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Updated World Aquatics Rules For Strokes

World Aquatics have updated their rules for competitive strokes

Swimming NZ is excited to confirm that World Aquatics have recently made some updates to stroke rules which we will be adopting from 1 April 2023. This means that the 2023 Apollo Projects NZ Swimming Championships will be officiated using the updated stroke rules as communicated below.


There are some other updates that require additional work to update the NZ Swimming Rules accordingly, which work will continue on over the coming weeks and announced once ready.


We have simplified the process to learning the new updated stroke rules by stating the old rule and comparing to the new rule, underlying the new wording.


SW 6.1 - Backstroke


Old Rule - SW 6.1

Prior to the starting signal, the swimmers shall line up in the water facing the starting end, with both hands holding the starting grips. Standing in or on the gutter or bending the toe over the lip of the gutter is prohibited. When using a backstroke ledge at the start, the toes on each foot must be in contact with the end wall or face of the touchpad. Bending the toes over the top of the touchpad is prohibited.


Updated Rule - SW 6.1

Prior to the starting signal, the swimmers shall line up in the water facing the starting end, with both hands holding the starting grips. Standing in or on the gutter or bending the toe over the lip of the gutter is prohibited. When using a backstroke ledge at the start, at least one toe on each foot must be in contact with the end wall or face of the touchpad. Bending the toes over the top of the touchpad is prohibited.


SW 6.3 - Backstroke


Old Rule - SW 6.3

Some part of the swimmer must break the surface of the water throughout the race. It is permissible for the swimmer to be completely submerged during the turn, and for a distance of not more than 15 metres after the start and each turn. By that point the head must have broken the surface.


Updated Rule - SW 6.3

Some part of the swimmer must break the surface of the water throughout the race, except that once some part of the head of the swimmer has passed the 5 metres mark immediately prior to reaching for the finish, the swimmer may be completely submerged. It is also permissible for the swimmer to be completely submerged during the turn, and for a distance of not more than 15 metres after the start and each turn. By that point the head must have broken the surface.


SW 6.5 - Backstroke


Old Rule - SW 6.5

Upon the finish of the race the swimmer must touch the wall while on the back in his/her respective lane.


Updated Rule - SW 6.5

Upon the finish of the race the swimmer must touch the wall while on the back.


SW 7.2 - Breaststroke


Old Rule - SW 7.2

From the beginning of the first arm stroke after the start and after each turn, the body shall be placed on the breast. 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. From the start and throughout the race the stroke cycle must be one arm stroke and one leg kick in that order. All movements of the arms shall be simultaneous and on the same horizontal plane without alternating movement.


Updated Rule - SW 7.2

From the beginning of the first arm stroke after the start and after each turn, the body shall be placed on the breast. 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. From the start and throughout the race the stroke cycle must be one arm stroke and one leg kick in that order. All movements of the arms shall be simultaneous without alternating movement.


SW 7.4 - Breaststroke


Old Rule - SW 7.4

During each complete cycle, some part of the swimmer's head must break the surface of the water. All movements of the legs shall be simultaneous and on the same horizontal plane without alternating movement.


Updated Rule - SW 7.4

During each complete cycle, some part of the swimmer's head must break the surface of the water. All movements of the legs shall be simultaneous without alternating movement.


SW 9.1 - Medley Swimming


Old Rule - SW 9.1

In individual medley events, the swimmer covers the four swimming strokes in the following order: Butterfly, Backstroke, Breaststroke and Freestyle. Each of the strokes must cover one quarter (1/4) of the distance.


Updated Rule - SW 9.1

In individual medley events, the swimmer covers the four swimming strokes in the following order: Butterfly, Backstroke, Breaststroke and Freestyle. Each of the strokes must cover one quarter (1/4) of the distance. Leaving the wall on the back during the freestyle portion is permissible but no kicking action is permitted until the swimmer has returned past the vertical to the breast at which point kicking, including a butterfly kick(s) may commence.


SW 10.2 - The Race


Old Rule - SW 10.2

A swimmer swimming over the course alone shall cover the whole distance to qualify.


Updated Rule - SW 10.2

A swimmer swimming over the course alone shall cover the whole distance to qualify. A swimmer who does not complete the whole distance in accordance with the relevant World Aquatics rules shall be disqualified.


SW 10.3 - The Race


New Rule - SW 10.3

On the deck, after respecting the presentation protocol outlined in SW 1.5, the competitors must immediately remove all clothing except for swimwear.


*Please note that subsequent rules within SW 10, up to and including the previous number SW 10.10 have been renumbered following this addition.


SW 10.8, Renumbered SW 10.9 - The Race


Old Rule - SW 10.9

No swimmer shall be permitted to use or wear any device or swimsuit that may aid his/her speed, buoyancy or endurance during a competition (such as webbed gloves, flippers, fins, power bands, or adhesive substances, etc.). Goggles may be worn. Any kind of tape on the body is not permitted unless approved by FINA Sport Medicine Committee.


Updated Rule - SW 10.9

No swimmer shall be permitted to use or wear any device or swimsuit that may aid his/her speed, buoyancy or endurance during a competition (such as webbed gloves, flippers, fins, power bands, or adhesive substances, etc.). The use of technology and automated data collection devices is permissible for the sole purpose of collecting data. Automated devices shall not be utilised to transmit data, sounds, or signals to the swimmer and may not be used to aid their speed. Goggles may be worn. Any kind of tape on the body is not permitted unless approved by World Aquatics Sport Medicine Committee.


SW 10.12 - The Race


New Rule - SW 10.12

Relay exchanges must commence from the starting platform. Running starts from pool deck are not permitted.


*Please note that subsequent rules within SW 10 have been renumbered following this addition.






For further enquiries on the updated World Aquatics rules for strokes, please email SNZ's Technical Officials & Volunteer Development Lead, Carlrine Gillespie, at officials@swimming.org.nz


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