the IM or individual medley).