Tonight is the women's 800m final in the London 2012 pool, featuring two awesome distance swimmers: Rebecca Adlington from Great Britain and Lotte Friis from Denmark. It's likely to be a close race between the two of them and all fingers are crossed here in London for Becky to produce the first British gold medal in the pool.
The fascinating thing about these two great swimmers is that they have completely different stroke styles and yet are very evenly matched. Becky has that classical long smooth stroke using a high elbow recovery and a six beat kick. Lotte is a classic swinger with a much shorter stroke, straight arm recovery and the ability to switch between a six and two beat kick.
This could well be the classic Swinger vs. Smooth race - you won't have any trouble working out who is who!
Make sure you catch the final tonight at 7:45pm UK time, 2:45pm EDT, 11:45am PDT, 2:45am China/Singapore/Perth.
Bend It Like Becky
So what makes Becky such a great swimmer? Let's have a little look at her underwater and highlight her pull-through technique, something you should be aiming for within your own stroke:
Notice here how Becky's elbow is bent to 110° which gives her perfect leverage to press clear water backwards, propelling her forwards (you can click the image to expand). In your own stroke you should be aiming for an elbow bend of between 100 and 120°.
Many swimmers pull through with a very straight arm which places a lot of load on the shoulder and produces much less propulsion:
Notice also how Becky's hand is directly below her shoulder as she pulls through:
This is perfect technique and is something you should aim for in your stroke too. If you press wide of this or cross the centre line then you will snake down the pool:
The underwater footage is fantastic at this Olympics and during tonight's final you should get a good look at both Becky and Lotte's strokes under the water as they go head to head. Their stroke styles are different above the water but don't get distracted by that, instead notice all the important things that are the same:
- Very high body position
- Great alignment without any crossing of the centre line or pressing wide
- Amazing rhythm and timing without any deadspots or pauses
- Great catch and pull through technique, pressing the water backwards, not downwards and bending those elbows!
Becky takes around 38 strokes per 50m and Lotte around 44, despite Lotte being about 5cm taller than Becky. Both swimmers could easily swim with a longer stroke if they chose to but they would be less efficient and so slower as a result. In fact, we're sure many of you reading this could better those figures yourself, albeit with much poorer stroke technique. This really highlights that you can't measure efficiency by counting strokes - not even remotely!
Enjoy the race and Swim Smooth!