Yes, we’re back to this. Our old friend, the butterfly kick, has again reared its ugly head in the men’s breaststroke races, after the above video shared with us by Alex Pussieldi shared with us by Brazil’s Blog do Coach. The video asks the question “breaststroke or butterfly?” and seems to be right on the mark, and fairly indisputable.
The underwater footage on the start of the men’s breaststroke shows just about everyone in camera frame doing multiple butterfly kicks on their underwater pullout (by rule, each swimmer is allowed only one, and only after their hands have separated). Perhaps the worst offender is South Africa Cameron van der Burgh, who would go on to break the World Record in the event.
This hearkens back to the World Championships in 2011, where multiple swimmers were seen with clearly illegal dolphin kicks. We wrote then that breaststroke is a sport that has always been about pushing the limits of the rules and trying to gain advantages (read that here).It’s one of the few strokes where the form even allows such variations.
FINA apparently hasn’t learned their lesson, and chose not to institute any sort of underwater video monitoring to guard against these sorts of things, even at the highest-level meets where underwater cameras are installed anyway.
Every swim coach in the world, at every level, knows that a butterfly kick done upon entry from a dive is both indistinguishable in the splash, and hard to separate from the momentum of entry. This is not a tactic unique to the South Africans, the South Americans, the Europeans, the Japanese, or anybody else. It’s done at every level of swimming. If FINA hopes to curtail this practice, FINA has one of two choices: either they institute video monitoring, or they cut down on cheating by deregulating the butterfly kick.
That would include allowing a butterfly kick on the last stroke into the wall, and somehow devising a way to give everyone the equal opportunity to “cheat” on the pullout without disrupting its nature. In the past, they’ve shown the propensity to use this strategy instead, such as when one dolphin kick was allowed.
How would you regulate that? It would take some serious creativity. Perhaps unlimited dolphin kicks are allowed for the first 5 meters, with the presumption that the splash has calmed enough at that point for on-deck officials to observe under the water. 5-meters is already marked on most pools with flags and a change in lane-rope color or pattern, so it wouldn’t require an increase in equipment.
Whatever is done, the issue must be corrected. It’s a similar situation to when a large portion of a sport’s athletes are presumed to be doping, like baseball in the late 1990’s. The lack of regulation leaves athletes in a position where they have to choose between following the rules and being successful with the chance of being caught and exposed in front of the whole world.