Even Olympians Pull on the Lane Line: Israel’s Denis Loktev Tugs in 200 Freestyle

Jul 25, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Olympic rings logo during the men's 400m individual medley final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Network, lane line, Olympics
Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher -- USA Today Sports

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Even Olympians Pull on the Lane Line: Israel’s Denis Loktev Tugs in 200 Free

Swimmers hear the same refrain all the time from their coaches: don’t pull on the lane line. Many, of course, still try to grab on for a little boost in practice, particularly when they are swimming easy backstroke and maybe feeling a bit lazy. But in a meet, when such a move could provide an actual advantage — and pulling on lane lines is strictly forbidden? No way.

But in the men’s 200 freestyle prelims, Israeli swimmer Denis Loktev actually grabbed the lane line and pulled as he approached one of his turns. Loktev grabbed the lane line to his left on his last stroke before he flipped over.

Loktev was competing in heat 2 of 5 in the 200 free, and he ended up finishing fifth, with two swimmers out of the race (Romania’s David Popovici and Serbia’s Velimir Stjepanovic) qualifying for the semifinals. His final time was 1:47.68, well off his seed time of 1:46.97. Loktev was not disqualified for his pull, but the move is evident when watching in slow motion, so it appears no official noticed it. Or maybe an official did notice but could not believe what they saw because a swimmer pulling on a lane line during competition is basically unheard of.

The men’s 200 free sets up as a fascinating race going into the Olympic final after Duncan Scott swam the only sub-1:45 performance in semifinals to claim lane four, while four others in the heat have previously recorded 1:44s and American Kieran Smith looks to be in strong form. But Loktev made an impression on these Olympics in a very different manner. It’s unclear if the lane line tug actually helped him swim faster, but definitely don’t expect anyone else to try this move. After all, it’s very illegal and should result in disqualification, and maybe officials will be on the lookout now.

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Pamela Wu
1 year ago

I agreed, it’s very clear he did pulled the lane line which did have him some advantage towards his turn. I hope he doesn’t think nobody sees it. I also give the benefit of doubt to the officials because it happened so fast with the water splash they may not see it. We could with the help of all the cameras.