HOW CHAMPIONS DO IT
Researched, produced, and prepared by Brent S. Rushall,
KURT GROTE AT 185 m OF HIS WINNING 200 m BREASTSTROKE RACE AT THE 1998 GOODWILL GAMES IN NEW YORK
Each frame is .1 seconds apart. Kurt Grote's time was 2:13.39, fifth best in the world for 1998. The swimmer jumped to a substantial early lead and held that for the entire race. The stroke was remarkable because of the emphasis placed on a streamlined stretch-and-glide after each kick.
- Frame #1: The swimmer is in a streamlined position from which to commence the arm pull. This position is reminiscent of Mike Barrowman's disciplined stroke that achieved a similar timing and streamline.
- Frame #2: The hands begin to scull up and outward.
- Frame #3: The hands approach the highest position in the upward scull. An unexplained slight parting of the legs occurs.
- Frame #4: The arms flex at the elbows and the hands are rotated to face downward. The head begins to rise.
- Frame #5: Rapid adduction of the upper arms occurs. The pitch of the forearms and hands generates considerable vertical and horizontal force components. The head continues to rise which explains why vertical force is being generated in the arm pull.
- Frame #6: The role of upper-arm adduction in developing propulsive force is completed. The forearms and hands continue to remain acutely pitched. The head breaks the surface and the hips sink slightly.
- Frame #7: The upper arms are quickly drawn to the sides and the hands and forearms come together into a "prayer-like" position. The angle of the whole torso is increased as inhalation occurs. The legs begin to bend preparatory to kicking.
- Frame #8: As the legs draw up the cross-sectional surface of the swimmer increases as more thigh areas are exposed to the oncoming fluid. The hands are positioned for a forward thrust.
- Frame #9: The final compression of the legs is vigorous. The feet are dorsi-flexed and everted. The hands begin to be thrust forward.
- Frame #10: The kick commences with the feet fully turned outward. The arms are thrust forward together. The torso begins drive forward and downward in a direct "lunging" fashion.
- Frame #11: As the body and head are thrust forward and downward, eventually to achieve a flat alignment, a vigorous and accelerating kick is made with the feet remaining wide.
- Frame #12: The arms are stretched forward slightly lower than horizontal. The kick still has the feet wide apart signaling yet another instance of a top breaststroke swimmer kicking directly backward. The torso is flat in the water and ceases to move any lower.
- Frame #13: The feet come together very quickly and the swimmer elevates the shoulder joints forward to lock the torso, head, and arms in a streamlined posture.
- Frame #14: The force of the legs coming together causes a slight upward lift of the feet and flexion of the knees as a "reaction" to the vigor (probably to avoid injury to the knees). Streamline is maintained.
- Frames #15-#17: The posture of the swimmer is now set and a streamlined "glide" is held for .3 seconds.
Some characteristics of Kurt Grote's swim on this occasion are very similar to those evidenced by Mike Barrowman. The emphasis on streamlining, the outward-upward scull, and the driving forward and downward of the torso in time with the kick are such features. As with all top breaststrokers, Kurt Grote has his feet fully turned out before the kick back begins, a feature that will maximize propulsion from the kick.
It might surprise some readers that such a fine time could be achieved in a stroking form that devotes .3 seconds to a glide. The total stroke cycle takes 1.7 seconds, which is an extremely low rate (17-18 strokes per long-course 50 m). One could interpret that as an indication of how important is streamlining in breaststroke.
It will be interesting to see if Kurt Grote continues to race 200 m with a deliberate streamlined glide or whether her reverts to a more continuous stroking cadence.
Return to Table of Contents for this section.