Freestyle v. Front crawl

Not wanting to dwell in the past, it seems now that calling freestyle front crawl during Medley competitions seems more appropriate now that changes to FINA rules with respect to Freestyle include the ‘Lochte rule’.

Swimmers now have to be on their breast prior to engaging into any kick or stroke in freestyle during a Medley race.

But if swimmers swim freestyle in any freestyle race e.g. 50, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1500 or any other distance solely devoted to freestyle, swimmers can swim that in any stroke or stroke-combination of their choice. Swimmers can even swim on their side or do flip turns throughout the race, as long as part of their body is above the water unless they start or do a turn.

The term freestyle is synonymous with no restriction on style. Front crawl implies that a swimmer has to be on their front to crawl in the water.

The majority of swimmers have picked up this new rule without problem but explaining it to novices is not so easy.

Expect a new FINA rule

To stop confusion on how long a swimmer has gotten to turn onto their front after using a flip-turn, FINA committee ponders over a rule-change that may be in place prior to the world championships in Budapest. This is about the so-called Lochte rule.

The suggested new ruling sounds like this: ”

“For freestyle in the medley, the swimmer must be on the breast except when executing a turn. The swimmer must return to the breast before any kick or stroke.”

Of course, in the Medley, freestyle can be any style except Breast, back or fly. So after a turn, the swimmer must return to swim on the breast because otherwise it would be a backstroke and no swimmer is allowed more backstroke than the distance allows. In a 400 IM, the backstroke can only be 100 meters.

Meaning after a turn a swimmer cannot, after kicking off the wall, do any movement unless they are in the correct position towards the stroke they swim. That means in all strokes, except for the backstroke, the swimmer has to be on the breast prior to kicking or moving arms?

The FINA rules on

  • Backstroke turns are very strict, it says: “The swimmer must have returned to the position on the back upon leaving the wall. “
  • Breaststroke turns it says: “After the start and after each turn, the body shall be on the breast.”
  • Butterfly turns it says: “From the beginning of the first arm stroke and after the start and each turn, the body shall be kept on the breast. Under water kicking on the side is allowed. It is not permitted to roll onto the back at any time, except at the turn after the touch of the wall where it is permissible to turn in any manner as long as the body is on the breast when leaving the wall. “
  • Freestyle rules say: “Freestyle means that in an event so designated the swimmer may swim any style, except that in individual medley or medley relay events, freestyle means any style other than backstroke, breaststroke or butterfly.


Source: Swimming World.