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  1. Question: Backstroke Turns

    by , March 31st, 2019 at 01:17 PM (Rules Committee Blog)
    Question:

    What is permissible in doing a backstroke turn?

    Answer:

    In backstroke, the requirement is for some part of the body to touch the wall at the turn. Prior to the turn, you are permitted to leave your back and turn over onto the breast in order to execute the turn. If you leave the back, only one single or double arm pull is permitted and you must initiate the turn before the conclusion of the arm pull. Any other kicking, pulling, or gliding motion that is separate from this continuous turning motion is not permitted.

    Note that swimmers are not required to perform what some people call a backstroke flip turn. You can also touch the wall with your hand or arm at the turn and do an “open turn”. Or, if you turn over on to the breast, you can touch the wall with your hand, as long as you don’t take another pull, kick into the wall, or glide into the wall without initiating the turn.

    Charles Cockrell
    USMS Rules Committee Chair
  2. Completely Submerged

    by , December 3rd, 2017 at 10:16 AM (Rules Committee Blog)
    What are the rules about being completely submerged in butterfly and backstroke? Can swimmers be disqualified for being completely submerged after the 15-meter mark?

    The short answer is yes, it can be an infraction to be completely submerged in butterfly, backstroke, and even freestyle under certain circumstances. This month's blog post will explain the rules and what officials should be observing and reporting.

    Butterfly

    Article 101.2.2 says that it shall be permissible for a swimmer to be completely submerged for a distance of not more than 15 meters after the start and after each turn. By that point, the head must have broken the surface of the water. The swimmer must remain on the surface prior to the next turn or finish. The swimmer is permitted one or more leg kicks, but only one arm pull underwater, which must bring the swimmer to the surface.

    Sometimes in butterfly, swimmers will take a stroke, tuck the head after breathing, and then extend the stroke before taking the next pull. If such action results in the swimmer being completely submerged, even if just for a moment, does that constitute an infraction?
    The answer is yes, this constitutes an infraction if this action occurs after the first arm pull that brings the swimmer to the surface after the start or after the turn.

    What if this action occurs before the 15-meter mark? Wouldn’t that be permissible since the swimmer is permitted to be completely submerged for a distance up to 15-meters after the start and after each turn?

    The answer is no, the action is still not permitted because the swimmer is allowed only one arm pull underwater. That arm pull must bring the swimmer to the surface and the swimmer must remain on the surface until the next turn or finish. Even if the swimmer surfaces before the 15-meter mark, the swimmer may not be completely submerged after the first pull.

    However, we should note that in order for this call to be made, the official needs to ensure that the observation is clear and definitive. The official must be able to clearly observe and report the swimmer was completely submerged, taking into account the need to observe all lanes equitably. In most cases, this infraction would need to be observed from the side of the pool, so the official needs to ensure that swimmers in the middle of the pool are being judged the same as swimmers in other lanes. Things like the glare on the surface, wave action, and obstructions need to be taken into account and the swimmer should receive the benefit of the doubt. However, if the official can report with confidence that the swimmer was indeed completely submerged - not even a finger, hair follicle, or toenail above the surface of the water - then it is indeed an infraction.

    What about reaching for the wall at the turn or finish with the head down and arms extended under the water?

    If the swimmer is completely submerged prior to making the touch, then this action also constitutes an infraction. The comments on a clear and convincing observation also apply to this type of call. Once the official's gaze has shifted from observing the stroke to watching the end wall for a legal touch, the official may not be able to definitively see the entire body, making it difficult to make this call with certainty. But if the official can report a clear observation that the swimmer was completely submerged prior to the touch, then the swimmer should be disqualified.

    Backstroke

    The rules for backstroke are similar, but the wording is different. Article 101.4.2 says that some part of the swimmer must break the surface of the water throughout the race, except that it shall be permissible for the swimmer to be complete submerged during the turn and for a distance of not more than 15 meters after the start and after each turn. By that point, the head must have broken the surface of the water.

    Some swimmers will use a double arm backstroke pull (sometimes called "elementary backstroke"). The action of pulling back with both arms while tilting the head backwards might result in the swimmer being completely submerged. Is that illegal?

    The answer is yes if the action occurs after the 15-meter mark. But, the same comments regarding a clear and convincing observation apply to this situation. The official needs to ensure that the swimmer was indeed completely submerged - the entire body from head to toe. If the official cannot observe the entire body to say the swimmer was completely submerged, the swimmer should receive the benefit of the doubt.

    What if this action occurs prior to the 15-meter mark?


    In this case, the rules say that swimmer may be completely submerged for a distance of not more than 15 meters after the start and after each turn. So, a swimmer could surface, submerge, and then re-surface prior to the 15-meter mark. If the action described above occurs prior to the 15-meter mark, it would not be an infraction.

    Same question as butterfly, what about "diving" backwards for the wall at the finish?

    The same answer as in the butterfly (see above) applies. If a swimmer is completely submerged prior to the touch, then it would be an infraction. But, official must be able to observe that the entire body is submerged before the official shifts to judging the touch at the finish.

    Being completely submerged at the touch - in other words, at the instant that the hand touches the wall - is not necessarily an infraction. The observation of being completely submerged must be prior to the touch.

    Freestyle

    This question does not arise as often in freestyle, but there is also a requirement to surface within 15-meters in freestyle events.

    Article 101.5.2 for freestyle has the same language as backstroke. It says that some part of the swimmer must break the surface of the water throughout the race, except that it is permissible for the swimmer to be completely submerged during the turn and for a distance up to 15-meters after the start and after each turn.

    Therefore, if a swimmer does anything that results in being completely submerged after the 15-meter mark in a freestyle event, that constitutes an infraction.
  3. 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.
  4. Back to the Basics - Backstroke

    by , December 27th, 2016 at 12:52 PM (Rules Committee Blog)
    Happy New Year to all and best wishes for a great 2017 winter swim season! This month's blog entry continues our "back to the basics" series with a review of the rules and frequently asked questions involving backstroke.

    The Backstroke Start
    Last month, we summarized the rules for the forward start, but we know that backstroke starts are different. The backstroke start must be performed in the water. During the starting sequence, the familiar short whistles are still used to signal swimmers to remove all clothing except for swimwear and prepare for your event, and the long whistle is the signal to enter the water. Please enter the water in a safe manner - preferably feet first! For backstroke events only, there is a second long whistle which is the signal for swimmers "take their positions on the wall without undue delay". The second long whistle replaces what some swimmers might remember as the "place your feet" command.

    When assuming a starting position, the rules require swimmers to line up in the water facing the starting end of the course with both hands on the starting grips or the gutter. (Sometimes the horizontal bar with the starting grips is too high for some swimmers, so this rule means that it is acceptable to grab the gutter or the end wall if there is no gutter.)

    What about the position of the feet at the start? There is no explicit requirement for the feet to be placed under the surface of the water, but the toes cannot extend over the lip of the gutter and swimmers may not bend the toes over the lip of the gutter, before or immediately following the start. (What if there is no gutter? In "flat wall" pools with no gutters, we interpret this rule to mean that the toes cannot extend over the edge of the pool deck.)

    Upon the "take your mark" command, swimmers may assume any position that does not violate these rules regarding feet, hand, or starting position.

    The Stroke
    The rules say that swimmers must "push off on the back and continue swimming on the back throughout the race". The rules also say that "some part of the swimmer must break the surface of the water throughout the race, except that it shall be permitted for the swimmer to be completely submerged during the turn and for a distance of not more than 15 meters after the start and after each turn". This means that swimmers are permitted to kick underwater (any style of kick) after the start and after each turn, but the head must break the surface of the water within 15 meters.

    Sometimes people ask if different styles of backstroke are permitted. What about "double arm" backstroke or what some of us might have learned as "elementary backstroke" with a breaststroke kick? The rule only requires that a swimmer remain on the back throughout the race (except for the turn), so any stroke or kick variation is permitted as long as swimmers remain on the back.

    Many swimmers swim backstroke with a lot of body rotation. How far can a swimmer rotate along the body axis? In our glossary, we define "on the back" as meaning "at or past the vertical towards the back", so rotating up to 90 degrees is permitted throughout the race. Kicking on the side is permitted off of starts and turns as long as the swimmer does not rotate past the vertical towards the breast.

    The Turn
    The backstroke turn is sometimes complicated to describe. There is a pretty straightforward rule that "some part of the swimmer must touch the wall" upon completion of each length of the race. That means that an "old school" open turn is still permitted with a hand touch (or a head touch - ouch!). The swimmer can turn in any manner desired once a legal touch is made as long as the swimmer is still on the back when the feet leave the wall after the turn.

    What about a backstroke flip turn? Of course, a backstroke flip turn is also legal and commonly used during competition. Swimmers are permitted (not required) to rotate past the vertical towards the breast only during the turn. Once the swimmer has rotated towards the breast, one immediate continuous single arm pull or simultaneous double arm pull may be used to initiate the turn.

    Now here is the important part of the rule that sometimes trips people up: "Once the body has left the position on the back, any kick or arm pull must be part of the continuous turning action". By the time the swimmer has turned and then completed the one permitted arm pull, the swimmer must initiate the turn. Any kicking into the wall or gliding into the wall without initiating the turn is an infraction. Any additional pulling is also an infraction. (This is one area of the rules where there are still some differences between organizations. High School and NCAA rules permit kicking and gliding into the wall.)

    What if I turn over, leaving a position on the back, intending to do a flip turn, but then touch the wall with my hand instead? Since the rules only say that some part of the swimmer must touch the wall, if there was no other independent glide, kick, or arm pull, this action is legal as long as the swimmer touches the wall during the one allowed continuous arm pull. However, if the swimmer takes another arm pull to make it to the wall, that would be an infraction.

    The Finish
    Finally, the rules say that the swimmer must touch the wall while on the back. No turning over or around to look for the wall!

    Many swimmers dive backwards for the finish in an effort to finish hard and reach for the wall. What if this technique results in the swimmer being completely submerged before the finish? Since the rule says that some part of the swimmer must break the surface of the water, it would be an infraction if the official observes that the entire body is underwater. Generally, officials must make this observation while observing the swim before shifting their gaze to observe the touch itself. It needs to be pretty clear that absolutely no part of the body - not even a toe - is breaking the surface of the water. Most swimmers who dive for the wall will have the head, arm, and upper body submerged, but the feet remain above the water surface.

    Charles Cockrell
    USMS Rules Committee Chair
  5. My second meet as a Master

    by , February 24th, 2011 at 08:49 PM (Maple Syrup with a Side of Chlorine)
    20th Annual Valentines Love to Swim Classic: 2/19/11

    100 Backstroke: 59.45 - my goal was to get under 1 minute!

    100 IM : 1:04.06 - I wish I could be more efficient at the breaststroke.

    50 Free: 24.37 - felt good, need to work on the turn.

    100 Free: 53.45 - Super excited about this time - I was aiming for a 55.

    I need to keep working on my stroke, as the back is off just a little due to poor hip rotation, which is preventing my left pull from getting as deep as it ought to be. Also, the 100 Free was my last event, and I sucked wind on the last lap - even some water due to a bad breath with 15 yards to go.

    I have been working on some longer endurance sets with time intervals to keep pace - I try to get in two workouts a week hard (3600yds in 60 minutes) and then 1-2 more (2600 in 60 minutes) where I focus more on stroke work/drills/kicking.

    Any ideas for helping my hips and shoulders to rotate together for backstroke would be appreciated!