A Great Learning Experience...Again!

There must be something in the air at The Classic hosted annually by JCCS. Four years ago, a very interesting call was reviewed in theory (no call had been made but it was interesting enough that we reviewed the circumstances and options with Referees at the time).

I have often heard that lightning doesn't strike twice in the same place because the same place isn't there the second time. Well, that appears to be a false statement as lighting did, in fact, strike twice in the same place, albeit 4 years apart.

So, here's the circumstances...

The Situation : During the 200 Meter Individual Medley, the swimmer completed the butterfly, backstroke and breaststroke portions of the medley without incident. The swimmer turned to begin the freestyle leg. After the turn, the swimmer took a single arm pull followed by a breaststroke kick and then recovered his/her arms forward (one full cycle of breaststroke). At this point, s/he realized that s/he should be swimming freestyle and then swam freestyle for the balance of the leg to finish the race.

The Call: The Stroke Judge recognized that in an individual medley event, freestyle means any style other than butterfly, breaststroke or backstroke. In her thinking, a single cycle was not enough to determine that the swimmer was swimming breaststroke. And so no call was made.

The rule in question relates to 101.5 and 101.6. In 101.6, the rules state that the last fourth of the IM race must be freestyle. In 101.5, freestyle is described as "any style, except that in a medley relay or an individual medley event, freestyle means any style other than butterfly, breaststroke or backstroke".

So, here's the question. Is one cycle of breaststroke enough to determine that the swimmer was swimming breaststroke and, therefore, in violation of Rule 101.5?

Four years ago, we asked our Referees the same question and, interestingly, had a fairly even split among the Referees as to whether the one cycle was adequate to conclude that the swimmer had swum an adequate enough of breaststroke during the freestyle portion of the IM to constitute a disqualification. 

We also ran the question by the then Chair of the USA Swimming Rules & Regulation Committee, Dan McAllen. Dan said, "unfortunately, the answer to this question may be different depending on the Referee. The interpretation of the rule that applies is simply "the swimmer must be swimming in the style of a stroke other than freestyle" for the disqualification call to be made and upheld." For some, "a single breaststroke arm pull and leg kick is definitive. Frankly, while I could defend that position, for me, posing as Referee if I may, it would take more than a single arm pull and leg kick to uphold that call. Remember, the presumption, by rule, is that following a legal touch at the end of the breaststroke leg the athlete is a freestyle swimmer. While it is true that the elements of breaststroke were there, a single stroke is not sufficient to overcome the freestyle presumption in my mind. That first legal breaststroke cycle would get my attention, to be sure, but I would need to see more to decide that the athlete was actually swimming breaststroke. How much more? At least one more legal breaststroke cycle.

If the Stroke & Turn Judge believes that there was an adequate amount of breaststroke swum to determine that the swimmer was swimming breaststroke in violation of the rules, then the call should be made and vetted. Ultimately, the Referee, based upon his or her interpretation and understanding of what happened, will either uphold the call or not.

Weird that this happened again at The Classic 4 years after it last happened at the same meet. I guess we're not due to revisit this until May 2019.