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


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.

The following image sequence is in real time. 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.

Each frame is .1 seconds part. Agnes Kovacs' recorded a time of 2:24.92 in winning this semi-final race. Unfortunately, there is no available video record of her winning final swim. Her style represents a radical departure from any other form of breaststroke performed today. It provokes some interesting observations and questions and might suggest future technique attributes of this stroke.

Notable Features

The forward dive of the hands, arms, head, and shoulders will produce an opposite and equal force on the water contacted by the legs. Thus, the power of the leg kicks will be that produced by the leg movements themselves and the additional reaction force produced by the upper body, head, and arm actions. Thus, a contention that the recovery action would produce considerable retarding resistance is not warranted.

There are sufficient anomalies and innovations in Agnes Kovacs' breaststroke to warrant contemplating whether its features are good or bad and worthy of emulation.

  1. The overall stroke rhythm exhibits a wave-like action that emphasizes keeping the hips up. Previous "wave" strokes have moved all parts of the body. This one minimizes the hip movements, particularly depth, while allowing the extremities to move through the greatest ranges. Generally, movements are considered to create wave resistance because they move water. Energy that could be used for propulsion is lost to moving those large volumes of water. However, when moving body parts also generate propulsive forces or counter-balance actions that could be very detrimental if they were exaggerated, those movements are often necessary and can be tolerated. For a breaststroke swimmer, Agnes Kovacs moves her hips very little below streamline. The vertical movement components of the arms and legs can be tolerated because they:
    1. support the maintenance of the high hips (e.g., the leg kick direction),
    2. counter-balance non-propulsive actions (e.g., the recovering hands/arms stop the head and shoulders diving), or
    3. produce added propulsive forces (e.g., the arm recovery adds a reaction force to the forces developed by the musculature producing the kick).

    The rhythmical undulation of the overall stroke also develops a movement pattern that "flows" with no obvious "stop-starts" or abrupt changes of direction thus, conserving momentum. For reasons other than the traditional "wave" action, which has been shown not to benefit breaststroke, this form of undulation and its exaggeration at the extremities should be tolerated.

  2. The thrust forward with the hands apart also defies conventional wisdom. It has always been proposed that the narrowest cross-sectional profile of a recovery produces the least resistance. To this writer's knowledge that assumption has never been objectively verified. The recovery in Agnes Kovacs' stroke follows a saucer path from starting out of the water to diving quite deep (see frame #12). The swimmer's recovering arms appear to only generate drag resistance in frames #10 through #12 (when the legs are kicking). That resistance is mainly nonconsequential because the reactive forces generated facilitate a better kick. Once drag resistance ceases, the hands/arms move in the profile-shadow of the shoulders and head. At that time, pitching the hands negatively accelerates the vertical dive of the shoulders and head. The hand movement removes the need for a traditional outward sculling action that takes time and produces no propulsion. One is set to ponder whether recoveries with the hands together along the surface really save that much resistance production? That too has never been objectively verified by controlled studies and is possibly a myth. So Agnes Kovacs uses her arms and hands in an unconventional manner to control the head/shoulders' dive and eliminates the need to perform a time consuming outward scull. This form of recovery seems to be as acceptable as a "traditional" recovery. One need not overstress recovering with hands and arms close together for there is little benefit to be gained from that movement.
  3. The use of a butterfly-stroke propulsive pattern produces stronger, more direct forces, that is, better propulsion. For more than a decade it has become increasingly obvious that the outward-inward-scull "old" pulling pattern was not as effective as direct drag force production in breaststroke. This has been a particularly prevalent movement pattern in top female breaststrokers, whose performances over the last decade have improved much more dramatically than male breaststrokers. Agnes Kovacs' stroke displays a complete absence of any outward or inward scull action relying solely on appropriately pitched hands. The value of a direct propulsive pull in this stroke is not a new proposition, but getting coaches to teach it has been very difficult. This movement pattern should be encouraged.
  4. The maintenance and exaggeration of streamline for a large proportion of the stroke is another outstanding feature. Hyper-extension of the lower back to keep the thighs parallel to the surface when the legs are being draw-up to kick is a characteristic exhibited by other top female breaststroker swimmers The angle of Agnes Kovacs' chest-to-knees in frame #9 is perhaps the lowest angle exhibited of any swimmer in the analyses on this web site. This is a feature worth copying.

Further refinements and alterations in the breaststroke are possible. However, in Agnes Kovacs' stroke, there are characteristics that increase more-direct propulsive forces and minimize resistance caused by the body. Those are admirable aims and accomplishments.

Agnes Kovacs' stroke provokes the following questions.

  1. Can the hands be recovered forward apart as long as they remain in the cross-sectional profile of the shoulders?
  2. Does recovering with the hands apart remove any need for an outward scull?
  3. Is the wave-like motion of this stroke superior to a stifling and traditional flat stroke or the "wave-stroke" of the past?
  4. Is the kick move propulsive because it recruits the reaction force of the head, shoulders, and arms recoveries?

Until these questions are answered, it is this writer's recommendation that nothing should be changed in Agnes Kovacs' stroke. Changes to make it more traditional are unwarranted.

Agnes Kovacs at 160 m

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