Non-front crawl freestyle at the Olympics

In freestyle swimming events, participants are free to use any swimming style (with the exception that in medley events, they cannot use the backstroke, butterfly, or breaststroke). It seems that at the Olympic level all participants use the front crawl, though at lower-level competitions I’m told it’s not unheard of (albeit exceedingly rare) for swimmers to use the backstroke.

Has there ever been a swimmer at the Olympics who used something other than front crawl in a freestyle event? If so, when’s the last time this happened?

I believe I’m allowed a bump, so here it is…

It would probably have to be a least a century ago, and it’s quite possible it was never done. A look at the Olympic records for the strokes shows why:

100m freestyle: 45.07
100m butterfly: 50.58
100m backstroke: 52.54
100m breast stroke: 58.91

The fastest of these is five seconds slower than the overhand crawl. That’s a big difference in an event that it often decided by hundreths of seconds.

I think you could always use the trudgen style, but as it has been replaced by the crawl I must assume that the latter is more efficient.

A thread on the subject from 2004.

Gosh, my brain must be getting close to full since I still had some of the details that I learned in that thread vaguely rattling around in my head 7 years on…

Note that in the medley (individual or relay) you can’t repeat any of the other strokes.

All of these events have very specific rules for starts, turns and finishes in addition to the required strokes. Freestyle is a bit more … free … in these areas as well.

Do the backstroke, butterfly or breast stroke have any practical applications? What’s the point of them?

You could equally ask, does freestyle have any practical applications? They are all used, practically, in races.

Most people I see swimming in context other than races use a combination of strokes and kicks (primarily breaststroke/crawl) and occasionally go on their backs.

Lifesavers often use a variation of freestyle/crawl with their heads out the water, to see the person they are rescuing. On the way back, to tow the victim to shore they often use sidestroke, which again is radically different.