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.

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Low Gap
7 years ago

Lochte should have let a breaststroker do this first, then FINA would have not only allowed it, but changed the rule to remove all doubt.

7 years ago

While I agree with HMMM in his interpretation of the rules, I also find myself agreeing with SWIMPARENT as far as the IM and Medley relays are concerned. It would appear that there is an inconsistency in the logic of separating out the strokes into 25% sections that was overlooked for the butterfly kick which on the front during the freestyle pushoff. Ironically, fly kick on the back for a backstroke pushoff does not have this problem. I guess an historic oversight will be considered OK!?

7 years ago

Anybody voting yes doesn’t understand anything about the IM or Freestyle. There is no “ingenuity” here. There is cheating and there is legal. There is no “imagination” to Lochte’s IM anymore than there was innovation in Kitojima’s “undulating” breaststroke errrr butterfly kick. The rules of freestyle are the swimmer will start from a FORWARD start in any stroke so long as the swimmer surfaces by the 15 meter mark, except in the IM or medley relay, the freestyle leg must be swam in a stroke that does not repeat the previous 3 disciplines of Butterfly, backstroke, or breaststroke”. Rules for backstroke require the swimmer to start off on the back and remain on the back except for turns, so starting… Read more »

Reply to  Hmmm
7 years ago

Naive question from a parent of 2 age-group swimmers who is just trying to understand the logic.
Isn’t the underwater kicking of the Fly the same as the underwater kicking in the Free?
If different, what is the difference?
If the same, why is a swimmer allowed to do the same underwater in the Free leg and Fly legs of IM, but he cannot do the same as Free leg and Back leg?
Kids asked me about it — not that it does any difference from them — and I was stumped. Although I know nothing about swimming, I do know how to read legal agreements and I still could not figure it out myself.
… Read more »

Reply to  SwimParent
7 years ago

Only 2 strokes require a specific type of kick and those are butterfly and breaststroke. Butterfly requires the feet not to alternate and all propulsion be generated by the up and down movement of the feet. No snapping the feet together. Breaststroke allows only one butterfly kick during the start and pullout of each turn. All other kicks must be breast kicks in which the propulsion must be generated by the bottom of the feet shooting backwards and the snapping together of the legs and feet. If you know anything about music, think of a music conductor directing an orchestra in a 3 beat rhythm….up, out/back, together….up, out/back, together. There is no specific kick required for freestyle or backstroke. A… Read more »

Mike S.
7 years ago

There is a bit of jury nullification going on, as LSC’s are instructing officials that as long as the swimmer does not “intend” to swim backstroke by swimming a measurable distance on the back, the call should not be made. I, for one, agree with that position. An issue that must be addressed is how to treat the young age grouper that is taught to roll over (rather than lift the head) to breathe on the freestyle, if they do that during the free leg of the IM. Are they swimming backstroke or trying not to drown?

7 years ago

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.

Steve-O Nolan
7 years ago

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.

7 years ago

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.

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 …

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