May Swimming Times: Turning the tide
27 April 2011
In May’s Swimming Times, Roger Gutteridge explored the techniques British coaches are taking to close the gap on American and Australian rivals when it comes to starts and turns.
When sports scientists analysed James Goddard’s swimming speeds and compared them with those of his great American rival Ryan Lochte, the results were startling.
The Americans are killing us under water - it's an area where there are massive improvements to be made.
Stockport’s Commonwealth 200m backstroke champion, they discovered, was swimming as fast as the Olympic champion between the walls but was losing ground on the turns.
About half-a-second per turn - more than enough to make the difference between gold and nothing.
Goddard himself explained the findings to journalists at the British Gas Championships in Manchester.
"It was a massive wake-up call. The Americans are just killing us under water – absolutely murdering us. It’s an area where there are massive improvements to be made and that’s what we have been working at."
Andrew Logan, sport science and medicine manager for British Swimming, observes that even in the national championships there are differentials of up to 10 metres in the points at which swimmers surface after their turns.
"FINA rules say you can be under water for 15 metres and many of our lead athletes are surfacing at the maximum distance, especially in backstroke," he said.
"Conversely we also have athletes – especially some of the younger ones – surfacing after only 3 to 5 metres in extreme cases."
Challenging the coaches
Logan, who has previously worked with elite cycling, swimming, triathlon and winter sports in his native Australia, says coaches in Britain are being 'challenged to think outside the box' and to raise the importance of skills training in their thinking.
"We want them to incorporate it into their daily training programmes," he said.
"Instead of just coming in and focusing on the physiological components, we want them to use one session as a skill activity session."
"Effecting a change means the coach has to plan an activity that the athlete or swimmer can work on over a period of time, whether it's improving a strength in a particular area or working on an imbalance in a particular area.
"Or it might just be a simple thing like hand entry."
How are your starts and turns? Could do with improvement?
Why not check out the Competitive area of British Gas Swimfit now where you can find technique advice as well as videos to help you improve.