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  1. Recently Asked Questions

    by , April 7th, 2018 at 11:42 AM (Rules Committee Blog)
    With this entry, we answer a few questions recently received from USMS members.

    My birthday is coming up and I am going to "age up" into a new age group. When does my new age group take effect at USMS sanctioned meets.

    For meets held in 25-yard pools, your age group is determined based on your age on the last day of the meet. So, if you are swimming in a meet that ends before your birthday, you will swim in the age group that corresponds to your age before your birthday. If you enter a multi-day meet and just happen to have a birthday in the middle of the meet, you will swim in the older age group.

    For meets held in 25-meter or 50-meter pools, we conform to the rules of FINA (the international federation). Your age group for the entire year is determined based on your age on December 31. So, even if your birthday is not until December, you would swim in the older age group for the entire year.

    It can get a little confusing with the difference between yards and meters. The rule differences mean that you could potentially be swimming in two different age groups for a short time, especially if you have a birthday that is later in the year. When you enter a meet, the entry process should automatically put you in the correct age group based on your birth date and the rules in effect for that meet.


    Are straps, braces, and compression products (such as a Cho Pat®, AceTM Bandage, or other brands) legal in USMS Competition?

    These devices are not legal in USMS competition. In the rules we say that swimwear consists only of a swimsuit, googles, and cap(s). Anything additional is not permitted and we specifically say that armbands or legbands shall not be considered part of swimwear and are not permitted. In addition, we say that swimmers may not wear or use any device that aids in speed, space, buoyancy, or endurance. While it may be true that these devices might create additional drag, they provide physical benefits in the form of muscle compression or stabilization that would contribute to an advantage in terms of endurance.

    Having a doctor's note does not compel the referee to make an accommodation for these types of devices. Even with a doctor's note, referees are required to follow the rules and cannot waive any of these requirements. Referees can only consider accommodations for permanent, life-altering, physical disabilities.


    Does USMS permit video recording devices to be used behind the blocks?

    The rules do not address the use of cameras or other video equipment behind the blocks beyond provisions for video replay footage use by officials and the use of stationary overhead cameras as a backup timing system.

    Can we use automatic relay takeoff officiating equipment at USMS meets?

    Yes, automatic relay takeoff equipment may be used at USMS sanctioned meets if available at the facility. The automatic judging equipment consists of a sensor on the starting platform that can show when the swimmer leaves the starting platform in comparison to the touchpad in the water which records the touch of the incoming swimmers. If an overhead video camera system is available as a backup timing system, the automatic officiating equipment can show a potential infraction which is then confirmed by reviewing the overhead cameras. If the overhead camera system is not available, the automatic relay takeoff equipment may not be used to initiate a potential infraction. Early takeoffs are noted by the officials on deck and then confirmed by the automatic relay takeoff equipment.


    If I am entered in a 200-yard freestyle event, can I swim the first 50 of this event as breaststroke in order to earn a record and then complete the event swimming freestyle (or other strokes)?

    In freestyle events, it is permissible to swim other strokes. However, times achieved in a freestyle event may only count as freestyle times. Even if you swim another stroke legally, you cannot earn an official time for another stroke.

    So, in the situation described in this question, a swimmer could swim the first 50 of a 200 freestyle as breaststroke (or any other stroke) without being disqualified. The swimmer can then swim any other strokes desired for the remainder of the event. However, the swimmer cannot earn an official time for a 50 breaststroke event that would count for records, top ten, or any other form of official recognition. The initial 50 split time can only count as a time for a 50 freestyle. The final time, regardless of the length of the event, may only be used as a freestyle time.

    Note that in individual medley or medley relay events, freestyle is defined as any other stroke not previously swum, so you cannot repeat butterfly, backstroke, or breaststroke during the freestyle leg of a medley event.
  2. Using times from Masters Meets for USA Swimming Purposes

    by , February 3rd, 2018 at 10:36 AM (Rules Committee Blog)
    How can I get my times from Masters meets recorded for official purposes by USA Swimming?


    Many swimmers ask about using their times from Masters meets for USA Swimming official purposes, such as qualifying for USA Swimming meets.

    USMS (the meet director or an official from the LMSC) must request approval from USA Swimming to have the meet observed by USA Swimming for this purpose. This is not routinely done and is normally reserved for championship (LMSC, zone, national) or other large meets. A key requirement is having a sufficient number of USA Swimming certified officials
    available (normally a minimum of four officials with at least two designated observers) to judge the events for conformance with USA Swimming rules.

    If you think you have a need to record your times for this purpose, check with the meet director well in advance of the meet to ask if the host intends to apply for USA Swimming observation.

  3. How do I get my split times officially recorded?

    by , February 3rd, 2018 at 10:34 AM (Rules Committee Blog)
    How do I get my splits officially recorded?

    With championship meets on the horizon, many swimmers are interested in recording relay leadoff or initial splits in individual events for official purposes. Split times can be used for official purposes, including national qualifying times, top 10 times, and records, or just to record a time to measure your performance. It is good to review the rules to ensure that your splits will count for official purposes.

    What are the timing system requirements for recording splits?


    • An initial split or a relay leadoff split can be used for a world record if the split is timed with automatic equipment or, in the event of a touchpad malfunction, with a semiautomatic backup system consisting of at least one button.



    • An initial split or a relay leadoff split can be used for a USMS record if the split is timed with automatic equipment (a touchpad). If the touchpad fails, the leadoff split cannot be used for a USMS record.



    • An initial split or a relay leadoff split can be used for a USMS Top 10 time if the split is timed with automatic equipment, a semiautomatic timing system with a minimum of two buttons, or at least two valid watches.


    When do I need to submit a request to have my split recorded in the official results and how do I do that?

    You must submit a written request prior to your swim for relay leadoff splits and for initial backstroke distances in a longer backstroke event. We ask for a written request prior to these events so that officials can be notified and can judge the intermediate turns and relay exchanges appropriately. For all other initial splits in individual events, you must submit a written request prior to the end of the meet. Check with the meet director to obtain a split request form. In most cases, they will usually have them available at the check-in table when you arrive at the meet.

    What if the meet announcement states that splits will automatically be recorded?

    The rules allow for the meet host to automatically record some or all splits if the host desires. For national championships, automatic splits are mandatory, so your split times from all individual events will automatically be recorded and included in the official results, with the exception of backstroke events. Automatic splits may also be recorded for relays provided that officials are assigned to judge the exchanges and ensure that the second swimmer does not start in the water or stand on an active padand that the automatic timing system is properly functioning.

    If a meet host chooses this option, the meet announcement must state for which events splits are going to be automatically recorded. No written request is required for these events. For all other events (and, in all cases, backstroke individual events or an initial backstroke distance in the leadoff leg of a medley relay), a written request is still required. Check with the meet director if you are unsure based on guidance in the meet announcement.
  4. How do I make sure my record counts?

    by , January 6th, 2018 at 02:07 PM (Rules Committee Blog)
    Swimmers often ask: "What do I need to do to make sure my record (or potential top 10 swim) counts?" There are several things for which swimmers can look to ensure that their swims count for records and top 10.

    Meet Directors and LMSC Officers should be aware of these requirements and provide the necessary resources to recognize official times. However, some meets may require action by the swimmer, so it is good to be aware of the rules and read the information in the meet announcement carefully.

    Is the meet sanctioned or recognized by United States Masters Swimming (USMS)?

    Sanctioned meets are required to follow all of the rules of competition which should ensure times may be used for all official purposes. Times from sanctioned meets are generally submitted by the LMSC for consideration without any further action required by the swimmer, but if you have questions on the status of a record application, you can follow up with your LMSC Top 10 recorder.


    • The meet announcement must have a statement that says "sanctioned by (LMSC name) for USMS, Inc."
    • All participants in USMS sanctioned meets must be members of USMS, so the meet entry process should include verification of membership and a liability release.
    • Times from sanctioned meets must be submitted for FINA world record consideration within 60 days of the swim.


    Recognized meets may also be used to achieve USMS records and top 10 rankings. These are usually meets conducted by other organizations, but the host has agreed to conduct the meet under USMS rules so the times may be used for official purposes. A USMS observer must be assigned to the recognized meet by the LMSC. The USMS observer must submit a written report to the LMSC verifying whether the relevant USMS rules were followed. The meet announcement should state that the meet is recognized by USMS and swimmers could ask the meet director if these conditions have been satisfied.

    Times from recognized meets are not automatically submitted for consideration, so it is the swimmer's responsibility to submit the times and documentation to the appropriate LMSC Top 10 recorder. This may include the need to submit documentation on the pool measurement (see below).

    A few additional notes on recognized meets:


    • USA Swimming sanctioned meets are automatically recognized without the need for a formal application for recognition. USMS members who compete in a USA Swimming meet, as a USA Swimming athlete, may submit their times for consideration, but proper documentation (including pool measurement verification for USMS records) is required.



    • FINA will not accept times from recognized meets for world record or world top 10 consideration.



    • Times achieved by USMS members at events sanctioned by a FINA member federation (i.e., a masters meet in another country) may be submitted without a formal application for recognition as long as the USMS swimmer registers for the meet as a USMS member.



    • Times achieved at FINA World Masters Championships will automatically submitted for USMS record and top 10 consideration.


    Is the timing system sufficient to allow for records and top 10?


    • World and USMS records now require automatic timing (automatic start and touchpad finish). Without touchpads, it is not possible to achieve a record.
      • In the event of a touchpad malfunction, records may also be achieved using a semi-automatic backup system with three, two, or one button(s).
      • If the touchpad and buttons both fail, a single watch may be used to establish a top 10 time, but watches may not be used to establish records.
      • A minimum of two timers is advised in the event that one of the buttons also malfunctions.




    • If touchpads are not in use, a semi-automatic system (buttons) or watches may still be used to establish USMS top 10 times, but a minimum of two valid times are required.


    If touchpads are in use and there are at least two timers assigned to each lane, operating buttons and watches, all swims should count for records and top 10 barring complete failures of all timing systems (extremely rare). If touchpads are not in use and there are at least two timers per lane, all swims should count for top 10 consideration.

    Have the pool measurement rules been satisfied?


    • Sanctioned meets must have a statement in the meet announcement that indicates whether the pool measurement is on file with USMS and is in compliance with USMS rules, so check for this statement. For recognized meets, swimmers may need to check with the meet director if this information is not provided.



    • If a bulkhead is in use, the bulkhead placement must be confirmed with a measurement before and after each session. For recognized meets, swimmers may need to check with the meet director to ensure that this requirement is met and to obtain a copy of the measurement to submit to your LMSC Top 10 recorder.


    Are there enough officials?


    • There should be a minimum of two deck officials for the duration of the meet. There must be a meet referee, a starter, and two stroke and turn officials, but the referee and starter may perform the duties of a stroke and turn judge.



    • Officials must be certified by an approved certifying body (USMS, USA Swimming, NCAA, or High School Federation). The LMSC should verify that these requirements are met, but swimmers could also check with the meet director or meet referee at recognized meets.


    Is the documentation sufficient to accompany the record application?


    • Record applications must include a copy of the official meet results, timing system printout, and a copy of the heat sheet. A copy of the swimmer's birth certificate must accompany the record application or be on file with USMS.



    • Formal record applications are not required for swims at USMS National Championships or FINA World Championships.


    If I swim an event and miss the record, can I ask to re-swim the event later in the meet in another attempt to break the record?


    • No, except for postponement or a foul, there are no provisions for re-swimming a race. Time trials may only be conducted at short course yard (SCY) meets, but additional time trials or additional events may not be added to meet once the order of events is published in the meet announcement.


    Can I ask my LMSC to sanction another meet for me to attempt a record?


    • An LMSC can sanction a meet at their discretion pursuant to LMSC policies, but any event offered at a sanctioned meet must be offered to all age groups and both genders. The order of events must be published in the meet announcement at least one week prior to the entry deadline.


    Can my relay leadoff or initial split be submitted for a record application or top 10 consideration?


    • A relay leadoff split may be submitted provided automatic timing is used (touchpads) and the second swimmer does not start in the water.



    • A leadoff split may be submitted provided automatic timing is used and a written split request is submitted prior to the event (for backstroke events) or prior to the end of the meet (all other events).



    • For USMS national championship meets, leadoff and initial splits will automatically be submitted for consideration without the need for a written request (except for backstroke events).
  5. Frequently Asked Questions

    by , November 9th, 2017 at 07:26 PM (Rules Committee Blog)
    In this Rules Blog entry, we answer a few frequently asked questions about relays, splits, and distance events.

    Question: At a recent meet, we were told that our relays would be disqualified if we didn’t use the swimmers’ registered names on the relay cards. Can they do that?

    Answer: Yes. It is a violation of 102.9.4. The name on the relay card must be the full name as it appears on the USMS membership card along with the swimmer's age and, for mixed relays, the gender of each swimmer. The order of swimmers in the relay must be declared to the head lane timer before the start of the relay heat and no changes are permitted after that point.

    Question: Can a swimmer get an official butterfly split time from an IM and have it count for records and top 10?

    Answer: Yes, if the split time is recorded by fully automatic timing, the swimmer completes the race without being disqualified, and the swimmer requests the split in writing before the conclusion of the meet. A swimmer could get an official 50 fly split time and an official 100 fly split time from the 400 IM, and both split times could count as official times for USMS records and Top 10. An exception to the requirement for a written request is when the meet has been approved for automatic splits. National Championship meets now have automatic splits for individual events, so the initial splits will be recorded for all individual events, except for backstroke.

    Question: What about backstroke splits in a backstroke event or a medley relay?

    Answer: Backstroke splits must be requested in writing before the event. This requirement exists because the initial split must conform to the finish rules for backstroke which require a swimmer to touch the wall while on the back. Therefore, officials must be alerted to judge the initial leg for conformance with finish rules. For example, if you request a 50-meter split in a 100-meter backstroke event, you would be required to touch the wall while on your back at the 50-meter mark.

    Question: Why isn’t there a warning signal for the 400 free in a 25-meter pool or the 400 IM? What about counters?

    Answer: Article 103.8.7 states that a starter will provide a warning signal in events 500 yards or longer. So, the 400 free and the 400 IM events do not require a warning signal. The rules say that a swimmer may have a counter for events of 16 lengths or more except for the individual medley. Therefore, swimmers may have a counter for a 400-meter free in a 25-meter pool, but not in a 50-meter pool. Swimmers are not entitled to have a counter in a 400 IM.