FINA Sends Out Official Interpretation of IM Freestyle Rules

FINA has sent a memo to all of the world’s swimming federations spelling out the official interpretation of IM rules that will disallow the underwater technique used by Ryan Lochte to win gold at the 2015 World Championships.

This summer, Lochte started doing all of his underwater kicking on his back, even in freestyle races, to take advantage of his superior skills in kicking on his back.

But shortly after Lochte won the 200 IM gold at Worlds, FINA ruled that the technique would no longer be allowed in IM races.

We recently reported on the interpretation of the rule that FINA provided to officials at Junior Worlds in Singapore, but the international swimming federation has now sent out a memo to all of its member federations spelling out the official language of the interpretation.

You can view the full memo here. We’ve pulled out the IM interpretation and republished it below:

Interpretation: According to SW 9.1 each of the strokes must cover one quarter (1/4) of the distance. Being on the back when leaving the wall for the Freestyle portion of the Ind. Medley is covering more than one quarter of the distance in the style of Backstroke and is, therefore, a disqualification. Backstroke swimming is only defined as being on the back.

The question now is how strictly this rule will be enforced on swimmers who aren’t kicking on their backs, but pushing off the wall on their backs for a brief bit on a turn before rolling over to their stomachs. It appears the rule will also apply to the freestyle-to-freestyle turn in a 400 IM (or a short course 200 IM).

Lochte’s technique of kicking underwater on his back will still be perfectly legal in pure freestyle races – the only snag in the rulebook stems from IM rules that require 1/4th of the race to be done in each stroke. FINA’s new interpretation classifies kicking on one’s back as “backstroke,” and therefore backstroke is taking up more than 1/4th of the total distance of the race.

In This Story

Leave a Reply

Notify of

oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
7 years ago

Why not simply say that the swimmer must be visibly rotating toward front after leaving the wall during the freestyle portion of the IM. I don’t think this has much to do with Lochte anymore; they have basically said that everyone who has done a 200/400IM SC or 400IM LC should have been DQ’d based on this new ruling.

Now when I critique swimmers after the freestyle I can tell them how good or bad their backstroke was. All the kids that got yelled at for flipping and rotating before leaving the wall will being saying they were doing it right all along.

7 years ago

The only effective response to this interpretation is for all competition swimmers to begin the practice of pushing off on their back. Will FINA continue to DQ millions of swimmers, even an entire final heat in the Olympics? Probably not. The power is there. I am not normally an IM swimmer, but will now enter and swim this event just to make this point.

7 years ago

FINA doesn’t change rules for only one swimmer. Oh wait, Lochte should have asked for help from Kitajima.

7 years ago

Free style is free style.One can swim the way can see,f
or get close first to the wall

7 years ago

Oh the firestorm of conversation around the pool. It clarified everything and nothing.

7 years ago

This is just plain stupid.

coach bambam
7 years ago

i resonate the same narrative as the majority. this is asinine. why not eliminate the dolphin kick altogether except during fly. this takes the sport back to what mid 80’s?

as a coach who coaches age groupers, tri, masters and teach the importance of getting off the wall quickly (on back 2 dolphin kicks on back 2 on side 2 on front) ..i 2 steps, err kicks backwards

Gina Rhinestone
7 years ago

Did it really affect anyone else besides Lochte?

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

Read More »