HOW CHAMPIONS DO IT

Researched, produced, and prepared by Brent S. Rushall, Ph.D., R.Psy.

LAURE MANAUDOU AT 340 m OF HER GOLD MEDAL 400 m FREESTYLE RACE AT THE 2004 ATHENS OLYMPIC GAMES (LEFT-SIDE PERSPECTIVE)

Each frame is .1 seconds apart. Laure Manaudou's time for this 400 m freestyle event was 4:05.34.

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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At the end of the following narrative, each frame is illustrated in detail in a sequential collage.

Notable Features

The collage included with this analysis demonstrates that Ms Manaudou swims with bilateral breathing. This author advocates bilateral breathing because it promotes more balanced stroking, lessens the disruption to good fluid dynamics caused by breathing since breathing occurs less often than same-side breathing, and it provides the swimmer with in-race knowledge of how other swimmers are performing (if such content is part of a race strategy).

Laure Manaudou

There are several features of this stroke that are worthy of note.

  1. The swimmer rates high, a cycle being completed in 1.3 seconds. Despite that high rate, the breathing action takes too long, The duration of its execution could be reduced by expelling all air before or while turning to breathe. That would create a negative pressure gradient between the lungs and the atmosphere so that when the mouth is opened, air would rush in quickly to equalize the pressures. The head turning action should be limited to rotation on a horizontal axis (eliminating head lifting and the consequential disruption to streamline). Inhalation should occur in the bow wave trough, further reducing the need to move the head vertically.
  2. It appears that the timing of breathing is in concert with the recovering arm. It would be better to have breathing occur independently of that movement. Some extra force has to be developed to support a recovering arm and a raised turned head simultaneously. Fast inhalation, timed as closely as possible with the exiting arm and completed before the arm is halfway through the recovery, might be best.
  3. There is very little inertial lag between the finish of one arm stroke and the beginning of the next. This is a most desirable mechanical feature. The closer one can come to the perfect situation of developing continual propulsive force, the more a swimmer's times will improve. This little considered influence of Newton's First Law of Motion is as important in swimming as any other facet of stroke technique. This feature is also evidence of great female distance crawl stroke swimmers exhibiting two, or at most four, kicks per arm cycle while minimizing inertial lags.
  4. The swimmer exhibits a two-beat kicking action. It allows the swimmer to dominate the stroke with the arms rather than having them wait until six kicking beats are completed. The absence of propulsion and development of resistive drag by the legs will be difficult to explain by those who claim kicking is propulsive. Kicking is not propulsive in this Olympic Champion and now world-record holder.
  5. The detrimental aspect of the current set of full body suits is shown clearly by the surface drag created on the front of the suit throughout the full stroke.
  6. Within the mythical concepts of competitive swim coaching, "anchoring" has been proposed and discussed. It implies that a swimmer's arm is stationary in the water when a stroke is completed "correctly". The unrelated phenomenon exhibited by some swimmers of entering and leaving the water in the same spot is supposed to support this notion, a na´ve and incorrect proposal. The far lane marker (the blue band on the yellow-green lane divider) can serve as a reference point for determining how much a propelling arm moves backward during very effective crawl stroke propulsion (Frames #3 through #9). Anchoring is a mythical concept that does not and should not occur when exerting propulsive forces in fluids.

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