But, unfortunately, it's not quite that simple. There is another stroke style that can be just as fast: the refined version of The Swinger. This shorter, punchier style of stroke can be incredibly quick, especially when combined with a two beat kick. Laure Manadou, Kate Ziegler, David Davies and Janet Evans used this style of stroke to win gold medals and set world records in the pool. In fact, at the 2007 World Championships, the women's 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyle were all won by Swingers - proof that they can dominate in the pool.
|Smooths and Swingers sit|
together at the top of the tree
Whilst there are generally more Smooths than Swingers in elite pool swimming, the situation is reversed in open water. Swingers dominate in the great outdoors (including triathlon) because the extra rhythm of the stroke helps punch through disturbed water from other swimmers. A Smooth making the transition from the pool to open water should be very wary of this.
So there are actually two 'top dogs' in swimming stroke technique, not one. Both have their strengths and weaknesses but they are both devastatingly fast and efficient strokes when matched to the right swimmer.
Which Style Suits You?
In a sense you don't have to consciously choose because as you develop your swimming your stroke should naturally evolve one way or the other. Instead of actively chasing a particular stroke style, focus on correcting and refining elements of your stroke technique and you'll gravitate towards the style best suited to you. This happens because different swimmers have different natural buoyancy, strength levels, gender, height and arm reach. Believe it or not personality can play a part in this too - Smooths tend to be quite reserved and considered people while Swingers are normally more extroverted and go getting!
|We don't know why but Swingers seem to love bright swimsuits!|
If your stroke naturally evolves towards the Smooth style then that's great but remember that to perform well in open water you're going to have to commence your catch a little sooner than you might as a pure pool swimmer. This will shorten things just slightly and add more rhythm to your stroke. You can do this without fighting the water but allow yourself some time to develop the modification as it will change the feel and timing of your stroke quite dramatically.