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Eric Buhain



Everybody needs an upgrade.

Nowadays, everyone is holding a gadget or something to go through each day of our lives.

Our lives are dependent on our gadgets whether it’s mobile phone or a computer. We just can’t simply live without it.

Just like these electronics, our personal knowledge also needs an upgrade.

Recently, I decided to join a technical seminar organized by a good friend in coach Chito Rivera of the Samahang Manlalangoy ng Pilipinas (SMP). The speaker in the seminar was coach Richard Luna, who also happens to be a personal friend and teammate of Chito.

I honestly didn’t know that after his coaching days, Richard decided to focus on being a technical official until he became a member of the world swimming body — the International Aquatics Federation (FINA).

Mind you that the last time I got an influx of new technical rules of the sport was when I ended my stint as Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chairman 15 years ago. Believe me, it was such a long time to be away from the sport that had been so good to me.

The seminar attracted over a hundred coaches from Luzon and the Visayas, who are all eager and excited to learn the latest rules in swimming. Many of them were wondering how come a person of my stature with all the medals and experiences in the Olympics, Asian Games and the Southeast Asian Games would be attending a seminar such as this?

My reply? I need an upgrade.

Watching the swimming events of the SEA Games in Clark stirred my curiosity, especially when I saw our very own James Deiparine swim the 100-meter breaststroke and win a gold medal.

There was an underwater shot of the competition wherein I saw a dolphin kick done by the swimmers during the two arms pull section after the start and turn.

I was shocked because I didn’t know that today it was being allowed by the stroke and turn judges.

Again, after 15 years, a lot of things have changed.

Compared to when I was a swimmer until 1993, when I retired all the way to 2005, the underwater dolphin kick for the breaststroke was an automatic disqualification.

With regards to the improvement on time, I could really see the big advantage of being allowed a dolphin kick per lap of the race.

If I was given that opportunity years back, I am sure with my dolphin kick, which I think is quite good for international standards, it could spell an additional meter advantage per kick per lap, which is probably an improvement by one second in split per lap.

As the discussion started, Richard explained every nuances of all possible interpretation of the rule line by line.

With over a hundred swimming coaches present, I am sure you can imagine how many smart and savvy coaches were asking questions from the simplest all the way to most difficult scenarios — and Richard was all so cool to answer them all by the book so to speak.

He didn’t mince words at all, and explained why certain things are to be disqualified and why others can be allowed given the application of the FINA rules word for word and line by line.

He mentioned that if the rules were applied and the technical judge doesn’t actually see or cannot for certain a fault of the swimmer, the swimmer should be given the benefit of the doubt and be allowed to finish the race.

With regards to the underwater dolphin kick, he gave the justification by FINA that the two arms pull has a natural undulating movement similar to the body movement of a dolphin kick.

In fact, as per FINA rules, it could be allowed before or during or after the two arms pull movement whichever is more advantageous to the swimmer. However, only one is allowed per lap.

After the seminar, I immediately felt the mental and technical upgrade for the sport I love.

The first thing I did was to go for a swim and experiment on the latest rules I just learned from the seminar. Honestly, my experimentation went so far to the point that I asked myself if I was competing today, how can I get that extra edge from the latest allowable movements while swimming?

That’s me being my competitive self.

But seriously, it is not for me anymore. It is for the swimmers of today.

Now, I am planning to sit down with Richard and show him what my ideas are so he can answer me if it is allowed or not.

In competition, everyone is looking for that edge, whether it’s a small one like not cutting your fingernails to get that millimeter of advantage at the finish, or it could be bigger like a solid one-meter or more underwater dolphin kick.

If I can help Philippine swimming get that winning edge — I will.

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