FINA Will Submit Underwater Dolphin Kick Interpretation in November

Ryan Lochte took a risk at the 2015 FINA World Championships in Kazan, Russia and kicked out on his back to the 15 meter mark before rolling onto his stomach to complete the freestyle leg, and wasn’t disqualified. In a post-race interview in Kazan, he said he hadn’t heard of a rule prohibiting underwater kicking on one’s back, but also predicted that the rule would be changed in the future.

Turns out, Lochte was right. Germany’s SwimSportNews reported four days ago that FINA has clarified its IM rule, noting that Lochte’s technique will be considered illegal and disqualified in any future IM races.

FINA’s executive director Cornel Marculescu told us today that the FINA’s Technical Swimming Committee will provide an official interpretation to the rule that will be submitted to the next FINA Bureau meeting in the beginning of November 2015.

The rationale behind the rule change is that “backstroke” is defined by a swimmer traveling lying on his or her back. So in underwater kicking on his back, Lochte is technically swimming backstroke for the first 15 meters of his freestyle lenths. In a 200 or 400 IM, the freestyle leg by rule cannot be backstroke, breaststroke, or butterfly. In a “freestyle only” race, however, any stroke is legal. Lochte’s new technique will still be allowed in freestyle races.

Ryan Lochte first started using this new technique at the 2015 Athens Sectional meet. Since then, he has been very successful with it both in the medley and freestyle events.

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5 years ago

What’s the point if this rule, and I mean the rule that freestyle isn’t freestyle. The limit on dolphin kicks made since people were going 40 meters under water and it was starting to rmtake away from the fact that swimming was swimming. But their no reason to not let people do what they want in freestyle.

David Berkoff
5 years ago

Can’t wait for their interpretation. I’m expecting something pure genius.

Reply to  David Berkoff
5 years ago

When I read the name I laughed my head off!

5 years ago

Correct me if I’m wrong, but my understanding is that the restriction against kicking underwater on your back only applies to the freestyle leg of the IM, not to freestyle races in general, because each part of the IM is supposed to be a different stroke. However, I still don’t think it makes any sense because whether you push off on your front or back and do dolphin kicks you are repeating what you’ve done earlier in the IM race (on front = butterfly; on back = backstroke), so what difference does it make as long as you turn onto your front before breaking the water surface?

About Tony Carroll

Tony Carroll

The writer formerly known as "Troy Gennaro", better known as Tony Carroll, has been working with SwimSwam since April of 2013. Tony grew up in northern Indiana and started swimming in 2003 when his dad forced him to join the local swim team. Reluctantly, he joined on the condition that …

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