HOW CHAMPIONS DO IT
Researched, produced, and prepared by Brent S. Rushall,
FEDERICA PELLEGRINI AT 190 m OF HER WORLD RECORD GOLD MEDAL 400 m RACE AT THE 2009 ROME WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
The time between each frame in this sequence is .08 seconds. Federica Pellegrini's time for this event was a new world record of 3:59.15. This was the first women's 400 m swim under 4:00.00. In this sequence, the swimmer performs an erratic four-beat kick. In the last 100 m of the race, the kick changed to six beats.
This stroke analysis includes a moving sequence in real time, a moving sequence where each frame is displayed for .5 of a second, and still frames.
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The following image sequence shows each frame for half a second. It will play through 10 times and then stop. To repeat the sequence, click the browser's "refresh" or "reload" button.
At the end of the following narrative, each frame is illustrated in detail in a sequential collage.
- Frames #1 through #3: The left arm has just entered. The right arm is in mid-pull and adduction of the upper arm has just started. The head turns to the right to breathe. The right leg kicks to counterbalance the left arm entry. The swimmer's hips and shoulders rotate to position the left arm for pulling and to facilitate the right arm's exit. A distinctive feature of this swimmer's stroke is that she carries her head probably too high to be optimally effective. However, it does not appear to affect the streamline of her trunk, hips, and legs. It is noteworthy to see that the left arm is repositioning as the right arm is still propelling. Unfortunately, it is suspected that the left arm is creating mainly vertical forces to support the turning and elevated/angled head in the breathing action.
- Frames #4 through #6: The legs "trail" until the next arm entry occurs. In this sequence, the swimmer has rotated to place the left upper arm in a good position to have strong abduction forces applied, and to facilitate the right arm recovery. The pulling arm is partly flexed at the elbow. The large downward vertical force component created in this phase of the stroke supports the recovering arm being above the water and the elevated head. During this time, the swimmer inhales.
- Frames #7 through #9: The left arm propels the swimmer forward sweeping the whole arm backward mainly through adduction of the upper arm. The right arm recovers well forward of the swimmer's head. The head seems to have turned synchronously with the recovering arm, a procedure that is unnecessarily slow. What should happen is that inhalation should occur when the arm exits, that is, it is outside the effort phase of the action, and should be returned down into the water before the recovering arm is at its zenith. In Frames #8 and #9, considerable turbulence (resistance) streams off the swimmer's face. The left leg is positioned to kick to counterbalance the just entered right arm.
- Frames #10 through #12: The left arm continues to push long back as the right arm is extended forward. That maximum reach/extension is a characteristic of several other European swimmers (e.g., Rebecca Adlington, Paul Biedermann) and is questionable on the grounds of its value versus emphasizing the end of the stroke. As soon as the left arm propulsion is complete, the right are begins to be repositioned for propulsion. It is during this sequence of frames that the left leg kicks (the second kick).
- Frames #13 through #17: This sequence illustrates an ideal early-phase arm action. Medial rotation of the upper arm and outward rotation of the lower angle of the scapula allows the hand/forearm surface to be established vertically so that abduction and adduction sweep the full arm's propulsive surface backward. Frame #17 shows drag-pocket turbulence along the whole arm illustrating the importance of the upper arm as a propelling surface as well as being the source of propulsive power. This right arm action is very different to that of the left arm in this series. The third kick in the sequence is completed in Frame #15 and the fourth occurs in Frame #17. One could infer that it is the difference between breathing and not breathing that promotes the uneven four-beat kicking action.
- Frame #18: The stroke sequence (Fame #1) begins again.
There are several notable features about Federica Pellegrini's stroke.
- There are notable differences between breathing and non-breathing arm actions.
- In theory, the high head adds nothing to the stroke. It is difficult to determine just what its detrimental effects are in this sequence. In this context, such a statement will have to remain only a suspicion.
- Linking the head turning action to the recovering arm has a decided cost in that the potentially pulling arm must press down to provide added force to sustain the turned and elevated head. If a quick earlier independent breathing action were employed, the left arm could produce effective propulsion much earlier in the stroke – in the manner exhibited with the right arm.
- The swimmer's right arm pull is worthy of emulation and could serve as an ideal example when attempting to describe what movements are required for crawl stroke propulsion.
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