Olympics: Swimmer's 'dolphin' kick admission creates ripples

Underwater video could become a feature to prevent cheating in competitions.

Cameron van der Burgh won the 100m breaststroke race. Adam Pretty / Getty Images
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LONDON // Swimming officials are considering the introduction of underwater video for judging following the controversy over an alleged illegal "dolphin" kick by South Africa's Cameron van der Burgh in his Olympic 100-metre breaststroke gold medal win.

Olympic rules allow one dolphin kick at the start of a 100-metre breaststroke race.

In a dolphin kick, the swimmer's body moves like a wave in the water, resembling the movement of a dolphin. The intensity of the wave created propels the swimmers forward faster underwater than if they were on the surface.

Underwater footage of Van der Burgh's start revealed him doing more than the one dolphin kick. He won in a world record 48.46 seconds.

Van der Burgh acknowledged he did the extra kicks but said he was forced to because the rule was not policed properly and illegal kicking had become common.

As the fastest qualifier for the Olympic final, Van der Burgh swam in lane four, which is lined with numerous television and still cameras that clearly documented the infraction. But the cameras are for TV use only, and the judges cannot look at the images.

"Judges can only judge what they see," Cornel Marculescu, the executive director of governing body Fina, said yesterday. "They cannot judge what they don't see."

Illegal dolphin kicks are common in breaststroke events.

"If you're not doing it, you're falling behind," Van der Burgh told the Sydney Morning Herald. "It's not obviously - shall we say - the moral thing to do, but I'm not willing to sacrifice my personal performance and four years of hard work for someone that is willing to do it and get away with it."

Fina wanted to install underwater video at its last two world championships in Rome (2009) and Shanghai (2011), but host broadcasters protested because of the cost. It would require three cameras in each of the lanes.

Fina discussed the possibilities of underwater video with coaches at a meeting on Sunday.


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