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What’s Your Swimming Rules IQ?

You spend a whole lot of time training to swim fast, but if you aren’t fast AND legal, you might as well stay home. A DQ scores zero points for you and your team, and won’t net you the best time you were hoping for. Here’s a short quiz to see if you know your stuff — or whether you need to do a little homework on the rules of swimming before your next meet.

The following quiz is based on FINA rules for non-Masters swimmers. Keep in mind that there may be slight variations in these rules, depending on the governing body under which you swim. To make sure your starts, turns, and strokes are legal within your specific governing body, check the links at the bottom of the article — or visit the website of the sport’s governing body in your country. Have fun… the answers are in italics near the bottom of the page.

DESCRIBE THE IMAGEQ#1. You have a symmetrical, legal breaststroke kick, but on the home stretch of your 50 breast you get excited, start to over-swim, and your heels pop out of the water during the kick. Are you DQ’d?

Q#2. Coach is always telling you that you should use a smaller pull on breaststroke. Is this just a technique thing — or does it have something to do with a rule?

Q#3. On a butterfly turn, you touch with both hands, but your right hand touches the wall a split second before the left hand. Are you DQ’d?

Q#4.  How many separate whistle commands will you hear before "Take your mark" in a backstroke event? How many in a fly, breast, or free event?

Q#5.  You misjudge your freestyle flip turn and go "flatline" when you try to push off. Even though you have completely missed the wall, and you have to start from a dead stop, you keep swimming and win the race. What do they tell you at the finish?

Q#6.  You are a GREAT backstroker. Your backstroke is so fast that it’s faster than your freestyle. So… because freestyle means you may swim any style, you decide that in your next 200 IM race, you are going to substitute backstroke for freestyle  — swimming 50 FL, 50 BK, 50 BR, 50 BK. Good idea  — or just another hairbrained scheme dreamed up by a wacko backstroker?

DESCRIBE THE IMAGEQ#7.  Time to transition from back to breast in the 400 IM. You’ve taken your three strokes from the flags and the wall just isn’t there. You’re kicking — coasting — and turn just a bit on your side to look for the wall before you touch. Is that legal?

Q#8. You have a SuperSwimmer on your 8-and-under team, so you figure you will have her swim twice on the medley relay (back and free to give her some rest) and that you’ll still beat all the teams with 4 swimmers. Go for it?

Q#9. The stroke judge has disqualified your swimmer for not having his feet on the same level during the butterfly kick, even though the swimmer was not flutter-kicking and was moving his feet simultaneously. Should you challenge the decision?

Q#10. You’re coming into the finish of the 100 breast and it’s a really close race. If you take another full stroke, your opponent will out-touch you. So you decide to hold on to your perfect, submerged streamline and take a second kick into the wall. Victory — or DQ?

A#1. No. Breaking the surface of the water with the feet is allowed unless followed by a downward dolphin kick.

A#2.  It’s both. For most swimmers, a smaller pull helps you achieve proper timing, and leads to "fast hands." The rule is that "The hands shall not be brought back beyond the hipline, except during the first stroke after the start and each turn."

A#3. Yes. The touch shall be made with both hands simultaneously at, above, or below the water surface.

DESCRIBE THE IMAGEA#4. In backstroke, you will hear three commands: multiple whistles to remove all clothing except swimwear; one long whistle to enter the water; a second long whistle to come to the starting position. For events with a forward start, you will hear two commands: multiple whistles to remove all clothing except swimwear; one long whistle to take your position on the starting platform.

A#5.  Sorry, you have been DQ’d. Upon completion of each length the swimmer must touch the wall.

A#6.  Hairbrained scheme. Freestyle means any style, except that in a medley relay or IM event, freestyle means any style other than butterfly, breaststroke or backstroke.

A#7.  Yes, just so long as you don’t turn past your side to your front or breast. You must touch the wall while on the back.

A#8. Nope. There shall be four swimmers on each relay team.

A#9.  Yes. In butterfly, all up-and-down movements of the legs and feet must be simultaneous.
The position of the legs or the feet need not be on the same level, but they shall not alternate in relation to each other.

A#10. DQ. Throughout the race, the stroke cycle must be one arm stroke and one leg kick in that order.

How’d you do? If you need to brush up on the rules:
FINA rules 

FINA Masters rules 

USMS rules 

USA Swimming rules