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.