HOW CHAMPIONS DO IT
Researched, produced, and prepared by Brent S. Rushall,
GEOFF HUEGILL WINNING THE GOLD MEDAL ROUND 50 m BUTTERFLY RACE AT THE 2001 GOODWILL GAMES IN BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA
The duration between each frame is not known because the original film was in slow motion. Geoff Huegill's time for this 50-m race was 23.76 seconds.
This stroke analysis includes a moving sequence in slow motion, a moving sequence where each frame is displayed for .5 of a second, and still frames.
The following image sequence is in slightly slow motion. It will play through 10 times and then stop. To repeat the sequence, click the browser's "refresh" or "reload" button.
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.
Frame #1: The hands begin to enter. The knees and hips have dropped quite low to allow for a very powerful kick. Since this is a maximum sprint swim, the kick has to be powerful to counterbalance the exceptionally strong entry and its primarily vertical force component. There is an absence of an outward sculling movement. Such a movement would have consumed time that is better spent getting into the next propulsive phase without any delay.
Frame #2: The kick is powerful enough to counterbalance the entry and to elevate the hips to produce better streamline. Immediately upon entry, the arms begin to bend and the upper arms medially rotate slightly to reposition the forearms and hands to produce some horizontal force.
Frame #3: Force production with the forearms and hands begins, although there is a considerable vertical force component. The upper arms begin adduction. The mid-back hyperextends to keep the hips near the surface and to allow the head and shoulders to begin to rise for breathing. In this sprint stroke, because the duration of the stroke is so short, the slow elevation of the head and shoulders to facilitate breathing has to begin earlier than in a less powerful and longer duration stroke. Having said that, this stroke sequence actually is a non-breathing stroke but some aspects of breathing preparation still remain.
Frame #4: Adduction of the upper arms continues to produce a large vertical force component as the kick is completed. Streamline improves.
Frame #5: The amount of horizontal force production has increased and the body and legs "flatten" to produce good streamline.
Frame #6: The arms and hands are positioned to produce more horizontal than vertical force. The swimmer's legs and body trail in a good streamlined position.
Frame #7: The position of the arms in the water has hardly changed. More adduction has occurred since the previous frame. This illustrates a feature that is rarely discussed in swimming. If a large enough propelling surface is employed, there will be very little slippage in the water resulting in the swimmer "surging" past almost stationary arms. Such is the case here. The legs bend preparatory to kicking.
Frame #8: Adduction of the upper arms is almost completed. The power of the pull is marked by "milky" water coming off the forward-facing arm surfaces, which signals drag turbulence. The hips and knees drop further as the kick is about to commence. The face remains in the water although part of the head is above the surface. [One has to question why any elevation of the head and shoulders is necessary in a non-breathing stroke. There are two techniques aspects that should be taught in butterfly swimming; 1) raising the head and shoulders to breathe, and 2) remaining perfectly flat during the non-breathing stroke when any head and shoulder elevation is non-functional.]
Frame #9: The arms begin to extend and round-out. The kick begins to counterbalance the rising arms. The counterbalancing leaves the head and body relatively stable (the only movements being those to facilitate a sufficiently strong kick and to position the head for breathing).
Frame #10: The arm pull is completed as the hands exit the water. The legs kick and the knees and hips rise. There is a very large vertical force component from the kick, which supports the arms, a major portion of the shoulders, and most of the head being out of the water.
Frame #11: The kick is complete. The body streamline has improved. The recovering arms start to push the upper torso lower into the water to improve streamline.
Frame #12: As the arms continue to recover, the knees begin to flex in preparation for counterbalancing the arm entry. The hips begin to sink as do the head and shoulders.
Frame #13: The preparation for the kick drops the knees and hips further. The head and shoulders are submerged more as the sweep forward over the water.
Frame #14: Streamline is lost as the legs slow to change direction to kick. The arms approaching entry force the head and shoulders down into the water.
Frame #15: Entry occurs and a position almost the same as that in frame #1 is attained.
The most notable feature of Geoff Huegill's butterfly stroke is its lack of unnecessary lateral movements after entry, a feature of many top swimmers covering longer race distances. His stroke minimizes any non-productive phase when the arms are in the water.
Although 50-m races are rarely decided by exceptional technique, this swimmer does attempt to propel as soon and as often as possible. The vigor of the stroke warrants an exaggerated kick, which in turn disrupts streamline, a feature that cannot be altered if maximum arm "power" is to be developed. This is another example of sprinters having to produce a larger kick than longer race swimmers, because of the need to counterbalance higher arm forces and stroking velocity.
One possible improvement in this stroke pattern would be to reduce the head and shoulders height out of the water during recovery. A lower flat arm action could contribute to that modification.
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