The Six Different Types of Swimmers

Photo Courtesy: Harry How

By Sarah Noll, Swimming World Magazine College Intern.

Not all swimmers are created equal. Some are sprinters, some are distance swimmers, and some are everything inbetweeners. Some swimmers like butterfly more than backstroke. No matter their stroke, swimmers come in all shapes, colors and speeds. Despite these differences, 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 six types of swimmers.

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. Many people view sprinters as lazy; however, it takes a powerful explosion and all of your energy to win the 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 hone. 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? Comment down below your thoughts!

-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 🙂

  2. avatar

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

  3. Mark Wilkens

    Brittany Suits Haha

  4. Carylyn Waite

    Maftuna Tuhtasinova you’re definitely the backstroker Haha

    • Maftuna Tuhtasinova

      Carylyn Waite seems pretty accurate😂 how about you? 😜

    • Carylyn Waite

      Maftuna Tuhtasinova i don’t know

  5. Hailey Passmore

    Leah Dawson
    Aurora Doughty
    Madison Piper

    • Leah Dawson

      Hailey Passmore definitely not a butterflier

  6. Rick Olson

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

  7. Inna Koucka

    😂 the right pin on dart😅