During the front crawl, swimmers are chest down in the water and use a flutter kick with their legs to help propel their bodies through the water. They reach with their hands in a windmill motion, with first one arm and then the other. Their faces are also in the water during this stroke, and they breathe by turning their head to the side.
The front crawl was documented in an Egyptian painting as early as 2000 BCE. In modern times, the stroke was first seen performed at a swimming race by Northern Native Americans in 1844. Later in the 1800's, a British swimmer traveled to South America and learned the front crawl in Argentina, further introducing the stroke to Europe. From there, the style was continuously improved by swimmers from around the world.
Front Crawl World Records
Front crawl world records can be set in the long course (in an Olympic-sized pool) or in the short course (a 25 meter swimming pool.) All swimming records are verified by FINA, the international body that governs swimming. Long course records are generally considered to be more prestigious.
Long Course records:
50m men: Cesar Cielo (Brazil) 20.91
50m women: Sarah Sjostrom (Sweden) 23.67
100m men: Cesar Cielo (Brazil) 46.91
100m women: Sarah Sjostrom (Sweden) 51.71
200m men: Paul Biedermann (Germany) 1:42.00
200m women: Federica Pellegrini (Italy) 1:52.98
400m men: Paul Biedermann (Germany) 3:40.07
400m women: Katie Ledecky (United States) 3:56.46
800m men: Zhang Lin (China) 7:32.12
800m women: Katie Ledecky (United States) 8:04.79
1500m men: Sun Yang (China) 14:31.02
1500m women: Katie Ledecky (United States) 15:20.48