Great Swimming: Tarek Drafts Tim Don

If you got the chance to try, how would you fair drafting on the feet of a triathlon world champion? What if you'd only learnt to swim a few years ago too? That's exactly what happened to age group triathlete Tarek when he met 2006 Triathlon World Champ Tim Don on our recent Coach Ed Course in Loughborough.

Watch the footage of Tarek doing this, holding a phenomenal pace of 67 seconds per 100m:

Considering Tarek only learnt to swim freestyle (with Swim Smooth) in June 2009, that's fantastic swimming we're sure you'll agree!

Developing Tarek's Swimming

From the very beginning of his swim-life, Tarek worked with our Certified SS Coach Fiona Ford in Richmond, London. Fiona's done a fantastic job teaching him freestyle from scratch and developing his swimming, to the point now where he can sustain a fast 1:24 per 100m for 1500m.

To develop Tarek's swimming:

- Fiona developed a stroke technique suitable for the environment in which he wanted to swim (open water triathlon) and his height and build. Tarek's stroke isn't perfect but you'll notice from the video that he moves through the water with great purpose and rhythm to his stroke. He has a great body position, a nice catch technique and good alignment in his stroke. He doesn't fight the water at all.

- From an early stage of his development, Fiona had Tarek performing training sets with a focus on CSS training. This is the perfect type of training for distance swimmers and triathletes, and has allowed Tarek to develop a strong swimming engine to sustain a great stroke technique over long distances.

- Fiona worked hard on Tarek's open water skills and confidence swimming close to other swimmers, including in the pool during the harsh British winter. You'll notice from the video clip above how Tarek confidently and quickly tucked in behind Tim and was comfortable staying there. Despite Paul only giving him ten seconds warning before jumping in the water, Tarek wasn't intimidated at all as he'd practised drafting countless times before, albeit not behind a world champion!

Our Thoughts

If you've read our new book you'll know that we call the three-prong approach of Technique, Fitness and OW Skills, "The Three Keys". The secret - as employed by Fiona - is to work on all three at the same time and all year round. Focusing overly on one thing (e.g. solely technique or solely fitness) will seriously hold you back, the swimmers who make the biggest gains and reach their potential in the water have a balanced all-round approach and do so consistently over a long period of time.

The consistency of your swimming is extremely important, particularly when it comes to developing a strong swimming engine. Train consistently and your engine will grow but be inconsistent and miss sessions and your engine shrinks again. A classic mistake athletes make is to over-train and then blow-up, needing time off to recover. It's far better to train slightly within yourself but do so consistently for weeks and months on end, your swimming engine builds slowly but it's amazing how swim-fit you can become with consistent training.

Our third lesson to take from Tarek's development is that you don't need a textbook or picture-perfect stroke to swim very quickly indeed. If you look at nearly any elite triathlete (such as Tim) or open water swimmer they don't have a super-long Ian Thorpe style of stroke with a classic high elbow recovery. That sort of stroke just isn't that effective in open water and nor does it suit every swimmer.

Like all great swimmers, elite open water swimmers have a high body position, good alignment in their stroke and a great catch but they have a lot more punch and rhythm than many pure pool swimmers. This helps them move effectively through disturbed water, such as the wake created by another swimmer. If that style of stroke naturally suits you, embrace it fully and make the most of it. Don't let anyone tell you that you need to change it.


A big shout out to Tarek for letting us share his swimming with the world, find out more about him here and tweet him at @tmouganie

And a big thanks to Tim Don for coming on our coaches course and allowing us to take a close up look at his swimming. We are going to feature our video analysis session with Tim in a future SS video production, as you can imagine Tim already has a great stroke but even he needed a small tweak here and there... Find out more about Tim on his website: and twitter @trithedon.

Swim Smooth!


Unknown said...

Thanks for the article. Learned a lot!

Unknown said...

I'm going to give this a try next time I get the chance

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