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

blue line


Allison Schmitt won the 200 m freestyle race at the 2012 London Olympic Games in very impressive fashion. Her time for the event was 1:53.61. In this analysis the frames are 12/100ths apart.

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.

There are two reasons for analyzing Allison Schmitt's splendid 2012 Olympic Gold Medal race. First, to see if there are any outstanding or novel features about her arm stroke and second, to look at her kick since she is reputed to be a serious kicker in her crawl stroke action.

Notable Features

Several obvious changes that could be made to improve this swimmer exist.

The recovery of both arms should be over the water rather than spearing in early (Frame #1) and then reaching forward underwater. Not only does this increase drag resistance for the total swimmer but it also prevents what could be a formidable shoulder action. With the arm entering and extending forward, the shoulder of that arm also has to be underwater causing the shoulders to be quite flat. With an over-the-water recovery, the shoulder remains elevated out of the water causing the pulling shoulder to be deep which in turn facilitates developing propulsion under the swimmer as opposed to being out to the side as in this swimmer with its troublesome rotational effect.

Not only does the recovery need to be fully above the water but it has to be timed with the propulsive action of the other arm. That would remove any semblance of an overtaking stroke pattern and might even facilitate opposition or superposition timing. Although this swimmer exhibits a minor overtaking stroke timing, that still is enough to accumulate to precious seconds that are added to the swimmer's time for this event.

The swimmer's stroke is dominated by a big and furious kick. Since kicking in free swimming does not propel the swimmer, that exaggeration fatigues the swimmer unnecessarily. It also causes the stroke rate to be limited to the length of time it takes to complete six big kicks. Smaller kicks would not require as much time for six to be completed and thus, the swimmer could rate higher. As well, the forces that can be created by small fast kicks are quite small and would not consume as much energy as kicks the size of those exhibited by Allison Schmitt. What should actually happen is that any kicks should occur to counterbalance vertical forces created by the arms. As Forbes Carlile (personal communication) has so eloquently stated, "the legs should dance attendant on the arms".

Those two items are major. However, when considering technique changes in a senior swimmer, the decision to do so should be made against the possibility of a change being able to replace an established error. If a swimmer has been committing an error for many years, the probability of substituting a new action is very low because a huge number of repetitions of the new element would have to be exercised through the three stages of motor learning. Most coaches do not have the skill to teach such changes, and in particular have little appreciation of the techniques that need to be used to have the swimmer cognitively control the change at the outset and for a very long time. An occasional coaching remark to make the change will not effect a behavior change. Thus, there is a time in a swimmer's career where the error has existed for such a long time that the time and effort to produce a change is insurmountable and the error has to be tolerated.

Watching Allison Schmitt swim this 200 m race in London only engendered admiration for the way she established herself as the dominant swimmer in the race as well as the way she developed a large lead by the second 100 m. It seemed that the other competitors had conceded the race to Allison and they were to fight it out to see who would be the silver medalist (the "first loser").

Allison Schmitt

Return to Table of Contents for this section.

blue line