View Full Version : Backstroke Start Modifications

July 8th, 2002, 10:01 AM
USMS Rules Committee
June 28, 2002

In accordance with USMS rule 601.4.6B, the rules of competition within USMS have changed due to actions taken by the USA Swimming Rules Committee on or about June 1, 2002 and the USMS Rules Committee on June 28, 2002. The actions by USS were in response to a request for interpretation of the USA-S rules in light of the current FINA rules. The changes are detailed below. Please inform all coaches, officials, meet directors, LMSC web sites, and members of USMS of these changes. Questions can be directed to Leo Letendre, USMS Rules Chairman, 267 Glandore Dr, Manchester MO 63021, e-mail: Rules@usms.org

EFFECTIVE DATE: JUNE 1, 2002 (same as USA-S effective date)


Backstroke: To permit the movement of toes and feet above the surface of the water after the start signal is given. Toes, however, may NOT be brought over the lip of the gutter.


1. The next two pages show the amended rule in the standard format used for proposed rules changes. New language is underlined; Deleted language is struck. The changes are the same as the USS changes (adds and deletions).
2. The last page (entitled Cut and Paste Format) shows the resulting changed language. It is formatted so that you can literally cut and paste the changed paragraphs into your 2002 rule book.
3. The change is a permissive change. Current practice is not a violation of the new rule. The rule allows a swimmer to raise their feet above the surface of the water after the start signal has been given. However, placing the toes in or on the gutter after the start signal is given is still not permitted. Thus, the movement is only permitted in pools with flat walls or in which the water level is below the gutter.
4. Sample Newsletter article:
USMS has adopted a change to the rules of competition based upon changes made by USA Swimming on June 1, 2002. The change was made to the Backstroke start rules. Swimmers are no longer prohibited from raising their feet above the water level after the starting signal has been given. However, the swimmer is NOT allowed to place their toes or feet in or on the gutter during or after the start. Thus the rule effectively allows a change from the current practice only in flat walled pools and pools with the water level below the gutter. The current legal start is still legal. These changes are effective June 1, 2002.


Matt S
July 8th, 2002, 02:37 PM
For the edification of we non-backstrokers: would those of you who know and love this stroke provide a (brief) overview of the pros and cons of letting swimmers place their toes above the water and/or curl them over the gutter on the start? Obviously, placing them higher results in a faster/longer/better start, objectively speaking. However, subjectively speaking, why would we consider not allowing that?

My impression of the long axis strokes is that the idea behind them is fairly straightforward. Freestyle is anything you please, and backstroke is anything you please as long as your back is closer to facing the bottom of the pool than your front. It's the short axis strokes where you need to get into fine technical points to distinguish them from each other. I can see some of the pros and cons to allowing the flip on your stomach for a backstroke turn, or not. I can see some of the pros and cons to how far you let a backstroker kick under water off of the turn before having to come to the surface. I just don't get at all how placing your toes for the start makes for a purer form of backstroke. I don't particularly care one way or the other; I'd just like to know.