HOW CHAMPIONS DO IT
Researched, produced, and prepared by Brent S. Rushall,
PENELOPE HEYNES AT 185 m OF HER WORLD-RECORD 200 m RACE AT THE 1999 PAN PACIFIC CHAMPIONSHIPS IN SYDNEY
Each frame is .1 seconds apart. The sequence depicts a change in the stroking pattern that was held for the previous major portion of the event. Penelope Heynes quickened her stroke rate and reduced any emphasis on defined gliding. Ostensibly, this appears to be her form when sprinting for a finish at the end of a 200-m event.
Frame #1: Full body and arms streamline is achieved. The legs are near full extension with the feet still wide (facilitating a direct propulsive kick). At this stage, the feet begin to negatively accelerate to avoid knee injury.
Frame #2: As the legs complete the kick, the hands start the outward scull. The high position of the hips that dominates the streamline is noteworthy.
Frame #3: The outward scull is performed with a perfectly flat (streamlined) body and legs. The head begins to rise preparatory to breathing. Early breathing in this manner is only possible if the swimmer has very good flexibility in the mid-back area.
Frame #4: The upper arms adduct very rapidly. The elbows flex and the hands face backward. These actions quickly orient the arm action to produce a direct propulsive force.
Frame #5: Upper arm adduction continues along with further elbow flexion. Although the hands have moved closer to the midline of the body, all parts of the hands and arms have produced a short but substantial propulsive force. The head is clear of the water.
Frame #6: The arms are drawn quickly into the sides and the hands are tucked under the chest before thrusting forward on recovery. There is no inward scull in this swimmer, a feature that is often described in breaststrokers but no longer is evidenced by today's top performers. Inhalation occurs. Exceptional hyperextension of the mid-back area allows the hips and legs to trail in a streamlined position while the head and shoulders are close to vertical during breathing.
Frame #7: As soon as the hands begin to initiate recovery the legs begin to be drawn up. The lower body and thighs are in a straight line although they are now angled, relative to the surface, rather than being streamlined. Breathing is completed.
Frame #8: The legs are close to their fully compressed position. The head and shoulders have been thrust down and forward in unison with the arm drive forward. That causes the hips to rise resulting in increased frontal area of the thighs without propulsion. That position lasts for only a very short time.
Frame #9: The legs begin to kick with the feet fully everted, resulting in the largest surface area for developing kick propulsion. As the legs kick, the body and arms are streamlined. This develops a position where maximum kicking force is against minimal frontal resistance, a particularly beneficial and efficient position.
Frame #10: Streamline is exaggerated as kicking is completed. This position is somewhere between the positions displayed in frames #1 and #2, the next stroke cycle commences.
Frame #11: The next stroking cycle continues.
The length of time in this stroking cycle is one second. In the 100-m race and at the 80-m mark at the 1999 Pan Pacific Championships, the duration of Penelope Heynes' stroke cycle was 1.3 seconds. It would seem that the sprinting strategy for the end of this race was to swim as many strokes as possible in the remaining time/distance.
Although this depiction is of a noticeably increased stroke rate, it retained the admirable characteristics of efficient streamlining for much of the stroke. It also showed a very effective kick, propulsive forces from the arms that are largely backward, and a timing of the kick with the forward thrust of the arms and a forward and downward drive of the head and shoulders. The attempt to sprint did little to affect the efficiency of the swimmer's technique.
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