HOW CHAMPIONS DO IT
Researched, produced, and prepared by Brent S. Rushall,
PENNY HEYNES AT 90 m OF HER 100 m BREASTSTROKE VICTORY AT THE 1998 GOODWILL GAMES IN NEW YORK
This swim of 1:08.14 was the fastest in the world for 1998. The actual time between frames is not known but the inter-frame interval is constant.
- Frame #1: The swimmer has her arms at full stretch. The body is flat and streamlined with the head looking directly at the pool bottom. The kick is nearing its completion with the feet still turned fully outward and very wide apart.
- Frame #2: Leg extension is complete. This picture illustrates a consistent feature of today's top breaststroke swimmers. The kick starts wide and finishes wide thus, facilitating direct propulsion. This contradicts the concept that a breaststroke kick is sweeping/semi-circular and/or conducted with the knees close together. Direct propulsion is mechanically more sound than a "rotary" action. Also, the legs are slowing rapidly to avoid injury to the knees. That indicates propulsion from the legs has ceased. Consequently, the arms commence to spread to develop the next phase of propulsive force. The swimmer remains very flat.
- Frame #3: As the arms "scull out" the legs are brought together as a natural consequence of the kick. No effort is used to force them together.
- Frame #4: The outward scull continues with the hands near the surface ("sculling out and up"). The rest of the swimmer is very streamlined with the head well down.
- Frame #5: Outward and upward sculling continues as the legs finally come together. A very streamlined position is held.
- Frame #6: Force with the hands is increased (as can be seen by the drag turbulence following the left hand). The elbows start to flex and the head begins to rise. Hand/arm force will be used to support head lifting. Streamline is held.
- Frame #7: Further shortening of the arm levers increases arm-action force. The head continues to rise without affecting streamline.
- Frame #8: The arms are well and truly bent at the elbows but the major force direction is downward! Since the last frame the hands have swept quickly toward the pool bottom. The head has almost broken the surface. Still streamlining is maintained.
- Frame #9: The hands start to move inward as the head and shoulders are now above the water surface. The feet could sink but to keep them close to the surface the knees begin to bend and drop. The swimmer's hips are still high.
- Frame #10: The sculling action also has a horizontal component as the hands move backward at the same time as they move inward. The shoulders appear to have risen further out of the water. The hips are high and the legs trail near the surface.
- Frame #11: The sculling action is completed well under the torso. Streamline of the lower body and legs is maintained by notable hyperextension of the back.
- Frame #12: The hands are positioned to be pushed to the surface. The elbows are drawn to the side of the body. Breathing is completed but kicking has not begun.
- Frame #13: The first hint of the legs being drawn-up occurs in this frame. The hands are still rising to the surface. A considerable amount of time has elapsed since the hands completed their inward sculling movements.
- Frame #14: The hands are still close to the body and yet to extend forward. The legs start to draw-up faster. The late initiation of kick preparation suggests that this swimmer's hands and arms have "waited" under the body, and markedly increased frontal/form resistance.
- Frame #15: The hands finally begin to be thrust forward. Both the knees and hips flex to assist the legs to prepare to kick.
- Frame #16: As the hands accelerate forward the head and shoulders begin to be "driven" down and forward. As a reaction to that downward movement the hips rise. At this stage of kick preparation the feet already start to turn out. Eversion of the feet and dorsi-flexion of ankles do not wait until the legs are fully compressed.
- Frame #17: The velocity of the kick-preparation movement continues to increase. The feet are almost in position to kick effectively. The hands continue to be thrust forward in a controlled manner while the head and shoulders continue to be lowered. These two movements occur in concert, the rapidity of the forward hand thrust being dictated by the velocity of the head and shoulder lowering. It should be noted that the forearms and hands are quite streamlined ("flat") and that it is the upper arms that are controlling the stretch forward.
- Frame #18: Forward arm extension begins to slow. The legs are fully "compressed" and the feet are fully turned out, probably assisted by pressure beginning to be exerted on them as the kick is initiated. No part of the swimmer's kick will occur without the feet, ankles, and lower leg areas being promoted as the propulsive surfaces. The head still has not been lowered fully. Good streamline from the hips to the hands is clearly visible.
- Frame #19: The kick accelerates and the feet are turned out even more due to pressure developed on them. This frame clearly shows the lower legs, ankles, and interiors of the feet are the kicking surfaces used in leg propulsion. The knees are wide to facilitate this position. The arms are almost straight, the elbows finally being extended forward.
- Frame #20: The direct wide kick is clearly visible. The head is now fully down and good streamline is exhibited.
- Frame #21: The stroking cycle is repeated.
Penny Heynes appears to have a fully utilized and direct kick. It certainly does not support the concepts of circularity or a "whip kick." The total outward rotation of the feet during the propulsive phase of the kick is outstanding. Her excellent streamlining has common characteristics with those displayed by Kristy Kowal, particularly the hyperextension of the back.
However, the long dalliance of the hands and arms under the body as they wait for the legs to be positioned preparatory to kicking could be detrimental. It would be interesting to see what affects on Penny Heynes' swimming velocity would occur if her kick preparation occurred earlier (to shorten the inertial lag of the arms between their sweep and recovery).
An interesting feature of this stroke is that the arms do not appear to make any obvious major contribution to propulsion. The magnificent kick might be the significant source of propulsion.
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