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the fastest and most popular stroke in short- and long-distance swimming. All contemporary world, Olympic, and national swimming records in freestyle (in which the swimmer can use any stroke) were established using the crawl. The stroke was first used in competition in the early 20th century.
In swimming the crawl face down, the swimmer's body lies freely on the surface of the water, and the face is submerged in the water so that the forehead and part of the top of the head are covered. The legs, stretched out freely to the tips of the toes, press up and down against the water, quickly and in turn, with springy movements; the heels reach the surface of the water. The feet are turned inward somewhat and limp. One leg presses down against the water, bending a little at the knee, while the other, being raised toward the surface, straightens. The amplitude of the leg movements is 40–50 cm. The legs work as close to each other as possible and, when the stroke is done properly, churn the water evenly.
The arms supply the main driving force in swimming the crawl; bent slightly at the elbow, they enter the water in front of the shoulders. The hand goes under first, followed by the forearm and shoulder. The arm is extended and simultaneously lowered. When it reaches an angle of 20°-30° to the water surface, it bends at the wrist and elbow to “grasp” the water better and strokes more rapidly. The palm passes under the body in a sagittal plane, and the stroke ends near the thigh. Stroking speed increases gradually. To increase the effectiveness of the stroke, the swimmer's palm changes position; at first the hand is bent at the wrist, then it gradually straightens. The stroke is long, powerful, and free. After stroking, the arm is drawn lightly out of the water near the thigh, is bent freely at the elbow, is carried forward in a circular motion, and begins a new stroke.
While one arm is stroking, the other is being carried forward above the water. To inhale, the head is turned to the side (right or left) at the end of the stroke so that the mouth is out of the water; the breath is taken at the moment when the arm is ending its stroke and beginning its movement above the water. Having inhaled, the swimmer turns his head face down, before the arm touches the water, and exhales. Both inhaling and exhaling are done through the mouth. For every two strokes with the arms, that is, one cycle of movement, the swimmer usually makes six kicks with his legs. Depending on the distance, the individual characteristics of the swimmer, the swimming speed, and so on, several deviations from the described technique of swimming the crawl are possible.
A. M. Shumin, V. V. Ushakov, N. S. Borisov, V. I. Sorokin, V. V. Bure, and other Soviet swimmers have made important contributions to the improvement of this technique. Soviet records in swimming the crawl, particularly at short distances for men, closely approximate world records. The crawl can also be done successfully on one's back.
N. A. BUTOVICH