‘Lochte Turn’ Will Be Illegal In High School Competition

The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) will not allow swimmers to push off from flip turns on their backs in individual medley or medley relay events, mirroring FINA’s interpretation of medley rules.


(Skip ahead if you read yesterday’s article).

This summer, American superstar swimmer Ryan Lochte began experimenting with swimming the underwater portion of his freestyle races on his back, before turning over on his stomach just before rising to the surface.

He used the technique to win his 4th-straight long course World Championship in the 200 IM, and while that medal will stand, FINA was not to let his ingenuity go without remark. While the organization didn’t retroactively impact the result, shortly after the World Championships ended, they released a new interpretation of their own existing rule.

The interpretation, which was not an actual rule change, said that on the freestyle portions of the IM events (aka the closing leg), a swimmer being on their back would be rule a violation of the clause of the rules that forbids a swimmer from repeating a stroke in a medley event. Lochte’s new technique is still allowed in a freestyle-specific event.

Recently, USA Swimming informed one Wisconsin official that they were extending that ruling to intermediate turns on IM and medley relay events. In other words, medley relay anchors and IM’ers will now have to alter the traditional freestyle flipturn technique for those races specifically.

The NCAA took a softer stance, proclaiming the Lochte technique legal in college competition. That’s because the NCAA never changes its rules mid-season, and the next rules change year isn’t until 2017.

NFHS Interpretation

SwimSwam has been told high school swimming will mirror the FINA interpretation, leaving the NCAA as the only major arena allowing the so-called “Lochte turn.”

The University Interscholastic League in the state of Texas has informed us that the situation is already addressed in the NFHS Swimming and Diving Rule book, specifically noting that “any stroke swum on the back is considered to be backstroke.”

The exact situation in the rule book asks about elementary backstroke being used as the final quarter of an IM or medley relay race, ruling the stroke illegal in that situation because it is technically considered backstroke. By extension, pushing off underwater on the back would also be considered backstroke.

Rules Federation Stances As Of Now

To clear up any remaining confusion, here’s a run-down of what we know about the rules at each level of competition for the moment:

Are ‘Lochte Turns’ illegal?

  • FINA: Illegal on the freestyle portion of IM races and medley relays
  • USA Swimming: Illegal on all turns within freestyle portion of IM races and medley relays
  • NCAA: Legal on all turns
  • NFHS (high school): Illegal on the freestyle portion of IM races and medley relays

In This Story

Leave a Reply

8 Comment threads
4 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
11 Comment authors
newest oldest most voted

The problem is that it’s not just the 15-meter kickout “Lochte turn” being banned — this rule bans every free turn (within IM/medley relays) where the swimmer merely pushes off the wall past vertical towards the back and quickly rotates onto the chest — just like we teach all age groupers to do.

Kids are now going to need to learn a “freestyle flip turn” and a “freestyle-during-IM flip turn.”

This is ridiculous.

Swim Giggles LLC

I am still so confused. After following it, I also wondered if they would need to know a freestyle flip and a free-style during IM. How are we supposed to teach this and why?!

bobo gigi

Thanks for the simple recap at the end of your article. Even if it’s not simple.
That’s hilarious. 😆


I suspect they will need to get rid of the flip turn for intermediate legs of the backstroke since being on the back is the “ONLY” requirement for backstroke.

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 »

Want to take your swimfandom to the next level?

Subscribe to SwimSwam Magazine!