Olympic Channel Publishes Documentary on How the Dolphin Kick Changed Swimming Forever

1988-men-100-back-final-seoul

The Olympic Channel published a documentary yesterday on how underwater kicking forever changed the sport of swimming, focusing on pioneers Jesse VassalloDavid BerkoffDaichi Suzuki and Igor Poliansky.

Vassallo was a pioneer of the underwater dolphin kick. In the documentary, he said he was swimming the 200 backstroke at the 1976 US Nationals next to 1976 Olympic Champion John Naber and thought the best way to compete with Naber was to swim underwater off the start to avoid swimming at Naber’s hip the entire race.

American David Berkoff was famous for the “Berkoff Blastoff” where he perfected the underwater dolphin kick, swimming the first 35 meters of the 100 LCM back underwater. Others followed suit, including Japan’s Daichi Suzuki and the Soviet Union’s Igor Poliansky.

One of the most famous races in Olympic history, the men’s 100m back final from the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul put the Berkoff Blastoff on full display. The documentary showcases that final and how Suzuki was able to upset Berkoff in the final, despite the latter producing a new world record in the heats.

FINA changed the rule in 1991 to where a swimmer’s head in backstroke had to be submerged by 15 meters. The rule applied to butterfly after the 1998 World Championships, hence why swimmers like Denis Pankratov and Misty Hyman swam well past 15 meters in their swims in the late 90’s.

3 comments

  1. Elysia Moreland

    This was my thesis topic in 2009 as a graduate student 👩🏼‍🎓

  2. Ricky Njo

    Brian Howard

  3. Jason Mead

    K.c. Nodgaard Mead