Correction: the original version of this story mis-identified the swimmer. We regret the error and it has been updated.
Pulling on the laneline is a part of the culture of swimming. And every time you’re caught doing it, the exchange goes something like this:
- Coach: Are you going to pull on the lanerope in the meet too?
- Swimmer: Coach, I promise I won’t do it in a meet, chill
- Coach: Then don’t do it in practice!
But…what if it happened? At the Olympic Games?
SwimSwam’s eagle-eyed readers noticed on a slow-motion replay of heat 2 of the men’s 200 freestyle on Sunday evening in Tokyo that one swimmer, Israel’s Denis Loktev, appeared to grab the lanerope going into his turn.
There are very few things that can cause a disqualification in freestyle swimming, but pulling on the lanerope is one of them.
No full-speed replay of the same angle has been located to see the real force of the pull, though there is a zoomed-out view of the same. In reality, it probably didn’t make much difference – this appears to be more of a situation where he was swimming to close to the rope, his hand caught the buoy, and he just gave it a little tug. Be that it was going into a turn, the benefit was probably minimal anyway.
But, by the letter of the law, this could be called. The rules as written don’t allow for any judgement on intent, just on the action. The rule is, simply:
SW 10.6 Pulling on the lane rope is not allowed.
These are the first Olympic Games using video review in swimming, but video review can only be used extensively only to overturn a call. According to FINA’s pre-meet reservation, the video review official can initiate a call, but it must be on first viewing. Then the second referee then must confirm it. So Loktev escaped on an official’s decision, or miss, that the small tug was not in violation.
See the video of the pull below, first in slow motion then in full speed.
Loktev finished 5th in his heat in 1:47.58 and 27th overall to miss the semifinals of the event.