How to avoid DQs

Most swimmers get disqualified at some point in their swimming career.

To help swimmers understand why they may be disqualified here is a list of the most common reasons for disqualifications.


After the starter has said "take your marks” swimmers must remain absolutely still on the block or in the water, until the starting signal has sounded.

If any swimmer starts before the starting signal has been given or is moving when the starting signal is given it shall be a false start and the swimmer will be disqualified. 

There is no second chance or verbal warning from the starter.  You will be disqualified on the first false start.


The Race

A competitor may not walk during a race.  He may, only in a Freestyle race or a Freestyle leg of a Medley race, stand for the purpose of resting.        

In all events a swimmer when turning must make physical contact with the wall, not the floor. 

Swimmers must not pull on the lane ropes – touching the rope is ok if unintentional.

After completing the race swimmers must remain in the water in their own lane until authorised by the Referee.

If time pads are being used, swimmers must not climb out over them, but progress under the lane rope(s) and exit at the side of the pool.

Swimmers must ensure they do not impede any swimmer in a race (as may occur in a relay) as this will be a disqualification. 



Freestyle means that the swimmer may swim any style, but generally it is front crawl.

However, in Individual Medley or Medley Relay events, Freestyle means any style other than Backstroke, Breaststroke or Butterfly.            

Swimmers must touch the wall at every turn with some part of the body (ideally with both feet) and with one hand at the finish of the race.

The swimmer must surface at or before 15m at the start and every turn.

Swimmers will be disqualified if they take or step/walk on the bottom of the pool, although they can stop and stand still if necessary.



After the start and after each turn the swimmer may take one arm stroke completely back to the legs and one leg kick while wholly submerged.  The head must break the surface of the water before the hands turn inward at the widest part of the second stroke.           

A single downward dolphin kick is permitted followed by one breaststroke leg kick while totally underwater.

At each turn and at the finish of the race, the touch should be made with both hands simultaneously. You must touch with both hands.

All arm and leg movements must be simultaneous and on the same horizontal plane.

The hands shall be pushed forward together from the breast, on, under or over the water. 

The elbows must be under the water except for the final stroke before the turn, during the turn and for the final stroke at the finish. 

The hands shall not be brought back beyond the hip line, except during the first stroke after the start and each turn.          

The feet must be turned outwards during the propulsive part of the kick.

No alternating, scissor or butterfly kicking is permitted.


Breaking the surface of the water with the feet is allowed unless followed by a downward dolphin kick.              



Both arms must be brought forward together and brought backward simultaneously throughout the race.

There should be air between the arms and the water surface throughout the race.

All up and down movements of the legs and feet must be simultaneous. 

At each turn and at the finish of the race, you must touch with both hands at the same time.

Swimmers can be completely submerged for a distance up to 15 metres after the start and after each turn.  By that point, the head must have broken the surface.  The swimmer must remain on the surface until the next turn or finish.         



Feet or toes must not curl over the gutter at the start.

The swimmer must surface at or before 15m at the start of the race and at every turn. By the 15m point the swimmer’s head must have broken the surface. After this pointsome part of the body must break the surface throughout the race until the next turn or finish.

The normal position on the back can include a roll movement of the body up to, but not including 90 degrees from the horizontal.  The position of the head is not relevant.     

Gliding, kicking or pulling into a turn is not permitted EXCEPT a continuous single or continuous simultaneous double arm pull may be used to initiate the turn.

When executing a turn there must be a touch of the wall with some part of the swimmer's body (ideally both feet to push off from the wall).            

Swimmers must have returned to their backs upon leaving the wall. Do not get into habit of pushing off on your side.

Upon the finish of the race the swimmer must touch the wall while still on the back.  The body may be submerged at the touch.       


Individual Medley

Order of swimming – butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, freestyle.

Make sure you use the correct finish for each stroke ie, fly – 2 handed touch, backstroke – on the back, breaststroke – 2 handed touch.

Do not turn onto the front when performing a backstroke to breaststroke turn, must touch on back and then rotate over onto front.



The rules of each stroke as set out above still apply.

The incoming swimmer must touch the wall before the outgoing swimmer’s feet have left the block. There may be movement on the block, but the feet must not leave before the touch.

Medley Relay must be in the correct stroke order – Backstroke, Breaststroke, Butterfly, Freestyle.

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