HOW CHAMPIONS DO IT
Researched, produced, and prepared by Brent S. Rushall,
JENNY THOMPSON'S ARM ACTION AT 70 m OF HER 100 m FREESTYLE GOLD MEDAL RACE AT THE 1988 PERTH WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
Each frame is .1 second apart.
- Frame #1: The right arm enters almost fully stretched. The right shoulder is higher than the left shoulder. The left arm is still propelling the swimmer as it extends at the elbow.
- Frame #2: The right arm extends further under water until straight. The right shoulder is being elevated as the shoulders roll although at this position the shoulders are flat. The left arm continues to extend with the hand and forearm still under the body.
- Frame #3: The right arm continues to extend fully and down. The shoulders have rolled so that the right shoulder is down. This is a position of maximum stretch forward but the swimmer is also "leaning" on the hand and arm as it is pressed down. The left arm is about three-quarters extended and the elbow exits the water. The hand has moved to the side to clear the hips upon exiting.
- Frame #4: The right arm begins to be repositioned for propulsion. The shoulders have rolled more and adduction of the upper arm begins. The arm moves slightly to the side and down as a result of the straight arm rotating in the shoulder joint (the axis of the movement). This position is one of maximum stretch and is at a depth where it is appropriate to generate backward propulsion. Only the fingers of the left arm remain in the water. The right shoulder roll and arm stretch forces the swimmers head to look partly to the left.
- Frame #5: The right arm begins propulsion. The wrist is flexed and the forearm medially rotated to position the hand to press backward and the elbow is unlocked preparatory to flexing. Adduction of the upper arm occurs. The head is still inclined to the left.
- Frame #6: The right hand is nearly at right angles to the intended line of propulsion. The elbow flexes and adduction of the upper arm increases rapidly. The shoulders are now rotating back to the left. The head is returning to face down.
- Frame #7: The right arm is flexed and the hand/forearm surface is at right angles to the intended direction of propulsion. Adduction of the upper right arm is very rapid. The shoulders continue to roll as the recovering arm passes vertical. The head looks directly to the pool bottom.
- Frame #8: The right hand/forearm propelling surface is thrust directly backward driven by a powerful adduction of the upper arm. The arm has continued to flex which brings the propelling surface under the swimmer. The head looks directly to the pool bottom. The left arm approaches entry.
- Frame #9: The right hand/forearm-propelling surface is at the limit of the direct backward thrust. It still remains at right angles to the intended direction of propulsion. Adduction of the upper arm is completed. The head starts to rise slightly forward. The body rolls and approaches being flat. The left arm enters well in front of the head and across the centerline.
- Frame #10: The right arm extends at the elbow with the hand still under the body. The left arm straightens and moves to the side as the body continues to roll. The left shoulder is now slightly lower than the right. The head continues to rise as well as turn to the right to breathe.
- Frame #11: The left arm and body positions are almost a mirror image of the positions in frame #3. The head continues to turn preparatory to breathing. The right arm is almost fully extracted from the water.
- Frame #12: The left arm begins to reposition prior to creating propulsion. The swimmer "leans" on the arm as it presses down. Inhalation occurs. The right arm has exited the water.
- Frame #13: Left arm propulsion begins. The wrist flexes and the forearm medially rotates to position the hand for propulsion. The head begins to turn back to look forward. The left shoulder is at maximum depth.
- Frame #14: Left arm propulsion is underway. Wrist and elbow flexion and further rotation of the forearm position the hand to apply force backward. The forward looking head position adds to a marginally wider but shorter forward arm position than that evidenced for the right arm pull in frame #5. Adduction of the upper arm has begun. The left shoulder begins to rise.
- Frame #15: The left hand/forearm-propelling surface is in position. The left shoulder continues to rise. Adduction of the upper arm is pronounced. The head continues to look forward.
- Frame #16: The left hand/forearm is moved sharply under the body by rapid elbow flexion. The left shoulder still rises as the right arm approaches entry. The head begins to be lowered.
- Frame #17: Adduction of the upper left arm thrusts the propelling surface backward. The head is lowered further with the eyes now well under the surface. The right hand just breaks the surface.
- Frame #18: A position similar to that in frame #2 is demonstrated.
Jenny Thompson's stroke is relatively simple. Her entries are well in front of the head and stretch forward and downward. She executes direct thrusts backward using the hand/forearm as propelling surfaces. Body movements occur to accommodate the restrictions of her anatomy for developing efficient direct propulsion.
It appears that the breathing action does alter length forward and directness of pull in the left arm. By holding the head up to look forward the resulting neck flexion limits the extent of elevation of the left shoulder which in turn shortens forward length. A breathing action that only rotates laterally would be a possible improvement.
Jenny Thompson still remains the fastest "clean" swimmer in history. She truly does "crawl" through the water.
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