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Disqualification: how to avoid it?

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Answer

At some time during their swimming career, a swimmer may be disqualified. Although this is upsetting for the swimmer and their team/coach, the reason for the disqualification will be known, and it can be rectified for the future.

Why are swimmers disqualified?

Each stroke in swimming is governed by a set of rules. When a rule has been broken, a judge will notify the referee, and if the referee agrees, the swimmer is disqualified. Click here for the fina rules on the ASA website.

Rules of swimming

Generally

  • Once called to 'take their marks' by the starter, swimmers must remain stationary in a starting position. Swimmers must not delay the start, or start before the signal.
  • Swimmers remain in the water at the end of a race until the Referee tells them to exit.
  • If time pads are being used, swimmers must not climb out over them, but progress under the lane rope(s) and exit at the side of the pool. Swimmers must ensure they do not impede any swimmer in a race (as may occur in a relay) as this will be a disqualification.
  • A swimmer must remain and finish in the same lane in which they started.
  • A swimmer when turning must make physical contact with the end of the pool. The turn must be made from the wall, not a step from the bottom of the pool.

Butterfly

  • Start & Turn – The swimmer must surface at or before 15m. They may have one or more leg kicks, but only one arm pull underwater that must bring them to the surface. They must remain on the surface until the next turn or finish.
  • Body Position – From the beginning of the 1st arm stroke after the start and each turn, the body must be kept on the breast.
  • Arms – must be brought forward together over the water, and brought back simultaneously.
  • Feet – must move simultaneously. They need not be on the same level, but they must not alternate in relation to each other. A breaststroke kick is not permitted.
  • Turns & finish – Arms must recover over the water. Hands must touch simultaneously.

Backstroke

  • Start – Feet or toes must not curl over any gutter
  • Start & Turn – The swimmer must surface at or before 15m, and some part of the body must break the surface throughout the race (until the next turn or finish).
  • Body position – Must remain on the back (shoulders must not go beyond vertical), except when executing a turn.
  • Turn; the old style – whilst on the back touch the wall with any part of the body, turn around and push off on the back, this is safer but slower.
  • Turn; forward roll – here the swimmer rolls onto the front, takes one stroke then the arms pull them into the turn. There must be no kicking once the arm pull has been completed, and no gliding. This turn must be continuous, and is frequently the reason for disqualification in backstroke.
  • Pushing off the wall - swimmer must be on their back.
  • Finish – Swimmer must be on the back at the touch.

Breaststroke

  • Start & Turn – One complete underwater stroke may be taken before surfacing (1 arm stroke, 1 leg kick, in that order). On this stroke only, the arm pull may go beyond the hips. The swimmer must surface before the arms turn inwards from the widest point of the next stroke.
  • Butterfly kick – No butterfly kicks are allowed in the breaststroke, except for one during the underwater arm pull. It must be followed by a breaststroke kick.
  • Body position – the swimmer must remain on the breast.
  • Arms/hands – Hands shall be pushed forward together under, on or over the water. The elbows shall be under the water (except at turns). The hands must not be brought back beyond the hip line (except the first stroke after the start/turn). Both arms must work simultaneously.
  • Legs/feet – Leg movements must be simultaneous and in the same horizontal plane without alternating movement. The feet must be turned outwards during the propulsive part of the kick. Scissor, dolphin and flutter kicks are not allowed.
  • Head – The swimmer's head must break the surface during each arm/leg cycle.
  • Turn & Finish – Both hands must touch simultaneously at, above or below the water level.

Freestyle

  • Start & Turn – The swimmer must surface at or before 15m.
  • Turn – The swimmer must touch the wall with some part of the body.
  • Swimmers will be disqualified if they take or step/walk on the bottom of the pool, although they can stop and stand still if necessary.
  • Any stroke can be swum, generally it is front crawl.

Individual Medley

  • Strokes – these must be swum in order – Butterfly, Backstroke, Breaststroke and Freestyle. Each stroke has the same rules as in the stroke's event.
  • Each stroke must cover a quarter of the distance, e.g. 100m IM = 25m of each stroke.
  • Start – As Butterfly is the first stroke, the start is as for Butterfly.
  • Change of stroke – The finish of each stroke must be as per the rules of that stroke, i.e. backstroke the swimmer must touch on the back before turning to push off for breaststroke (whether doing a touch turn or a flip turn); breaststroke and butterfly must finish with a two hand touch.
  • Freestyle means any stroke except Butterfly, Backstroke or Breaststroke.

Relays – In general

  • Strokes – These are as per the rules of each stroke.
  • Take Over – The incoming swimmer must touch the wall before the outgoing swimmer's feet have left the block. There may be movement on the block, but the feet must not leave before the touch.
  • Medley Relay – Must be in the correct stroke order – Backstroke, Breaststroke, Butterfly, & Freestyle. Freestyle means any stroke, except Backstroke, Breaststroke or Butterfly. Each stroke covers a quarter of the distance.

Note - if a swimmer starts in the water, their hands must not leave the wall before the incomming swimmer touches.

Disqualification - and how to avoid it (Sept 2011)

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