Defining Backstroke???

So it seems Mr Lochte caused a bit of controversy at the Worlds this summer by performing his fly kicks (on the freestyle leg of the I.M) on his back!!

But it’s freestyle right so that’s ok?

According to FINA, probably not….

Despite not being DQ’d in Kazan, Lochte’s kick exploits have caused swimming’s governing body to re-look at the laws within IM – and as a recent article on Swimswam states – by adding further clarification to what constitutes the freestyle leg…

The basis of the current rules is that the freestyle leg on an IM can be anything other than back, breast or fly – and thus most of time folk will swim front crawl! However, the concern over Lochte’s front crawl leg is that he did 15m of it on his back, which means he was swimming backstroke of a portion of the leg and so contravening the rule of not being allowed to swim one of the 3 other strokes…

Current perception therefore is that the rules will be changed so that on embarking on the freestyle leg of an IM the swimmer must be on his or her front…

Here’s the interesting bit…

So if Lochte turns breast to free to come off the wall on his front (as we would see in a breast to breast or fly to fly turn) and performs 15m of fly kick underwater before swimming front crawl – has he not completed a portion of the leg swimming butterfly??

It raises the question whether therefore the freestyle leg will not be allowed to contain any fly kicks…

Or can they only be done on the side? (thats not a stroke right?!)

Or is the can of worms opened even further by looking at the technical laws of backstroke that state the entire swim must be completed on the back for it to be legal. And so if a swimmer kicked 15m underwater on the back, came up and turned onto the front then he/she would be DQ’d – and vis a vis therefore the 15m underwater on the freestyle leg if done on the back does not constitute backstroke because the swimmer comes up on the front thus rendering the lap NOT backstroke…

There’s quite a few forums and chat on this subject already and it has been debated ever since he did it!

For my mind I don’t accept that 15m underwater fly kick on the back is backstroke. It is an element of backstroke swimming that has come into the sport as swimmers have become more adept at fast kicking underwater – and rules, such as 15m distance, have been introduced to embrace and regulate its use.

Without a severe overhaul of all regulations of what constitutes strokes and allowable underwater phases I’m not convinced there is an issue…

After all, his winning time of 1:55.81 was nearly a second slower than the time he won the same event in 2 years previous (1:54.98) and nearly 2 seconds slower than his own World Record (1:54.00)!

So in conclusion kids, don’t kick on your back on the freestyle leg of the 200 IM. Not because its illegal, but because it makes you slower 🙂


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