Swimming’s governing body, FINA, voted on a set of rule changes for 2005-2009 just before the start of the World Championships in Montreal in late July. The new rules came into effect on September 21.

The major rule changes affect backstroke starts and breaststroke starts and turns.

The changes to backstroke starts mean that swimmers are now allowed to start with their feet out of the water. It is no longer mandatory that “The feet, including the toes, shall be under the surface of the water”. However, the toes are still not allowed to be above the lip of the gutter or curled over the lip of the gutter.
The backstroke finish rule has also been clarified. Now it is legal for a swimmer to be completely submerged not only during the turn but also during the last stroke.

During the breaststroke start and turns, while the swimmer is wholly submerged, a single downward dolphin kick followed by a breaststroke kick is now permitted. The new rule ends decades of controversies (the first one occurred in Berlin, in 1978, at the World Championships, the latest last year in Athens, at the Olympics).
During, or at the end of the arm pull-down of the first stroke after the start and after each turn, a single downward butterfly kick is allowed, but not required, followed by a breaststroke kick.
During the pull-down, if a downward butterfly kick is taken, it must be followed by a breaststroke kick.
It is not permissible to take only a downward butterfly kick without then taking a normal breaststroke kick.
The downward butterfly kick is not permissible prior to the arm pull-down.
In addition, there is now a requirement for all movements of the legs to be in the same horizontal plane and without alternating movement.

A full list of the rules that have changed follows. These rules along with the complete list of swimming rules can be found on the FINA website.

Backstroke SW 6
SW 6.1
SW 6.3

Breaststroke SW 7
SW 7.1
SW 7.4
SW 7.5

Butterfly SW 8

The Race SW 10
SW 10.10

World Records SW 12
Renumber SW 12.5 as SW 12.5 1
New SW 12.5.2

Swimming Queensland
Swimming Australia

See Also
  • FINA Swimming Rules 2005-2009

  • FINA Technical Congress

  • eSwimmer - Breaststroke Records Under Threat

  • Swimming Queensland - Swimming Rule Changes