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Foot Position in the Forward Start

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Masters rules for strokes, starts, and turns are mostly the same as USA Swimming rules, but we have a few differences which need some emphasis so that swimmers, coaches, and officials have a clear understanding. One of the most overlooked differences is in the forward start rule and we routinely receive questions regarding the application of this rule. The language of the rule may seem somewhat technical, but we can break down the requirements for a simple explanation.

USMS article 101.1.1 says the following:

The forward start may be taken from the starting block, the pool deck, or a push from the wall. At the commencement of each heat, the referee shall signal to the swimmers by a short series of whistles to remove all clothing except for swimwear, followed by a long whistle indicating that they may take and maintain their positions with at least one foot at the front of the starting platform or the deck, or in the water.

What does the last sentence mean with respect to the position of the feet?

Masters is unique in imposing a foot position requirement prior to the "take your mark" command. This rule says that swimmers are required to step onto the starting platform and place at least one foot at the front of the block. "Front" does not necessarily mean that the foot has to be at the front edge of the starting platform, but it must be towards the front surface. This requirement applies when the swimmer steps onto the platform.

The source for this requirement comes from the FINA masters rules. FINA MSW 3.2 says:

When using the forward start, the referee's whistle shall indicate that the swimmers may take their positions with at least one foot at the front of the starting platform or pool deck, or in the water with one hand having contact with the starting wall.

USMS article 101.1.1 goes on to say:

On the starter’s command, “Take your mark,” each swimmer shall immediately assume the starting position with at least one foot at the front of the starting platform or the deck.

We have slightly different wording in article 103.8.5 which says:

On the starter’s command, “Take your mark,” each swimmer shall immediately assume a starting position that maintains at least one foot at the front of the starting platform or at the front of the pool deck.

The intent of this rule is to say that swimmers may not adjust the position of the front foot after the "take your mark" command. The position of the back foot may be adjusted (for example, to re-position the foot on the back wedge if one is present). The idea is that swimmers must find their position on the starting platform when stepping onto the starting platform and then remain in that position for the entire starting sequence.

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