Deconstructing Lochte’s Underwater, and FINA’s Rush To Disallow It

Screenshot 2015-08-30 17.14.01

Although it’s not officially called the Lochte Rule, it might as well be. Ryan Lochte’s now famous dolphin kicking on his back on the freestyle leg of the 200 IM final at the World Championships is the only possible reason for FINA’s announcement that it will soon disallow it. You can see the race HERE as well as video highlights the underwater portion from a few angles.

What is unprecedented is the speed of this ruling. It took roughly 3 weeks from the time of Lochte’s gold medal 200 IM swim to the time FINA announced that they will soon be making dolphin kicking on the back illegal for the freestyle leg on individual medley races (and presumably medley relay races).

All of this raises a key question. What bothered FINA about this swim?

On the surface, it didn’t seem illegal. After all, according to FINA, during an IM the freestyle leg cannot involve any breaststroke, backstroke or butterfly.

FINA SW 5 Freestyle
SW 5.1 Freestyle means that in an event so designated the swimmer may swim in any style, except that in individual medley or medley relay events, freestyle means any style other than backstroke, breaststroke or butterfly.

And since he hadn’t broken the surface on his back, it’s a real stretch to suggest that merely kicking while on your back underwater is synonymous with the stroke. And yet that is exactly what FINA seems to want.

But why?

If we look at past rule changes, there is some consistency and rationality in the reasons for the new rules.

The many breaststroke underwater rule changes have typically been about the inability to catch cheaters. The 2004-5 Kitajima rule was created simply because officials couldn’t adequately observe dolphin kicking by swimmers in the middle of the pool. Similarly the recent Dec. ’14 ruling was about …read more

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My Favourite Swim Race Videos of 2014-2015 (and Some Earlier Years)

2014-2015 road sign

The 2014-2015 season is basically behind us now. Below are some of my favourite racing videos from the year. Since this is my first time doing this annual review, I’ve also added some of my favourites from the past as well.

Unfortunately, some of the races I watched during the World Championships feed are not available outside of the US any more, including any videos from SwimSwam partner Universal Sports Network. Which means I can’t get all of the World Championship videos that I wanted. Also, note that quite a few of the videos are not in English. But since I usually ignore the announcers anyway, it doesn’t bother me.

If you have any other videos you’d like to add to this list, just put a description and the link in the comments. Just be aware that some sources may not be available outside of your region.

One other note. If you haven’t seen it, go to near the bottom of the list and watch the 1976 Olympic Women’s 4×100 Free Relay video. It’s hard now to describe the East German women’s dominance of that time, but they were unbeatable in almost every race. Almost.

2015 World Championships

I really wish I had more links for this meet. Hopefully some more races will get uploaded soon.

50 BR Women – insanely close race between 5 women

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Spf23dsBSmM

50 BR Men – Adam Peaty WR in Semi-final

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RsnWN8aP524

50 Fly Women – Sarah Sjostrom

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x30vbis

100 Free Men Semi-final – Ning Zetao – 1st time China wins this one

Couldn’t find an internationally available video of the final.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d6ww6rm2VFI

100 FR women (Incredible Campbell sisters)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=II7M2hSVPTA

100 BK Men – Mitchell Larkin

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x30co1w

100 BK Women – Emily Seebohm

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x30cg6b

100 Fly Women – Sarah Sjostrum – World Record

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wo5lauEfGXw&list=PL5g3pqRHonlk-EjsYnn_V_4Zzr1rPcVAW&index=6

200 Free women – Katie Ledecky

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x30hfd2

200 IM men – Ryan Lochte

I watched …read more

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Is the Swimming World Catching Up to the US?

Digital Composite

Those of you who watched the recent World Championships results were probably as shocked as I was with the Day 1 news that both the US and Australian Men’s teams missed making finals in the 4×100 Freestyle relays. Both did as they always do – swam 4 slower swimmers in the heats to rest up the 4 fastest for finals. But unlike other years, neither made finals. In fact, they weren’t that close, with the US team finishing tied for 11th, and the Australian team finishing 13th.

On the surface, it looked like both countries badly miscalculated how fast the other countries would swim. Another alternative is that both countries had unanticipated substandard swims by their B teams. A third alternative is simply that no thinking was involved, and both countries just carried out their usual practice . After all, it had always worked in the past.

I suspect that it was all of the above. Certainly, the morning swims weren’t fantastic by either country. In fact, you have to go back to 2007 to find a world championship when where those times would make finals. But the problem is also that the margin for poor swims is now so small that this practice is inherently risky.

So what does this mean for the swimming world? Is the rest of the world catching up to the swimming powerhouses? Is the US losing their dominance?

The World

We’ll start by determining if the rest of the world is catching up.

There are a few ways to test this. After every World Championships, FINA releases a thorough analysis of all Championships since they started in 1973 (here), including how many countries won events, and how many countries won medals. (The latest release including the recently concluded 2015 Championships won’t be released for a while.)

However, I …read more

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Chasing the Dream: The Pros and Cons of Professional Swimming

breaking bad money pool

Professional team sports are known for their incredibly high-paid stars. Just look at the money thrown at the top names in the big team sports, such as soccer, baseball, football, basketball, hockey and cycling. And not just for the top tier leagues. Many good players in lower leagues can make decent money.

There are only a few individual sports that can claim the same status – boxing, tennis and golf being the main ones. But track & field and swimming are slowly climbing the ranks. Grand Prix prize money, endorsement deals and even appearance money for the stars are starting to grab attention. In fact, quite a few of the swimming elite are estimate to be making a million or more a year.

This money isn’t just affecting those athletes either; it’s slowly transforming our sport. As the elite now have a compelling reason to stay on the top for longer, their names are in front of the public for longer. This brand awareness raises their visibility, and keeps swimming in the sports news. This in turn, helps draw more talented younger athletes into swimming when they might have pursued other professional sports. The result of all this is that swimming at all ages continues to get faster, which puts it in the news again.

After all, we have to remember that the sport of swimming competes against other sports for attention and dollars. And the more people hear about our sport, and watch our sport, the more popular it will be.

But like anything else, there are negatives as well. Recently, Patrick Murphy wrote an article in Swimming World, The Effects of Professional Swimming: Are Male Swimmers Staying in the Sport Too Long? about the some of the impacts of Professional swimming. He pointed out that as US male elite swimmers stay …read more

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