The Characteristics Found in 6 Different Types of Swimmers

Photo Courtesy: Harry How

The Characteristics Found in 6 Different Types of Swimmers

Not all swimmers are created equal. Some are sprinters. Some are distance swimmers. Some are everything in-betweeners. Some swimmers like butterfly more than backstroke. No matter their stroke, swimmers come in all shapes, mentalities and speeds. Despite these differences, some common traits emerge among those who specialize in certain events in our sport.

To celebrate our differences (and poke a little fun), here is a list of the traits found in six types of swimmers. Of course, many of these traits are transferrable, so take this piece with a light heart and a willingness to laugh.

1. The Distance Swimmers

FINA World Championships Katie Ledecky

Photo Courtesy: R-Sport / MIA Rossiya Segodnya. Katie Ledecky is one of the best known distance swimmers of our time. She is known for her determination and intense training regimen.

Distance swimmers are usually very stubborn and determined. They don’t like to lose and will keep pushing until the race is over. It takes a special person to swim a mile as a race. But somehow, distance swimmers manage to tackle some of the hardest races head on. Whether you swim the 800 free or the 200 fly (this is a distance race and you cannot change my mind), we salute you.

2. The Sprinters

Jackson (49)

Photo Courtesy: Brian Bergstrom. Rylee Jackson, the sprinter featured here, is an incoming sophomore at California University of Pennsylvania.

On the opposite end of the swimmer spectrum, we have our sprinters. It takes a powerful explosion and all of your energy to win a 50 freestyle. While it may seem that a sprinter’s practice is easy when compared to the distance set, it is simply more focused on fast reaction times and extremely high intensity necessary for their race. Sprinters swim in their lane, distance swimmers stick to their own.

3. Individual Medley Swimmers


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick. Chase Kalisz, IM specialist and silver Olympic medalist.

If you have ever swum a 400 IM and wanted to do it again, there might be something wrong with you. Just kidding. Our next type of swimmer is the stroke star…the IMers! People who swim the IM are adaptable and able to swim all four strokes with ease. And when they get to their favorite stroke of the event, watch out! IMers go with the flow and are adaptable to any kind of set coach puts on the board.

4. The Breaststrokers


Photo Credit: Instagram, @_king_lil. Lilly King congratulating her teammate Cody Miller for winning Bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympics in the 100 meter breaststroke with this throwback picture.

They are… the odd swimmers in the pool. They will often be found stretching in weird positions behind the block. Breaststrokers have strange drills to help hone hip flexibility. Breaststroke is a strange stroke to begin with and is one of the most technically challenging strokes to master. It’s not easy to kick like a frog, but our funny friends enjoy it.

Need more proof as to why breaststrokers are the funny ones? Take a look at fellow breaststroke legends and Hoosiers Lilly King’s (@_king_lil) and Cody Miller’s (@swimiller) Twitter pages. You won’t regret it.

5. The Butterfliers


Photo Courtesy: Facebook, @BelleVernonSwim. Carlee Shreeve, the swimmer featured in this photo, is an incoming freshman at Chatam University in Pittsburgh, PA. She specializes in distance free and the 200 butterfly.

Just like the distance swimmers, those who specialize in butterfly are a different breed. They are tough mentally and physically and thrive during a hard workout. Anyone who has swum a 200 butterfly knows how hard it is to not give up. They are hardcore and most likely icing their shoulders after practice.

Now, last but not least, we have…

6. The Backstrokers


Photo Courtesy: Facebook, @katinkahosszu. Current World Record holder of the 200 and 100 short course meter backstroke relaxes in an ice bath after practice.

As Olympian Matt Grevers once said,

“Backstrokers are the most relaxed swimmers that I know of…”

Maybe it is because backstrokers don’t have to hold their breath while swimming. Maybe it’s because you get to have a nice float on your back. Whatever the case, backstrokers are chill. Click this link for a video of some team USA members talking about the different swimmer types.

What did we get right? Are all breaststrokers weird, or is it just swimmers in general that are weird? Did we miss another type of swimmer?

-All commentary is the opinion of the author and does not reflect upon the views of Swimming World Magazine or its staff.


  1. avatar
    Sarah Noll

    Howdy, anyone who is reading this. This was my last article for Swimming World Magazine. It was a fun ride and I learned a lot from it! I hope you have enjoyed this article, maybe you’ll like some of the other ones I wrote too. Just keep swimming 🙂

    • avatar

      Loved the article. Good luck and keep writing whoever your life takes you.

      • avatar

        Love this article

    • avatar
      Alejandro Godínez

      Have you ever considere the open water swimmers ??

    • avatar
      Alex Godinez

      Maybe you can take into consideration the water polo and open water swimmers as divers as well (Cliff divers and free Divers included) to make complete our diverse aquatic world.

      • avatar
        Alex Godinez

        And synchronized swimming as well!

  2. avatar

    What about 200m freestylers?
    Even 100 fly and free stylers

  3. Carylyn Waite

    Maftuna Tuhtasinova you’re definitely the backstroker Haha

    • Leah Dawson

      Hailey Passmore definitely not a butterflier

  4. Rick Olson

    Julie Dineen Olson. This should help you
    Make sense of this sport.

    • Missy Mazurek

      Jean Stevens Mazurek ??? Dani Marie this is all you too!!

    • Dani Marie

      Missy Mazurek Hahahaha maybe…?

      • avatar
        Heidi C

        I always thought as a backstroke you had to be a little crazy to race as fast as you can without being able to see where you are going. 🙂

  5. Matt Ciavarelli

    Kelly Dodson McCrone Kim Scott Kelly Shannon Donovan Diven Steven Kast Jon Grafious David A. Lechler Chris Rhodes

  6. avatar
    Joe McCafferty

    My daughter Katie has been tackling the 1000 and 1650 the last few years of club swim and she is definitely stubborn!

  7. Vatican Amy

    Sami Hernandez Lisa Donahue

  8. Tricia Winnington

    I’m a distance swimmer/breast stroker. I am determined and wierd ?

  9. avatar
    Sandy Thatcher

    So I started out as a butterflies in high school in the 1950s using the frog kick (because fly evolved out of breast), then swam the 200 fly as a freshman at Princeton where in a meet against Yale’s freshman led by world record holder Steve Clark I was thoroughly humiliated as I had almost 50 yards left to swim after my state champion teammate Kent Mast and two Yale high school All-Americans, Dale Kiefer (Adolph’s son) and Tim Kennedy had finished the race. So I switched to the 200 IM, less painful, for my varsity years, and as a masters swimmer in the 1970s my best event was the 400 IM. But I haven’t been able to finish a 400 IM or 200 fly in decades and have mostly become a backstroker by default since out causes the least pain. So after all these years I have learned how to chill and enjoy it!

  10. Kathy O

    Courtney Bimber Pierce and John Bimber we fit all except number 6. I fit #3 real well

  11. Christene Michelle

    Pam Oliver Goldsmith This is pretty accurate and a lot nicer way of describing the differences in our race styles. . LOL

  12. Kathryn Newberry

    “You get to have a nice float on your back”?!??

  13. Dick Simpson

    I was kind of a mix. Generally a sprinter but my favorite was the 200 IM. Especially short course.

  14. Maliha Hashmi

    Lovely… Thinking of each lovely swimmer I know❤️❤️❤️

  15. Phyllis Bergan

    Thinking of my talented granddaughter, Olivia Anderson, who swam breaststroke for UT for 4 1/2 years. ??‍♀️??‍♀️??‍♀️

  16. Karen Troyan

    Paige Vazquez Allyson Angle Katrice Keane

  17. Katie Kenyon

    Backstrokers are awesome!! But what about swimmers who love fins?