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Is a Crossover Flip Turn Legal from Back to Breast in IM?

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A USMS member recently asked if a "crossover flip turn" is legal when transitioning from backstroke to breaststroke in the Individual Medley.

Sometimes we use terms that mean different things to people, so to answer the question, let's break down the rules for IM transitions.

By rule, the individual medley transitions are considered finishes, not turns. So the finish rules for each stroke apply at the end of each leg. That means that swimmers must touch the wall while on the back or towards the back before turning. Swimmers cannot rotate past the vertical towards the breast prior to the touch.

Now, once a legal touch has been made, the swimmer may turn in any manner desired. Yes, that includes a flip turn.

Some swimmers will use a “crossover” turn whereby they will reach across the body with one arm to touch the wall while rotating slightly. After touching the wall with the hand while still on or toward the back, a flip turn is legal because a legal touch has been made. The key to being legal is that the touch must be made before the swimmer rotates past the vertical. If the swimmer rotates past the vertical before the touch, that is an infraction.

After the turn, the swimmer must be toward the breast when the feet the leave the wall.

A swimmer cannot roll past the vertical (onto the breast) and then do a flip turn like they would do in a backstroke turn. Again, that is because the swimmer must touch the wall on the back at the end of the backstroke leg.

Charles Cockrell
USMS Rules Committee Chair

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