The Rules Define the Boundary

PHOENIX, Arizona, February 5. SWIMMING World CEO Brent Rutemiller looks at "The Rules Define the Boundary" in the latest Voice for the Sport. This article is found in the February issue of Swimming World Magazine, but is also re-printed below.

A world record is the ultimate measure of a human being's performance, relative to all other human beings, under equal circumstances, within the same boundary.

Rules are established to ensure that athletes are not assisted by outside means. Rules are established to ensure that there are no environmental influences. Rules are established to ensure that movements meet a standard specification.

The rules define the boundary.

A performance that was achieved within the rules—no matter how ill-conceived the rules were at the time—must stand the test of time and act as a challenge for those who set higher standards.

To not accept a performance achieved legally speaks poorly of a sport's ability to govern itself and, at the same time, shows little confidence in those who rise to a challenge.

The records must stay. The rules must govern.

History will provide the perspective.

History is riddled with rule changes that redefined the boundaries of our sport. With each change came new world standards.

One cannot argue the benefits of pool design—from deep gutters to flood gutters to gutters with automatic return systems that keep the pool water level constant and, thus, reduce wave drag. Lane lines evolved as well—from simple designs that acted as dividers to wave-calming devices. Touch pads started as solid walls to ones that allow for water to pass through. Pools are faster today than they were decades ago, and with each advancement came new world records and a redefinition of "equal circumstances" and "environmental influences."

Benefits also came from redefining the rules of movement through the water. From freestylers and backstrokers having to touch the wall before turning and breaststrokers not being able to put their head underwater to crossover turns and underwater dolphin kicks, the sport has evolved. With each new rule change came new world records and a redefinition of "within the same boundary" and "standard specifications."

The advent of goggles and new swimwear material brought performance benefits to the sport through the ages—from wool, cotton and nylon to paper and Lycra, and from modesty skirts to hip-cut suits. Each evolution assisted the athlete via "outside means." With each new generation of technology came new world records and a redefinition of "relative to all other human beings."

Yes, FINA, the governing body of aquatic sports, went too far in allowing suits with compression zippers, polyurethane material, thick layers and muscle recruiting panels to infiltrate the sport legally. But those who set new world records while wearing these products should receive no less recognition than those who set world records while swimming in high-tech pools or those who benefited from rule changes in stroke and turn techniques.

The only difference now—for the first time in history—is that the 2010 class of athletes must outperform the classes of 2008 and 2009 without the same tools. Never in the history of the sport has the governing body approved new technology for two years and then reversed itself.

As a result of this blunder, the problems are now compounded. The sport will be faced with a decade of explanations as to the difference in suit-assisted world records vs. non-assisted world records.

In the meantime, the records must stay on the books as a constant reminder of the fiduciary duty that FINA has to the sport and as a challenge to the next generation of coaches, athletes, trainers, nutritionists and administrators.

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February 2010 Issue
Contents of The February issue:

8 THE NEXT DECADE by John Lohn
Here's a short list of things we can expect to see—or hope to witness—in the world of swimming in the next decade.
Effective Jan. 1, 2010, FINA banned the new-and-improved polyurethane speed suits from being used in competition. Did FINA make the right decision?
20 U.S. SWIMMERS BID FAREWELL TO 2009 by Jason Marsteller
USA Swimming provided national competition for its senior and junior swimmers on two successive weekends in December.
23 THE TRUE "LAST HURRAH"? by Jason Marsteller
Ten world records were bettered at the European Short Course Championships in December.
24 A Disappointin g Duel by Jason Marsteller
The new format for the Duel in the Pool in which there would be two meets—Australia vs. Japan and the United States vs. Europe—didn't meet expectations at the competition in Europe.

6 A VOICE for the SPORT

In the Swimming Technique portion of the magazine you will find the following:

31 HOW THEY TRAIN: Nelson Silva by Michael J. Stott
32 USSSA: Survival First, Swimming Second by Antony White
The British Swim School, based in South Florida, believes that for the very young, the back-float method affords the best possible chance for survival.

In the SWIM portion of the magazine you will find the following:

25 THE POOL'S EDGE: Similarities in Training by Karlyn Pipes-Neilsen
Being mindful of the similarities with freestyle, here are 10 suggestions on how to improve your technique for butterfly and breaststroke.
26 DRYSIDE TRAINING: After-Exercise Stretches to Increase Range of Motion
by J.R. Rosania
28 LANE LEADERS: Laureen Welting by Emily Sampl

In the Junior Swimmer portion of the magazine you will find the following:
Irvine Aquazot Swim Club 11-12 Boys 400 Yard Medley Relay
35 AMERICAN RELAY by Judy Jacob
Max Montour, Moon Valley Aquatic Club

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