FINA has released two new rules interpretations to try, as best as they might, to legislate the ever-convoluted breaststroke pullout.
The first is regarding rule SW 7.1, where the interpretation was added that the first arm stroke begins with the separation of the hands. This has sort of been the de facto understanding of the rule for years since the Europeans and South Africans began using their dolphin kicks at the very front of the stroke, as compared to later in the pullout motion that was the norm in the United States and other countries. It’s not clear if this rule changes the interpretation that a downward motion also begins the stroke.
The second rule interpretation couples with the first, and is again the rule that has been in play for some time, in that it eliminates the argument for a non-continuous stroke making this early butterfly kick illegal. Now, swimmers can separate their hands, pause to complete the butterfly kick, and then complete their pulldown.
These interpretations trickle down to all FINA-sanctioned levels of the sport.
SW 7.1 After the start and after each turn, the swimmer may take one arm stroke completely back to the legs during which the swimmer may be submerged. A single butterfly kick is permitted during the first arm stroke, followed by a breaststroke kick.
The first arm stroke begins with the separation of the hands.
SW 7.2 From the beginning of the first arm stroke after the start and after each turn, the body shall be on the breast. It is not permitted to roll onto the back at any time. From the start and throughout the race the stroke cycle must be one arm stroke and one leg kick in that order. All movements of the arms shall be simultaneous and on the same horizontal plane without alternating movement.
A pause after the separation of the hands is not a violation of the rule.