Some clarification is required of what is and what is not a "false" start. If the swimmer on the starting block 'flinches', 'twitches', rocks back or moves a hand before or as the starting signal is given, some Starters have been inclined to declare this a "false" start and disqualify the swimmer involved. This is an incorrect call. TSR1.4, the applicable rule, states: "Any swimmer starting before the starting signal has been given shall be disqualified".  Accordingly, unless the swimmer is leaving the starting block or has left the starting block before the starting signal is given, a false start should not be called. It is best for the Starter to either (1) stand all of the swimmers up and let the Referee blow the long whistle again before repeating the "Take Your Marks" command or (2) wait (but not too long) until all swimmers are motionless before giving the starting signal.

Problems frequently arise regarding Turn Judges' interpretation and application of Technical Swimming Rule TSR3.4 which permits swimmers to kick while executing the backstroke flip turn. Some Turn Judges are incorrectly writing up DQ's on the basis that the swimmer kicked into the wall, without observing the swimmer's actions in total. We must remember that there are two constituent elements to the backstroke turning rule. Firstly, the rule provides that "During the turn the shoulders may be turned over the vertical to the breast after which a continuous single arm pull or a continuous double arm pull may be used to initiate the turn." Once the swimmer turns onto the stomach, the Turn Judge should be observing for a continuous single or double arm pull that initiates the turn, no matter how rapidly or how slowly it is executed. Secondly, the rule continues "Once the body has left the position on the back, any kick or arm pull must be part of the continuous turning action". Kicking while turning is permissible so long as it is part of the continuous turning action which incorporates the continuous single or double arm pull used to initiate the turn. Judges cannot separate one action (kicking) without also observing the other (arm pull). Kicking while on the stomach or just plain 'gliding'  to make up distance to the wall, preceded or followed by the arm pull and then the flip turn, is not a "continuous turning action".

The swimmer in your lane turns over onto his or her stomach to execute a backstroke flip turn, changes their mind and, instead, touches the wall with both hands, pushes off on the back and resumes swimming the backstroke. You, as the Turn Judge for that lane, reach for your DQ pad and begin writing up a DQ for non-continuous turning action. Hold it! This is not a rule violation. So long as the swimmer "must have returned to the position on the back upon leaving the wall", there is no infraction under TSR3.4.

Now that FINA has (from 20th September, 2005) legalised the use of a "Dolphin Kick" before the first arm pull after the dive start and following each turn in the breaststroke, the controversy for swimmers and Judges surrounding this action should be lessened. An illegal dolphin kick in breaststroke is a deliberate downward kicking motion or thrust of both feet and legs that is used to generate additional propulsion. For this reason, Turn Judges nonetheless must take up a position where they can best see all movements of the swimmer while underwater until he or she surfaces following the breakout. This is often difficult due to glare and water turbulence following the dive start or the turn. However, the "flutter" or "scissors" kick in the breaststroke is still illegal. Turn Judge must quickly observe the swimmer's hips, legs and feet before the first arm pull back to the hips to observe for any possible flutter or scissors kick since this is when it is likely to occur, if at all. Similarly, the use of a dolphin, flutter or scissors kick after the breakout still results in a DQ. Stroke and Turn Judges must distinguish a dolphin kick from the natural legal undulation of the legs as a result of a feet being turned outward during the propulsive phase of the kick. An illegal dolphin kick is a downward kicking motion of the legs and feet similar to the kick used in the butterfly.

Question: Does the Electronic Relay Judging Platform ever overrule a human Turn Judge who is standing over the lane?
Answer: YES, according to TSR13.1, so long as there is no "failure" of the equipment. Exactly what constitutes a "failure" of the Relay Judging Platform is dependent on several things outside of the Turn Judge's control. The Relay Judging Platform works in coordination with the touchpad. The touchpad registers the touch time of the incoming swimmer, and the sensor in the Relay Judging Platform indicates when the outgoing swimmer has left the block. The electronic timing console does the math to determine the differential between the two times and if its .03 seconds or less, an "early takeoff" has occurred. But if the touchpad malfunctions or particularly if there is a “light" touch of the pad by the incoming swimmer, the Electronic Timing System will not record the relay takeoff. In such cases as this, the Referee, after consulting with the Automatic Equipment Operator, will deem this as a "failure” of the electronic timing equipment and will have to resort to the backup systems (Relay Takeoff Judges and backup timing systems). We give you all of this to say that notwithstanding the presence of Relay Judging Platforms, it is still the Turn Judges responsibility to observe each and every relay exchange because the electronic systems are not infallible.

In Breaststroke and Butterfly events, the stroking segment of the race begins with the first arm stroke after the swimmer surfaces following the start and after each turn, and ends when the swimmer touches the wall. The turn is not judged after the touch. When the swimmer loses contact with and leaves the wall to continue swimming, the stroking segment of the race begins again. At that time, the rules applicable to the stroking segment of the race apply again.

In Backstroke, the stroking segment of the race applies after the swimmer surfaces following the start and after each turn until the swimmer's body leaves the back and turns past 90 degrees to roll onto the stomach to initiate the turn. No gliding is permitted at this stage, although one or both arms may be used to initiate the turn. This is the critical point when a Judging Official determines whether a swimmer is gliding, making up distance before turning, or involved in an “extended layout”. That is why the Turn Judge must watch the arm pull initiating the turn, because as long as that is taking place, it is considered a legal “continuous turning action”. When the swimmer loses contact with and leaves the wall to resume swimming, his or her body must be past 90 degrees toward the back, at which point the stroking segment of the race continues.

Check back later for updates on BSF Swimming Officials Clinics and other news relating to Judging and Timing Officials.

Following the 2002 Central American and Caribbean Games in San Salvador, El Salvador in November, Mr. Orban Mendoza, the President of the Central American and Caribbean Amateur Swimming Confederation ("CCCCAN") announced the names of the appointees to the Confederation's various Technical Committees. Appointed to the CCCAN Technical Swimming Committee was BSF and FINA Referee, Vincent Wallace Whitfield. Expressing his surprise over the appointment, Wallace Whitfield told that he was "humbled and proud to serve on such a prestigious body as the CCCAN TSC. I will try to discharge my duties with honour, pride and respect". The Committee's duties include promoting swimming within the region; making recommendations on technical matters to the CCCAN Executive; evaluation, etc., of technical swimming officials within the region; cooperating in the technical preparations and conduct of the CAC Games and other CCCAN Events; and, recommending regulations and bye-laws for CCCAN Events to the CCCAN Executive. Other members of the Committee are Mr. Mario Rodriguez of Puerto Rico, Chairperson; Mr. Tomas Haces of Cuba, Recording Secretary; Prof. Armando Sanchez of Mexico and Mr. Eric Castro of Guatemala. The appointment is for four years, until the next CAC Games in 2006.


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