If you’ve been watching the third season of the International Swimming League and have paid attention to the amazing underwater dolphin kicking skills of the top athletes, you’ve probably noticed how close some of them come to kicking beyond 15-meters in backstroke, butterfly, and freestyle.
Remember–there is no 15-meter violation in breaststroke.
There have been surprisingly few disqualifications thus far in the third season of the ISL, but on day 2 of Match 6, Coleman Stewart of the Cali Condors was disqualified for kicking beyond 15 meters underwater on the final 25 of the 100 backstroke. This was a big blow to the Condors points-wise, though it was not the first 15-meter violation of the week.
In Match 5, Tom Shields of the LA Current kicked beyond 15 meters on the first length of the race yet was not disqualified for it. While Stewart consistently kicks to 15 meters off of almost every wall, and so far has been given the benefit of the doubt, Shields was the most-clearly missed violation that we’ve seen this season.
Shields said on Monday morning on Instagram (after this article was originally posted) that he “knew he was pushing the 15 (meter line) on skins” because he knew he was in 8th place at the time. “They’ve been relatively chill,” Shields said in the post, indicating that with little to lose, he thought he’d try to tiptoe as fine of a line as he could.
Shields can clearly be seen in lane 2 breaking the surface after his full head and shoulders have cleared the yellow 15-meter marker. The full video of the race is also posted below.
Why wasn’t Shields disqualified then?
For filming purposes, the ISL aims to keep the pool deck as clean as possible, meaning the officials are often not as close to the pool as normal. All ISL officials are certified, and because FINA now recognizes times swum in the ISL, it is important that normal rules are enforced. In this case, there is one official standing on the lane-1 side of the pool at the 15-meter marker nearer the blocks, though they are kept behind the camera track that runs beside lane 1. For comparison, FINA places multiple stroke judges on both sides of the pool utilizing “lead/lag” to coordinate coverage, as well as at both the start and turn ends.
In Match 2 of the 2021 ISL season, Stewart broke the World Record in the 100 meter backstroke with a 48.33. SwimSwam’s Coleman Hodges provides an in-depth analysis of Stewart’s World Record swim which shows fully-legal underwaters.
While the camera work performed by the ISL is commendable, giving the pool deck over to a film crew makes the officials’ jobs more difficult.
In the entire 2021 ISL season, only 4 disqualifications have been called.
ISL Disqualifications 2021
- Match 1 – 2
- Match 2 – 0
- Match 3 – 0
- Match 4 – 1
- Match 5 – 0
- Match 6 – 1
The ISL has disqualifed swimmers in the past for kicking beyond 15 meters, such as Shane Ryan at the 2019 American Derby where he represented the LA Current. There, Ryan took a DQ in the 50 backstroke. Even so, disqualifications are rare in the ISL.