Unlimited Dolphin Kicks in Breaststroke? It’s Possible, Says Russian Swim Prez

MOSCOW, Russia, February 26. IN an open letter to members of the Russian swimming community, Russian swimming federation President Vladimir Salnikov said FINA is likely to consider allowing multiple dolphin kicks at the start of breaststroke races in a future meeting this year.

Salnikov, the 1980 and 1988 Olympic champion in the 1500 freestyle, wrote that a committee meeting of LEN, the European swimming federation, brought up the chance that FINA will strongly consider allowing swimmers to take as many dolphin kicks as desired during the start of a breaststroke race, as long as they surface and begin swimming breaststroke before the 15-meter mark.

The suggested rule change would need to be voted by the FINA Congress, which meets this summer just before the start of the world championships in Barcelona. Salnikov writes that the idea was first presented at the short course worlds in Istanbul last December, but no action could be taken there, as the FINA Congress was not holding an official meeting.

Existing rules allow for just one dolphin kick on the start and turns during the underwater pull in breaststroke, but Cameron van der Burgh's admission that he took more than one dolphin kick on the start on his way to a gold medal in the 100 breast at the London Olympics prompted FINA to look into measures to curb illegal dolphin kicks. FINA Executive Director Cornel Marculescu said FINA will consider underwater video judging at this summer's meetings.

Salnikov's letter suggests that the concept of underwater video judging has been deemed impractical, because it still requires judges to view footage that might not be completely reliable, and can be cost prohibitive.

No other rule changes to breaststroke were claimed to be suggested in the Salnikov letter. Only one dolphin kick would still be allowed on turns in breaststroke and IM races.

It is interesting to keep in mind that butterfly was born out of breaststroke in the 1950s, when swimmers would recover their arms over the water to gain speed. Butterfly became its own stroke in the late 1950s.

Full text of Vladimir Salnikov letter (in Russian)