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Commentary by Jeff Commings, SwimmingWorld.TV associate producer
SHANGHAI, China, July 27. MAJOR controversy exists with the finish of the men's 50 breaststroke final at the 2011 FINA world championships, as underwater video footage obtained by Swimming World shows Silva executing an illegal dolphin kick at the finish of the race.
Swimming rules do not allow a dolphin kick at the finish of the breaststroke race, even if the swimmer is too close to the wall to complete a full breaststroke kick.
Breaststroke swimming rules from the FINA website:
SW 7.1 After the start and after each turn, the swimmer may take one arm stroke completely back to the legs during which the swimmer may be submerged. A single butterfly kick is permitted during the first arm stroke, followed by a breaststroke kick.
SW 7.5 The feet must be turned outwards during the propulsive part of the kick. A scissors, flutter or downward butterfly kick is not permitted except as in SW 7.1. Breaking the surface of the water with the feet is allowed unless followed by a downward butterfly kick.
Video footage of the finish:
FINA does not allow for official results to be determined by underwater video cameras, even when a result is under appeal. The organization had been contemplating its usage as early as 2005, after the swimming community demanded it upon seeing Olympic champion Kosuke Kitajima do a then-illegal dolphin kick off the start and turn of the 100 breast final in 2004. FINA and its member federations were testing underwater video judging through 2007, but no word on its official use was ever determined.
At the 2005 world championships, video footage also showed an illegal touch in the women's 200 butterfly by Poland's Otylia Jędrzejczak, who touched the wall at the finish with one hand. Jędrzejczak was awarded the gold medal despite the evidence of disqualification.
Kitajima, Jędrzejczak and Silva are just three high-profile swimmers to get away with swimming illegally on the way to a gold medal. How many more have gotten away with such infractions, because the finish judge was not looking at the right part of the body, the sun or lights caused a glare or simply the judge looked the other way?
FINA itself can no longer look the other way when it comes to using video footage at major competitions, including the world championships and Olympics.
Though it appears Silva will head back to Brazil with his gold medal, I'd like to congratulate Italy's Fabio Scozzoli as the unofficially official world champion in the men's 50 breaststroke.