HOW CHAMPIONS DO IT
Researched, produced, and prepared by Brent S. Rushall,
KOSUKE KITAJIMA AT 20 m OF HIS WORLD RECORD 100 m BREASTSTROKE GOLD MEDAL RACE AT THE 2003 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS IN BARCELONA
Each frame is .1 seconds apart. Kosuke Kitajima's time for this event was 59.78.
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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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.
The similarities in this stroke technique and that of Leisel Jones, also the world-record holder for women's 100 m breaststroke, are quite striking.
- Frame #1: The swimmer's streamlined position is perfect, even to the point of holding the head down between the upper arms.
- Frame #2: The stroke starts with perfect streamline.
- Frame #3: The hands begin to part without any other action occurring.
- Frame #4: The hands spread very quickly with the hands pitched to produce a sufficient vertical force component to support the head and shoulders beginning to be raised up. Turbulence off the arms momentarily obscures the head position.
- Frame #5: Arm power is supplied by abducting the upper arms. Some medial rotation of the upper arms occurs in concert with elbow flexion. The arms are being positioned to produce propulsion. The rest of the swimmer is still in perfect streamline with some hyperextension of the upper and lower back areas. The coordination of these hyperextensions supports two movements: the raising of the shoulders and head and maintaining perfect streamline of the hips and legs.
- Frame #6: Arm propulsion occurs with backward and downward force components produced by abduction of the upper arms The downward force is sufficient to only support the raising of the shoulders and head. If it was exaggerated more, the hips would drop and the head and shoulders would rise too much. The backward force component produces forward propulsion. Even with the delicate balance of all that is happening in this frame, the hips begin to drop ever so slightly.
- Frame #7: Arm propulsion continues with a predominantly backward thrust through adduction of the upper arms. The movement sequence of the arms is very fast. The swimmer's hips drop slightly as the knees begin to bend to initiate the preparatory phase of the kick.
- Frame #8: The arms come in very quickly and are positioned to thrust forward along the surface. The hips and knees drop slightly deeper. The upward movement of the reposition of the lower arms and hands probably contributes to the lower portion of the body sinking slightly.
- Frame #9: The hands are thrust along the surface of the water. Hip flexion starts and the speed of knee flexion increases markedly. Flexion at the hips will support the hips and torso remaining streamlined as the knees are brought up to kick. The hands drive forward and downward.
- Frame #10: The hands re-enter the water and the shoulders and head begin to be driven forward and downward. Flexion at the hips is most noticeable, as is the commencement of streamlining the hips and torso. The knees are near maximal flexion and the feet begin to be repositioned by being turned outward.
- Frame #11: The downward force components of the arm/hand drive and head and shoulders movements cause the hips to rise to the surface (the swimmer is able to keep his hips "up" for almost all the stroke). The feet are everted (outwardly rotated) and dorsi flexed in a position to kick backward.
- Frame #12: The kick is wide and slightly down. It is very vigorous. The forward drive of the hands now changes from slightly downward to being kept at the exhibited depth. This minor movement exemplifies the precision of this swimmer to minimize vertical underwater movements.
- Frame #13: Upper body, hips, and arms are fully streamlined. The kick is completed having driven a minimally resistant remainder of the body forward.
- Frame #14: The legs rise as they come together to streamline. The head is being pushed down between the upper arms.
- Frame #15: The stroke is almost completed. The head is appearing between the upper arms. The next phase is to repeat the position illustrated in frame #1.
Kosuke Kitajima displays three significant features in his stroke. The first is the speed of execution of the arm movements and the legs in the kick. These appear to be faster than most other male swimmers. In the arm movement, there does not appear to be any noticeable outward or inward sculling action, the arms being rapidly positioned to produce a propulsive force component and a sufficient vertical force component to support the raising of the head and shoulders.
The second significant feature is the swimmer's attention to exact streamline. Coaches have long described good breaststroke swimmers as swimming with the hips "up". Both Kosuke Kitajima and Leisel Jones demonstrate how that is done. Hyperextension of the upper back supports breathing and lifting the front of the swimmer. Hyperextension of the lower back supports keeping the hips near the surface. The knees are brought forward by flexing at the hips, which keeps the hips up and the body relatively streamlined. That position contrasts markedly with a disadvantaged position of non-streamlined body and knees, such as that displayed by Samantha Riley in a previous analysis on this web site.
The third notable feature of Kosuke Kitajima's movement pattern is that it starts and ends with total streamline. There is no movement abbreviation at either extremity (the start or end) of the stroke despite this stroke being performed in a race of the 100-m sprint distance.
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