Swim Bits – September 2021 2


I marveled at the breaststrokers, men and women, in the 2020 Olympics.  This stroke has changed more than any other in the last 20 years.  Rebecca Sony started the idea of extreme streamlining after kicking.  This year’s breaststrokers took it to new levels.

Actually, there seem to be two breaststrokes involved, that of Lily King and Peatty, and those of the men’s 200 and Jacoby.  The first two have a high turn-over and a narrow kick and pull with a head that is relatively high.  The second type really emphasizes a longer glide, a very narrow, elongated body, and even a shallow dive on the recovery of the hands.

I am also intrigued by the underwater view of Peatty’s hands while pulling.  It looks like he is finning more than pushing back on the water in the old-fashioned way.  However, I will leave my observations there, as I am not a breaststroker and never will be.  I don’t walk like Charlie Chaplin.

Caeleb Dressel appeared to be one of the last swimmers in the Olympic men’s 50 free final to start underwater dolphin kicking.  On a closer look, though, the strategy does make sense.  Considering that even the fastest swimmers are at their absolute fastest the moment they enter the water off the start, Dressel is actually prioritizing that maximum speed by holding a better bodyline and reducing drag right away in a race.

The same thing is true for turns.  Swimmers should hold their glide from the push-off on every turn until they are going just faster than they can swim.  Then start dolphin kicks.  Everyone should be completely beyond the backstroke flags, only five meters, before using their arms.

Rowdy Gaines should retire.  I know this is heresy, as Rowdy has been the voice for swimming on TV for many years.  That’s the problem.  He’s still saying the same things he said last century.

Katie Ledecky

Katie Ledecky of Team United States competes in the women’s 800m Freestyle Final at Tokyo Aquatics Centre on July 31, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images)

To Rowdy, starts are more important than anything, even for a 1500.  He was critical of how slow Ledecky was off the blocks.  He didn’t seem to notice that she was also the first to the 15-meter markers on the lane lines.  In talks with current coaches I’ve had, that is a better determiner of a good start than reaction time off the blocks.

I’d love to see a list of 50 or 100 splits of various swimmers showing “negative splits,” or Ledecky’s consistency over 800 or 1500 meters, or how much faster Fiske was on the last 50s of his victories.  Gaines talked about all of these, but the numbers could be put up on the screen during the races, instead of that silly “how far ahead” data that was used.

Who would I want in Gaines’ place?  It’s obvious: Michael Phelps.  He understands races over 100 yards.  He talks about splits.  He is more than a sprint freestyler.

After Olympic swimming was over, I came across an article online that discusses how female athletes have different needs and concerns in training. This should be obvious, but as a male swimming coach, I had to learn this the hard way – by having female swimmers clue me in. Ladies, go to https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2021/08/03/1024257250/sports-science-is-changing-how-female-olympians-train-it-could-help-you-too.  This is for you.


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