5 October 2017

A number of FINA rule changes came into force on 2 October 2017, some of which are changes to stroke requirements, including the prohibition of underwater kicking on one’s side during Butterfly.

We’ve listed the most notable updates, along with the PDF issued by Officials News, which documents all rule changes in full.

2017-2021 FINA Swimming Rules Update [PDF, 90 KB]

Key extracts from the PDF related to each stroke are detailed below. New wording is shown in bold lettering and deletions by a strikethrough.

Should anybody require any further clarification please speak to licensed referees David Broome and/or Walt Taylor.


SW 7.1

After the start and after each turn, the swimmer may take one arm stroke completely back to the legs during which the swimmer may be submerged. At any time prior to the first Breaststroke kick after the start and after each turn a single butterfly kick is permitted. The head must break the surface of the water before the hands turn inward at the widest part of the second stroke.

SW 7.4

During each complete cycle, some part of the swimmer’s head must break the surface of the water. The head must break the surface of the water before the hands turn inward at the widest part of the second stroke. All movements of the legs shall be simultaneous and on the same horizontal plane without alternating movement.


SW 8.1

From the beginning of the first arm stroke after the start and each turn, the body shall be kept on the breast, underwater 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.

Medley Swimming

SW 9.2(New)

In Freestyle, the swimmer must be on the breast except when executing a turn. The Swimmer must return to the breast before any kick or stroke.

SW 9.3

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