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DQ: The Ultimate Bummer

If you’ve ever been DQ’d in a swimming race (or any sporting event), you know how bad it can feel. First you’re stunned. Then comes denial. Then (maybe) comes anger. Then comes embarrassment…recrimination…sadness — all those awful feelings that no one wants to associate with athletic performance. A DQ hurts at any level of competition, but the higher you go up the athletic ladder, the greater the consequences. And if you DQ on a relay…well….

The only DQ that I can remember getting as a swimmer happened when I was about 14. That’s nearly 40 years ago, and the memory is still painful. My parents had transported me all the way to Montreal or Toronto to swim ONE event (50 or 100 breast, I can’t remember) — to represent our country at a Canadian/American dual meet. I had the fastest time in the race, but was DQ’d because of one turn. At the time, the rule in breast was that you had to touch with hands together and shoulders level, and I had dropped one shoulder. I remember spending a LONG time in the showers after that event, feeling like I had let everyone down and feeling very very low. I had lost points for the American team. I had lost my chance of getting hardware. And how would I explain what happened to all the people who supported me back home? The good news is that I paid a lot more attention to my turns in practice after that.

Sometimes you get disqualified because you aren’t aware of the rules (see below to prevent this from happening to you). This happened to one of my competitors last week at the USMS Long Course Swimming Nationals in Savannah, GA. She had the fastest time in the 100 breast, but was DQ’d because her head didn’t break the surface of the water when she took an extra armstroke at the finish of the race. She wasn’t aware of the rule. But think about it — were YOU aware of this rule before you read this paragraph?

Sometimes you get disqualified even if you are aware of the rules and are trying not to break them. In the heat of competition, we can all make mistakes if we get a little too eager. This happened to four of my teammates at the Savannah Nationals. Our New England Masters women were shooting for a world record in the 200 Freestyle Relay. Their projected (seed) time was 6 seconds under the world record. In the actual event (and you get only one shot at each event at USMS Nationals), they went 5 SECONDS under the world record. They were on top of the world…until they found out that one of the relay members had false-started. My guess is that NONE of those four women will EVER false-start again in her life.

And then sometimes you get disqualified (or not) for knowingly breaking the rules. Let’s not even go there.

The best way to avoid the DQ Total-Bummer Experience is
1. Know ALL the rules of your sport.
2. Swim LEGAL on every lap of practice, every day.

If you are not aware of the rules in your events and within your governing body, here’s where you can get up to speed:

For USA Swimming

For USMS and FINA Masters