HOW CHAMPIONS DO IT
Researched, produced, and prepared by Brent S. Rushall,
MICHAEL KLIM AT 70 m OF HIS LEG OF THE WORLD-RECORD SETTING 4 x 200 m RELAY AT THE 1999 PAN PACIFIC CHAMPIONSHIPS IN SYDNEY
Each frame is .1 seconds apart. Michael Klim's split for this swim was 1:47.25. Earlier in this meet, Klim swam a personal best time of 1:46.82 in the 200-m freestyle event. In addition, his 100-m time improved to 48.81 in the second semi-final, but his final time slowed to 48.98.
It should be noted that Michael Klim wore the exclusively tailored Speedo full-length suit that is claimed to have "performance-enhancing" qualities. Assuming those claims correct, it is not possible to assess how much of the improvements demonstrated in this meet are attributable to better swimming or assistance from this form of equipment.
This series should be compared to the analysis of Michael Klim's swim in his world championship triumph in Perth in 1998. There are some marked changes in his stroke since then. Differences and common strengths are discussed in this analysis.
- Michael Klim's right arm remains straight and extended forward for .4 of a second (frames #1 to #5) before any visible attempt at propulsion occurs. This dwelling forward is .1 seconds longer than in the Perth analysis. After the right arm enters, the left arm is not as far through the stroke as at Perth (compare frames #15 in both analyses). It is hard to reconcile the delay in the stroke cycle of both arms as being improvements. Mostly, they would increase inertial lags in the stroke, which would increase negative acceleration.
- The right arm pull demonstrates a good "high-elbow" position in its initial stage. In frames #7 through #10, the forearm/hand propelling surface's role in developing propulsion is obvious. However, the left arm does not display this action. It sweeps down and deeper, involving a greater vertical force component than the right arm. While the longer lever could increase distal velocity in the hand, an early collapse at the elbow (frames #2 and #15) illustrates a loss of power (the elbow moves faster than the hand at those moments). These arm movement patterns appear to be similar to the actions displayed in the Perth analysis. They also demonstrate why a swimmer should strive to achieve elbow-up actions with both arms, rather than just one.
- The left arm pull displays a noteworthy phenomenon. In frame #8 the upper surface of the left arm is followed by "milky water," a telltale sign that drag resistance is created. As the left arm remains extended and gradually sinks into the water, the trailing turbulence remains and appears to increase in frame #13. This sequence illustrates a common problem that develops with swimmers who leave their arms extended fully forward but allow them to sink gradually. Such movements create resistances that impede forward progression. If the arm is maintained near the surface, as demonstrated by both Grant Hackett and Ian Thorpe, this negative effect can be minimized.
- In almost all positions, the swimmer's feet do not achieve a position where backward thrust is developed. The angle of the shank and foot at most times would produce a forward thrust, something that would hinder, rather than contribute to, progress. However, kicking of that type mostly develops a vertical force component, something that is necessary to offset vertical forces created by recovering or entering arms, or head or shoulder lifting.
- In frames #13 through #15, it appears that Michael Klim has lifted his head and shoulders slightly and his face profile is looking ahead. Up to this point, streamlining has been quite good. Starting in frame #13, turbulence starts to deflect off the face and upper body. The amount of milky turbulence increases in frame #14, and by frame #15 can be seen streaming well back and down. The size of the kicking action in frame #15 is the largest in the whole sequence. That is because a bigger, vertical-force-generating kick is required to keep the hips up and to counter-balance the large vertical force component created by this unnecessary movement.
- The straight-arm wide recoveries employed by this swimmer will limit the amount of body roll that can occur. That in turn will limit the amount of direct propulsive force that can be developed. The amount of time that the swimmer maintains flat shoulders during the right arm pull (frames #2 through #8) could be excessive. On the other hand, when the left arm pulls there appears to be excessive dwelling on the side (frames #9 through #14), a position that will make forces developed through adduction have a large vertical component as opposed to maximizing horizontal forces. This imbalance in positioning and lack of rotation rhythm could introduce inertial lags that could increase energy consumption without any propulsive benefit.
Michael Klim's Sydney stroke shows some changes from what was demonstrated in Perth 18 months earlier. His performances since then, and up to this meet, had not improved. At these championships, improvements in both 100 and 200-m freestyle events were registered. However, it is hard to reconcile stroke changes with performance improvements -- a problem that often arises in theoretical analyses of real events. It would be hoped that a swimmer would improve over a period of 18 months of dedicated training and competing. Perhaps one could argue that the improvements have not been large enough given the resources and energy consumed in this athlete's preparations.
Michael Klim is a phenomenal human specimen who achieved a career pinnacle in 1998. Recently, he has returned to his previous performance levels. Whether the stroke changes noted have retarded, maintained, or assisted his performances cannot be determined.
In this Pan Pacific Championship analysis, it is not possible to evaluate lateral movements to the same extent as was possible with the World Championships analysis. He persists with sweeping straight arm recoveries, movements that will limit his potential for performance improvement. It is relatively safe to assert that the underwater pulling actions of both his arms still contain exaggerated lateral movements.
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