FINA has announced a rules change to the breaststroke underwater pullout – the latest change to try and give officials a fighting chance, and athletes an even chance, at adhering to the ever-more-complex breaststroke rules.
In the vote, FINA approved a new interpretation of allowing the single dolphin kick on the pullout to come at any time before the first breaststroke kick. Previously, the rules required some separation of the hands before the first dolphin kick. The change will be effective immediately.
Initially, when the dolphin kick was added, most athletes did the dolphin kick clearly during the pull-down. That water became muddied, however, when many swimmers began doing the pullout while effectively still in a streamline – especially in Europe and South Africa, where swimmers were breaking World Records.
That pushed FINA to mandate separation of the hands, which created a very fine inspection of technique where swimmers would create a slight separation of hands, but remain effectively in a streamline.
Now, the rule allows the dolphin kick off of each wall to happen at any point prior to the breaststroke kick.
While that tweak in technique was slow to catch on in the United States, American high school rules already allowed this change beginning with the 2013-2014 season.
The rules still don’t require an underwater pullout at all, which has led some coaches to speculate on ways to take advantage. Specifically, for swimmers who are not primarily breaststrokers, some coaches we’ve spoken to have suggested that in a long event like the 400 IM, they might have their swimmers skip the pullout altogether and instead just do a single dolphin kick before coming up begin their above-water stroke.