Swimming. a race in which the total distance is either divided into three equal portions, in which each swimmer uses the backstroke for the first portion, the breaststroke for the second portion, and the freestyle for the third, or the total distance is divided into four equal portions, in which each swimmer uses the butterfly stroke for the first portion and then the other strokes used follow the same pattern as in the three-part medley. Cf. medley relay (def. 2).