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Changes to FINA Rules

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United States Masters Swimming (USMS) is a member federation of FINA - Federation Internationale de Natation Amateur - the international governing body for aquatic sports. Both USMS and USA Swimming follow the rules of FINA so world records and world top 10 performances can be recognized and so we can have consistency in the rules within the sport.

FINA typically considers rule changes during the first year of the quadrennial (the year after the Olympics) when the FINA Congress meets at the World Championships. This is a long process that begins almost a year prior to the Congress when member federations have an opportunity to propose changes.

The FINA Congress met on July 21, 2017 at the World Championships in Budapest. There were two changes approved to the swimming rules (those affect USA Swimming and USMS) and one change specifically approved for masters.

The first change to the swimming rules is not really a substantive change at all, just a clarification in wording. FINA deleted a sentence from the rule that said "underwater kicking on the side is permitted". That does not mean that underwater kicking on the side is suddenly illegal in butterfly. FINA simply thought that the sentence was redundant and decided to take it out of the rule. The USMS rule does not have this language and since there is no change in how the butterfly will be judged, we donít need to change the USMS rules. Keep those underwater kicks!

The second change affects the freestyle leg of individual medley and medley relay events. You might recall that in 2015, FINA issued an interpretation of the current rule that said swimmers cannot be in a position on (or towards) the back when swimming freestyle in an IM or medley relay event. This is because being in a position on the back constitutes a legal backstroke and swimmers are not permitted to repeat a stroke previously swum on the freestyle leg of an IM or medley relay (butterfly, backstroke, or breaststroke). This interpretation had the unintended consequence of making it illegal to execute a freestyle turn and leave the wall on your back, even if only for a short time followed by a correction to a position on the breast.

The rule change would still prohibit swimming in a position on (or towards) the back for most of the freestyle leg of an IM or MR event. But, swimmers will now be permitted to leave the wall on the back, as long as you return to a position on (or towards) the breast before any stroke or kick.

The third change affects the timing systems required to set a world masters record. Previously, FINA accepted world records when timed with an automatic timing system (touchpads), a semiautomatic primary timing system (automatic start with a button finish), and hand-held watches. Less than 5% of world records in recent years were set with any timing system other than automatic (touchpads). FINA will no longer accept world record applications unless timed with an automatic primary system (touchpads). In the event of a touchpad malfunction, FINA will accept record applications from a one, two, or three button semiautomatic backup system. Buttons may only be used as backup in case of touchpad failure, they may not be used as the primary system for records.

These changes are effective September 21, 2017. Since USMS automatically adopts changes from FINA, the IM rule will also take effect in USMS sanctioned meets on this date. With our upcoming USMS National Convention, we will be distributing the rule changes to LMSC officials at convention and prior to September 21 to ensure that everyone is informed of the changes.

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