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New Backstroke Finish

This past spring brought about a new rule that changes the way swimmers can finish their backstroke race. The change brings USA SWIMMING into compliance with the international governing body of Swimming- World Aquatics. Here is the new rule...

A swimmer may fully re-submerge prior to the finish of a backstroke race “once some part of the head of the swimmer has passed the 5 meter mark (long course and short course meters) or 5 yard mark (short course yards) immediately prior to reaching the finish… prior to the touch.

According to the official USA SWIMMING rule for backstroke, “Some part of the swimmer must break the surface of the water throughout the race, except it is permissible for the swimmer to be completely submerged during the turn and for a distance of not more than 15 meters (16.4 yards) after the start and after each turn.”

Why The Controversy?

Because the change was only made after the 2022 World Championship Justin Ress- Hunter Armstrong incident. In my opinion Ress and his coach knew the rule but decided to do as many swimmers do, take a chance, do what they thought would win the race, and hope to not to get DQ-ed.

Yes, the original rules wording could be misconstrued by someone looking to do so. And does it really matter if you think a lunge back or kick into the wall finish is faster?

The rule is the rule.

I am growing more and more uncomfortable with the win at any cost mentality at the top of swimming, mainly due to the message it sends the 99 percent of swimmers who never make it onto the national team. In sports rules aren’t made to be pushed, or broken, but followed. They are meant to level the playing field, not create a new one.

That raises a few questions. Should the rules be changed to accommodate one swimmer who didn’t medal? And why change the USA SWIMMING rule when it is still the rule for NCAA swimmers? And while I am all for changing rules to help improve swimming- I find myself questioning- does this really do that?

Back Stroke Tips

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