A Voice for the Sport: Seeing Straight

PHOENIX, Arizona, September 3. THE following Voice for the Sport first appeared in print in the September issue of Swimming World Magazine. The column was written by Swimming World CEO Brent Rutemiller.

Debate continues on the current breaststroke turn and finish rules that govern competitive swimming. Video from the 2011 FINA World Championships of Brazil’s Felipe Silva finishing with an illegal dolphin kick to capture gold in the 50 meter breaststroke is proof that FINA needs to take another look at how it monitors the stroke.

Breaststrokers have been using the illegal dolphin kick UNDERWATER for ages—and FINA knows it. FINA has passed rules that disallow it, but it has no mechanism other than the human eye ABOVE WATER to monitor it.

With the advent of underwater cameras that stream real-time video to the public around the world, FINA must change the rules or set new standards that no longer exclude underwater video review from officials.

Currently, judges on the pool deck are trained to observe a legal hand touch at the same time they are trained to observe a legal leg kick. Both actions are performed at two different points on the athlete’s body and often take place within a fraction of a second of each other. The reality is that most judges concentrate on the hand touch and not the leg movement.

FINA has an obligation to avail its judges the same race views that the thousands of fans are enjoying back home in their living rooms.

Under current FINA rules, it would take a walleyed judge suffering from exotropia even to have a chance of making the right call on both movements during turns and finishes. The Japanese have a term for this visual anomaly. It is called “Lon-Pari,” meaning one eye on London and the other on Paris. I would rather call it “Shang-Switz,” meaning one eye on the pool in Shanghai and the other on the FINA offices in Switzerland.

Unfortunately for Silva, his race footage offers compelling evidence that a change is necessary because the world saw it on TV while no official was privy to the same view. The race footage should serve as a warning to FINA of the challenges ahead if they continue to turn a blind eye.

This is not a referendum on Silva. Congratulations on his win. But at this point in the evolution of the sport, FINA needs to evaluate its options to strengthen the sport.

FINA has three choices:
• Keep the current rule unchanged.
• Allow underwater footage to monitor turns and finishes.
• Allow for one dolphin kick into turns and finishes.

Not to change how officials monitor breaststroke turns and finishes is not fair to the athletes, the public or the sport.

To allow official review of underwater footage is the most logical solution, but it comes with a price that will be difficult to implement on all levels of the sport.

To expand the rules to allow for one dolphin kick into the walls would be an exciting evolution, but it would create great debates between the purists who want new performances to be relative to previous performances versus the avant-garde who want to see records shattered.

In any case, FINA needs to see straight on this issue now before it raises its ugly head again on the world stage in the near future.

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September 2011 Issue
Contents of The September issue:

7 LET THE HYPE BEGIN! by John Lohn After what took place at the World Championships in Shanghai, the hype for London will now build and build, eventually hitting a crescendo when July rolls around.
14 SWIMMER OF YEAR LEADS TEAM OF YEAR by Jeff Commings Superstar David Nolan led his Hershey High School (Pa.) team to its first Boys’ National High School Championship.
18 TWO AT THE TOP by Emily Sampl For only the second time since Swimming World began crowning a national high school champion in the early 1970s (boys, 1971; girls, 1976), two schools have tied as the top team: The Baylor School (Tenn.) and Carmel High School (Ind.) girls.

6 A VOICE for the SPORT

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

22 POOL’S EDGE: Messages in Water by Karlyn Pipes-Neilsen
24 DRYSIDE TRAINING: Swim Exercises to Do at Home by J.R. Rosania

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


In the Junior Swimmer portion of the magazine you will find the following:
33 NATIONAL AGE GROUP RECORD SETTER: Greater Toledo 10-and-Under Girls 200 Meter Freestyle Relay (Toledo, Ohio)
35 AMERICAN RELAY by Judy Jacob
36 TYR AGE GROUP SWIMMER OF THE MONTH: Megan Lam, Tualatin Hills Swim Club (Beaverton, Ore.)

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