FINA, the international governing body for swimming, has clarified the rule regarding what swimmers are allowed to do when pushing off the wall for the freestyle portion of an Individual Medley race.
FINA made no changes to the wording of their existing rules, but issued a clarification of what is allowed after a swimmer completes the breaststroke leg in an IM race and pushes off for the freestyle leg.
This comes about a month after Ryan Lochte used a new turn in the 200 IM world championship final where he pushed off on his back and kicked underwater for 10 meters. He then surfaced and swam what is commonly known as freestyle.
Lochte was not disqualified, and he won his fourth-straight world title in the 200 IM. Lochte and his coach, David Marsh, devised the turn after realizing that Lochte was faster when he kicked on his back. No other swimmer has used the turn in a competition.
Three weeks later at the world junior championships, FINA announced that such a turn in the 200 IM would no longer be legal and said a clarification of the rule would be forthcoming. In the memo to national organizations, FINA writes:
“Being on the back when leaving the wall for the Freestyle portion of the Ind. Medley is covering more than one quarter of the distance in the style of Backstroke and is, therefore, a disqualification. Backstroke swimming is only defined as being on the back.”
Lochte will still be able to use the technique in freestyle-only races, where the rules do not require a swimmer to maintain any particular body position.
To watch Lochte swim the IM at World Champs, click here