What’s Up With Backstrokers Hitting the Lane Lines in Hangzhou?


  • Tuesday, December 11th – Sunday, December 16th
  • Hangzhou, China
  • Tennis Centre, Hangzhou Olympic & International Expo Center
  • SCM (25m)
  • Live Results (Omega)

People viewing the 2018 Short Course World Championships this week in Hangzhou might have noticed backstrokers having issues staying in the middle of their lane. Below, check out some of the run-ins or near run-ins in the backstroke events with race videos from YouTube (courtesy of Alex Muni).

Kathleen Baker of the United States had very noticeable tangles with the lane line in prelims, and then in the final it looked to completely take her out of the podium race. If you go to 1:12 in the below race clip, she looks right up there in 2nd position behind teammate Olivia Smoliga, but she hits the lane line, or looks to have, right as she goes under the flag. With flip turns ever important in 25-course pools, messing with momentum going in and out of the turn can really slow a swimmer down. You can see coming off of that final turn, Baker comes way back to the field, her edge erased.

Baker wound up 5th at 56.89, with her 29.92 2nd 50 the slowest in the field.

In the men’s 100 back final, you can see Russia’s Kliment Kolesnikov hit the laneline on the first length and then abruptly self-correct (forward to :46 or so). He still swam through it and finished with a bronze at 49.40, but he probably added a bit of time with that mishap.

Go to 2:30.00 on the day 1 heats video from the Olympic Channel, too, and you can see Baker in lane 4 hit the rope during the 100 back prelims and the swimmer in lane 5 veer pretty close to it.

Though it’s just an observation, the intricate ceiling design may have something to do with the backstroke issues. Rather than a more linear pattern as one might expect at a natatorium, or just blank sky in an outdoor pool, this design looks like it could start spinning clockwise or counter-clockwise at any moment, and may be messing with backstrokers’ abilities to stay centered in their lanes. The arena is modified to accommodate a swim meet of this size and stature; it’s primary use is for tennis.

Photo: Satiro Sodré/SSPress/CBDA

Photo: Satiro Sodré/SSPress/CBDA

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As a backstroker, this would drive me insane. Understandable.

Leisurely Swim

Kolesnikov looked to hit the lane line on each of his first 3 lengths, tough break for him


Katinka ran into the lane line hard during the last 5 m of the 100 back, possibly costing her the race.


totally right – i saw that too

About Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon studied sociology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, graduating in May of 2018. He began swimming on a club team in first grade and swam four years for Wesleyan.

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