VIDEO: An Examination on FINA’s Tweak to the Backstroke Finish Rules

Two weeks ago, a group of swimmers from the Chattahoochee Gold Swim Club in Atlanta, Georgia went viral when they Tweeted a picture at us of a full 8 swimmers who were disqualified for illegal backstroke finishes, and specifically for submerging at the finish.

While the inability to submerge prior to touching the wall isn’t new, FINA recently changed the wording of the finish rules so as to emphasize this portion of the rule, and it has been noticed. Especially as we head into the long course season, officials at every level across the country have been calling this rule with some frequency.

Because the rule still was causing some confusion, we asked two of our video producers, Jenna Haufler and Hugh Berryman, to put together a video demonstrating the difference between a legal backstroke finish and an illegal backstroke finish.

With the help of Jean-Paul Gowdy, the head coach of Pomona-Pitzer’s swim team, and a few of his swimmers, Haufler and Berryman explain and demonstrate the subtle differences between a legal and illegal backstroke finish.

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Eugene Watson
8 years ago

Watching FINA champs today, and this weekend, August 2015, and while watching the finishes of the backstroke I saw many submerged finishes so I goggled this thinking there had been a rule clarification/change.
Judging by what your link describes, the submerged finish is still illegal. Is it me, or is it allowable at the world’s.
As a retired USA and high school swim coach I bitched about the backstroke rule, as it is stated; “nothing states that some portion of the body must be on the surface.”
I retired in June of 2011 and while watching FINA in Russia, I gathered that that submerged rule had been changed.

meet ref
9 years ago

I think the rule is being interpreted very incorrectly. The wording for USA swimming backstroke finish rule 101.4.4 only states that a swimmer must touch the wall on their back. Nothing about being submerged or no t being submerged at the finish. Stroke rules and finish rules are completely different and should be treated as such.

alan yang
9 years ago

excuse me , I only have one important question :
Can athletes do a dophin kick except for any downward lunge when touching the wall?

S/T Judge
9 years ago

I made this call one time, but I think I have seen it a lot. The one time I called it, it was egregious. The swimmer swam underwater, fully submerged, and touched underwater, too. It does seem like very fast swimmers try to play fast and loose with the rule, though.

9 years ago

How in the heck are people being caught off guard by all this?

All coaches and swimmers should be aware of the rules that govern their sport. If swimmers don’t, their coaches aren’t teaching them or they just aren’t listening.

The best way to make sure you aren’t going to violate any rules is to practice proper finishes on every single backstroke repeat in every single practice you swim. You must pay attention to it and learn based on when you pass the flags to make adjustments. The stroke isn’t just there for you to warm-down or breathe more…

As a former backstroker it kills me that so many kids (and grown ups) butcher this simple move. Your backstroke count… Read more »

9 years ago

To clarify, is this rule for USA Swimming meets, NCAA meets, or both?

9 years ago

That’s a crazy rule, wow!!

On a second note, when did this up voting/down voting come in. Awesome!

Meet Referee
9 years ago

WOW – this is really taking a wrong path in stating that this is some major rules change.
This rule change is not a change. The rule simply had language removed from it that was not needed and led to ambiguity. Why? Because as stated at the “finish” is defined as at the INSTANT the wall is touched ending the swimmers race. The wording basically was a redundancy to the stated portion of the rule: “Some part of the swimmer must break the surface of the water throughout the race, except it is permissible for the swimmer to be completely submerged during the turn and for a distance of not more than 15 meters (16.4 yards) after the start… Read more »

Reply to  Meet Referee
9 years ago

The one person who voted this down must have gotten DQ’ed, well said Meet Ref.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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