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.