SwimSwam Pulse: 70% Disagree With FINA Disallowing ‘Lochte Turns’

SwimSwam Pulse is a recurring feature tracking and analyzing the results of our periodic A3 Performance Polls. You can cast your vote in our newest poll on the SwimSwam homepage, about halfway down the page on the right side.

Our latest poll asked SwimSwam readers to weigh in on the “Lochte turn,” used by Ryan Lochte to win his fourth-straight world title in the 200 IM and then subsequently outlawed by FINA for IM races.


Should the “Lochte Turn” be illegal in the IM and on medley relays?

  • Yes, on all turns – 18.3%
  • Only on the breast/free turn – 11.3%
  • No, let ingenuity reign! – 70.4%

As reflected in our comments section when FINA officially outlawed the technique in IM races, the vast majority of SwimSwam readers/voters would prefer allowing the “Lochte Turn” in all turns in IM races and medley relays.

For those that missed the legal scuffle, Lochte began using a somewhat unorthodox technique over the summer, electing to do his underwater kicks on his back for freestyle as well as backstroke. Lochte and coach David Marsh discovered that Lochte was faster underwater dolphin kicking on his back, and leveraged that advantage by having him kick on his back no matter what stroke he was swimming.

FINA, though disagreed with the technique in IM and medley races, suggesting that kicking on one’s back should be legally considered backstroke. In IM and medley races, 25% of the distance must be done in each of the four strokes, so in FINA’s mind, kicking on one’s back during the freestyle potion would be swimming more than 25% of the race in backstroke and less than 25% in freestyle, which for IM races is defined as any stroke that is not fly, back or breast.

Lochte took a risk, using the technique at the World Championships to win his record fourth-consecutive world title in the 200 IM, but FINA came out only a few weeks later with a clarification of its rule that would disallow what became known as “Lochte turns” in IM and medley relay races.

FINA’s side is more of a strict interpretation of the rules to the letter, but 70% of our poll voters disagreed, supporting the flexibility to implement new strategies and techniques.

FINA’s strict definition also outlaws “Lochte turns” on the freestyle-to-freestyle flip turn of a 400 IM or short course 200 IM – that’s a difficult interpretation given that many young swimmers are taught to flip and push off on their backs before rolling over. 18% of our voters supported FINA’s interpretation for all turns, while 11% voted to only disallow the “Lochte turn” on the breast-to-free turn, avoiding the difficulty in changing flip turn techniques for use in IM races.

Extra Note: Lochte did indeed use his now-signature turn at the Duel in the Pool this past weekend for his 200 free, but has already added a new twist to the technique. He only used it off of every other wall. In a post-meet interview, Lochte noted that the turn is exhausting, and by limiting it only to half of his walls, he was better able to conserve energy. You can listen to Lochte’s thoughts on the strategy here.


Check out the SwimSwam frontpage to vote in our newest poll, which asks about last weekend’s National Age Group (NAG) record onslaught from this past weekend’s junior meets:


Which was the most impressive NAG record from the weekend of Winter Juniors?

  • Ryan Hoffer’s 100 free
  • Michael Andrew’s 200 IM
  • Reece Whitley’s 200 breast
  • Other

*Note: In the interest of fairness, we’re not including Katie Ledecky‘s 1000 free, which was a 17-18 NAG record in addition to being an American record. For the poll, we are only including NAG records that were not also national records out side of their age groups, as fun as it might be to see Ledecky’s swim sweep a large portion of the votes.

In This Story

Leave a Reply

7 Comment threads
3 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
9 Comment authors
newest oldest most voted

I don’t think the people who voted for “yes on all turns” realized that ment banning it in freestyle races too. That would make no sense, as in freestyle by definition as long as your on top of the water after 15 meters and touch the wall, it’s legal. However, the freestyle portion of the IM is freestyle, and that is the way it should be, that rule was stupid and never should have existed, and then for it to be redrafted to target one swimmer is criminal.

Steve-O Nolan

Interesting on Lochte only using it on half his turns – I guess he only has to do 3 turns on his LC swims, so maybe it’s OK? There’s gonna be a hell of a cost-benefit analysis of the increased energy expenditure vs the increased speed of that turn.


Fina rules are and always have been straightforward. SW9.1 states that individual medley events must be swam as fly, back, breast then free with each stroke covering 1/4 of the distance. Now go to freestyle rules; SW5.1 – freestyle means that in an event so designated the swimmer may swim any style, except that in individual medley or medley relay events, freestyle means any style other than backstroke, breaststroke or butterfly. All very straightforward.

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 »