Ryan Lochte Reveals New Element Of His Freestyle In Athens

Leading up to the start of the 2015 Athens Sectional meet, Ryan Lochte tweeted that he discovered something new in his swimming, and that he’s excited to see if it works this weekend in Athens.

I found something new in my swimming. Let’s see if it works this weekend in Athens Georgia at the swim meet. Either way I’m excited to race

— Ryan Lochte (@RyanLochte) July 8, 2015

A veteran of the sport, Lochte has earned more than 77 medals in major international competition and has been named the FINA Swimmer of the Year three times. Despite his impressive resume, Lochte is proving to the world that you are never good enough to stop trying to improve. Too many swimmers limit themselves, believing that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but Lochte is proving otherwise.

Today, Lochte experimented with a new element of his freestyle at the Athens Sectional meet at the University of Georgia. During the freestyle leg of his 200 IM, he rolled onto his back while underwater in streamline and kicked out on his back until just before his breakout. The idea of rotating while in a streamline position underwater is nothing new; a lot of swimmers rotate slightly to one side while underwater to help them stay balanced and maintain speed. Rotating entirely to your back, however, is extreme but not necessarily a bad idea if it helps you maintain speed underwater. Lochte did the same thing during the B-final of the 50 freestyle, although he was disqualified because he stayed underwater for the entire 50 meters.

Maintaining speed underwater is crucial if you want to swim fast. Look at the Texas’ men’s team, for example. They made history in March at the NCAA Championships after they put six swimmers in the A final of the men’s 100 butterfly. After the Big 12 Championships, our Gold Medal Mel Stewart asked Eddie Reese what his secret was and Reese said that in every practice in the last 18 months, his team has done 30-40 25’s butterfly kicking. He added that times are getting faster because swimmers are spending half of every race underwater. It is clear that Lochte and his coaches understand the importance of maintaining speed underwater as well.

We caught up with one of the other 200 IM finalists after the session and they told us they were really confused when they saw him underwater off the last wall.

“I thought he was doing backstroke again, I was so confused”

Seeing another swimmer on their back during the freestyle portion of the IM would be confusing, as it’s illegal to swim backstroke on the freestyle leg of any medley event. What Lochte did during his race, however, isn’t necessarily illegal. Take a look at USA Swimming’s rule below:

“In an event designated freestyle, the swimmer may swim any style, except that in a medley relay or an individual medley event, freestyle means any style other than butterfly, breaststroke or backstroke. Some part of the swimmer must break the surface of the water throughout the race, except it shall be permissible for the swimmer to be completely sub- merged during the turn and for a distance of not more than 15 meters (16.4 yards) after the start and each turn. By that point the head must have broken the surface.” – USA Swimming Rulebook, 101.5.2 

Although it states a swimmer cannot swim backstroke during the freestyle leg, it does not say anything about what you can or can’t do underwater before the 15 meter mark. Take a look at the USA Swimming rule regarding the breaststroke to freestyle turn in the IM:

Breaststroke to Freestyle — The swimmer must touch as described in 101.2.4. Once a legal touch has been made, the swimmer may turn in any manner.” – USA Swimming Rulebook, 101.6.3B(3)

Given that USA Swimming rules allow you to push off in any manner after a legal breaststroke finish is completed, turning onto your back to kick out before breaking out is legal by the rulebook. Lochte’s new strategy appeared to work for him. He won the 200 IM with a time of 2:00.00, splitting 29.88 on the final 50 meters.

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6 years ago

Will he try this also in freestyle races, where you are ALREADY on your back at the turn?

6 years ago

At World University Games Conger did something similar in the 4×100 freestyle relay, where he pushed off on his back and started dolphin kicking immediately for multiple kicks on his back before rotating back to his side and then stomach.

6 years ago

Would be interesting to see what he could do on a 100 back, ignoring the 15 meter rule, ala Berkoff Blastoff. If I remember correctly when they were doing it in the late 80s they were going between 30 and 40 meters underwater off the start. Wouldn’t be legal but for someone like Lochte, it could be very fast.

Joel Lin
6 years ago

I have been writing a prayer for years now for Lochte and Phelps to pick one meet to do 100 back and in the final just go off on the underwaters. I think 50 point is a likely outcome of they both stay under 40 meters and then 35-40 meters. It would be one of the most exciting things in swimming.

Reply to  Joel Lin
6 years ago

That’s some interesting math there buddy

Cayley Guimarães
6 years ago

After Berkoff and Pankratov, most recently, Natalie Coughlin has been at least sideways after her turns…

Reply to  Cayley Guimarães
6 years ago

Don’t forget Misty Hyman…

Reply to  Cayley Guimarães
6 years ago

Yes Caughlin is amazingly good at it

Brian Dickmann
6 years ago

We experimented with kicking on the back off of the freestyle flip turn in a 50 free this past winter season. One of our swimmers has a killer backstroke underwater kick. We decided to concentrate on her strengths, and it allowed her to drop more than .6 on her 50 free. Must be rocket science.

6 years ago

That looked hard.

6 years ago

The rules of the IM state that the swimmer must finish each leg as designated a proper finish for each stroke. It also states that the swim itself must follow the rules designated for that stroke. Does it say that they also have to start each race as designated by the rule for the stroke? In this case, freestyle requires a forward start. Wouldn’t pushing off on the back starting freestyle violate that rule?

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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