As broken by Craig Lord at SwimNews.com, Russian federation president Vladimir Salnikov released a statement on the federation’s website telling his constituency that FINA will consider easing the underwater rules on the starts of all breaststroke races. We heard similar reports on deck at this past weekend’s SEC Championship meet, but Salnikov’s remarks seem to confirm that at least there is consideration being given.
The rule would allow unlimited dolphin kicks for the first 15 meters, but only off of the starting block where the splash is most preventative of the officials’ view. This would be an alternative to installing underwater monitoring cameras, which would seem to make this newest proposal moot.
Current rules only allow one kick, however as we saw with Cameron van der Burgh and many others at the Olympics, the rule is difficult to enforce on the starting end. It was called at least once at the SEC Championships, though the specific example easily recalled is on the breaststroke leg of an IM, meaning the view was unimpeded by the athlete’s entry into the pool.
It would seem, by the 15 meter rule, as there would be an upper limit on the number of dolphin kicks that can be fit into 15 meters when a pullout is accounted for. Salnikov, in his statements, expected 2-3 would be the maximum plausible with the rules change. That is, of course, only if doing an actual pullout is somehow enforced by the new rules. If it is not, then the pullout on the start would likely disappear altogether.
Remember now that there is no 15-meter rule on breaststroke races, period. This change would even the field on the powerful underwater breaststrokers, like Breeja Larson, who are already almost at 15 meters even while doing a standard, legal pullout off of the blocks.