Swim Smooth's Rio Round-Up So Far And Look Ahead

We hope you've been enjoying the Rio Olympics as much as we have! This week on the blog we're bringing you our review of the swimming in Rio so far and what to look out for in the coming week:

Phelps On Fire

At Swim Smooth we focus mainly on freestyle distance, open water and triathlon swimming but it would be rude not to mention Michael Phelps who has incredibly won two more gold medals taking his overall Olympic Gold tally up to an insane 21! Beyond any shadow of a doubt the greatest swimmer of all time, who's to say he won't add to this tally over the next few days? Here at Swim Smooth we certainly hope he can.

Winners focus on winning, losers focus on winners. Whilst you would hardly call the great South African swimmer Chad le Clos a "loser" - this picture does tell a very poignant tale about focusing on your own race and being the best you can be!

What can we learn from Michael's swimming to improve our own? If you missed it first time around, take a watch of this Phelps inspired swimmer analysis by Paul Newsome from a few months back:

Horton vs. Yang in the 400m Free

In perhaps the race of the meet so far, Australian Mack Horton touched out controversial Chinese swimming star Sun Yang by just 0.16 seconds to take the Gold. Claiming the win as one "for the good guys" Horton sparked outrage in China by saying Sun, who served a three-month ban for testing positive for a banned substance in 2014, was a "drug cheat". This will only add spice to the 1500m freestyle, where they should clash again on Sunday night in the final (more on this below).

With this bitter war of words raging between the two camps, it would have been easy to miss a fantastic race. Two things we observed about Horton's fantastic swim:

1. Amazing Pace Awareness. At the start of the race, British swimmer James Guy (GB) flew out well under world record pace, only to die in the last 100m and finish 6th. Horton conversely appears to accelerate as the race goes on, when in fact his 50 splits are very even until the final sprint:

Horton 50m splits:Guy 50m splits:
26.05 (from dive)25.87 (from dive)

What we're really seeing is Guy slowing down in the second half of the race (he is still leading until just over 300m). Guy is the current world champion over 200m freestyle and whilst the commentators claimed he needs to go out fast and try to hold on, even as world champion, if you cook yourself, the result is going to be the same as you cooking yourself at the start of a CSS set - disaster!

Of course, what is really amazing about these times is if you have a CSS pace in the 1:40-1:50 /100m range, Mack Horton would nearly lap you twice in a 50m pool - crazy! One of our squad swimmers this morning suggested they should keep the two outer most "wash lanes" free for a mere mortal to swim against the champions to really give you a perspective on how quickly they're moving!

2. Breathing Sides. Horton is at a distinct advantage over Yang in the final 50m as they are both breathing to their right but Yang is on Horton's right. Horton can see Yang, Yang can't see Horton. How important is this? See for yourself next time you're trying to race someone in the next lane.

Mack Horton

This reminded us of Ian Thorpe's amazing 200m Olympic Gold medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics against Pieter van den Hoogenband (www.youtube.com/watch?v=WASQ36nkz6E) - Thorpe breathes to his right up the pool and left coming back - always keeping an eye on Hoogie - one reason why we're so pedantic about mixing up your breathing sides when training!

Unstoppable Ledecky

Rapidly building a case as the greatest female swimmer of all time, America's Katie Ledecky was unstoppable in the 400m freestyle, winning by 5 seconds and setting a new world record of 3:56:46 (try putting 14.78 into your Tempo Trainer Pro in a 25m or 50m pool and see how that feels!).

Much has been written about this driven 19 year old from Washington DC and why she's so fast but let's dispel one myth right now - she's not fast because she's got a super-long stroke, or because she's trying to take as few strokes as possible.

In fact when you study her swimming, you can see that as one stroke finishes at the rear the next immediately starts at the front, which you can clearly see in this shot with the right arm finishing at the rear and the left hand tipping down to commence the stroke at the front:

Katie continuously and seamlessly transitions from one stroke to the next without any pause or glide in her stroke. She takes around 41-42 strokes per length, which is not an especially long or short stroke but backs this up with a very high stroke rate of 90 strokes per minute - and the combination is deadly. She's found the perfect trade-off between stroke length and stroke rate for her and it's paying her huge dividends, even if it goes against conventional wisdom that she should maximise her stroke length at all costs.

Katie is an absolute pleasure to watch swim and tends to be even stronger in the longer events, so expect more domination - and perhaps a lowering of her own world record - in the 800m freestyle final on Saturday night. In fact just as we write this Katie has also just taken the gold in the 200m freestyle as well - amazing!

A Well Paced Gold For Kyle Chalmers

Another amazing performance in the men's 100m freestyle, this time from 18 year old Australian Kyle Chalmers, showing incredible maturity and calmness in the biggest meet of his life. Through the heats, semis and final Kyle showed brilliant pacing skills, coming through the field as everyone else slowed in the second 50m. In the final he turned in 7th (!) and came through for the gold. It just goes to show how important pacing skills are - even in a 100!

Here's our head coach Paul Newsome tweeting his thoughts on the commentary:

Other Favourite Events

Here's some more of our highlights from Rio (well worth finding these events on your local Olympic channel's catch up service):

1. Adam Peaty’s (GBR) total dominance and world record in the 100m breaststroke - the commentators in Australia stated during the swim: “look at him bobbing his head, bobbing it up and down and a crazy fast stroke rate, and yet he still seems efficient” - could these very factors actually be Peaty’s force d'être? We think so.

2. Kyle Chalmers (AUS) sub-48 second 100m freestyle in the heats, reaching the 50m in 7th position and then coming over the top of everyone to qualify fastest overall into the semi-finals. Chalmers is just 18 years of age. The patience and skill he showed in pacing out that 100m was incredible and yet the commentary went as follows: “that was a terrible start for Chalmers, he’s got a lot of work to do, way too slow in that first 50m…” - a Personal Best / Record and the faster qualifier would suggest otherwise - yes, even a 100m sprint requires pace judgement!

2. Sarah Sjöström’s (SWE) win in the 100m butterfly final - pure elegance and finesse from the 22 year old Swede who’s super-versatile in her events covering the butterfly sprints up to the 200m freestyle where she claimed a silver behind Katie Ledecky.

3. Katinka Hosszu’s (HUN) incomparable dominance to win the 100m backstroke, 200 and 400 Individual Medley events (and still more to come probably!). They used to call British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher the “Iron Lady” but now that nickname is being rightly used for Hosszu - every time you watch the screen she’s racing another event - incredible!

Rio Inspired Guru Virtual Squad Session

If all this Olympic swimming has fired you up then checkout Paul's Rio inspired training session in the Guru Virtual Squad:

You need a PRO license to swim the set!

Looking Forwards To The Ultimate Swinger Vs Smooth Smackdown In The 1500m Freestyle

Earlier we looked at Sun Yang versus Mack Horton in the 400m freestyle. Well, they're both back in the action in the 1500m on Sunday night and Sun gets a chance to extract revenge in his favourite event, where he set an incredible world record of 14:31.02 at London 2012.

But, and it's a big but, there's going to be another factor in this race and that's the Italian Gregorio Paltrinieri - the European Champion and 1500m short course world record holder in 14:08.06. Whilst Horton and Yang favour the longer smoother style of the "Smooth" Swim Type, Paltrinieri is a full on Swinger with a shorter stroke and faster turnover. Seeing Yang and Paltrinieri swim side by side with their very contrasting strokes will be fascinating, it goes to prove there's not one way to swim:

Strokes per length:2840
Strokes per minute:6590

It could be the ultimate Swinger vs. Smooth smackdown - we have our fingers crossed for an epic race, whichever way it goes:

Looking Forwards To The Triathlon And 10K Marathon Swims

The weather has certainly played a part in many events in Rio so far and could well continue to do so. Both the 10K open water and triathlon swims take place in the open Atlantic Ocean off Copacabana beach, potentially offering much lumpier conditions than the pancake flat Serpentine at London 2012. In fact if you watched yesterday's cycling timetrials and noticed the rough ocean conditions in the background, that's just along from Cocacabana on the same stretch of coast! :

What will this mean for both events? If you've been following Swim Smooth for a while you'll know that waves and chop favour swimmers with shorter strokes and a faster stroke rates. Expect these swimmers to come to the fore, and those with longer smoother strokes to relatively struggle. In the men's triathlon watch out for Alistair and Johnny Brownlee, and Henri Schoeman, all of whom race at 90 to 100 strokes per minute - super fast stroke rates!

Watch our unique study of Henri's swimming in the Guru here: www.swimsmooth.guru/video/k1/henri-schoeman/

Here's our predictions for the men's and women's triathlon medals:


1. Alistair Brownlee (GBR)
2. Jonathan Brownlee (GBR)
3. Vincent Luis (FRA) or Mario Mola (ESP)


This is a much harder race to call than the mens and we think will be heavily based on conditions and race tactics, much more so than the men’s event which is likely to come down more to current form. But here’s our take if the predicted break-away survives and the dice don’t all roll towards the amazing American Gwen Jorgensen:

1. Nicola Spirig (SUI) or Helen Jenkins (GBR)
2. Flora Duffy (BER)
3. Gwen Jorgensen (USA)

…we could be way off the mark with these predictions (that's the beauty of triathlon these days) so don’t bet your house away!

Our predictions for the men's and women's 10km open water marathon events are a little more open but be sure to watch out for the current world champion Jordan Wilimovsky (USA) in the men's event and outside chance (but über-Swinger) Spyridion Giannotis (GRE), as well as the antipodean duo of Jarrod Poort (AUS) and Kane Radford (NZ) both of whom are very strong in the rough surf. In the women's event, the form factor suggests Aurelie Muller (FRA) as current world champion will be firing but the home favourites Poliana Okimoto Cintra (BRA) and Ana Marcela Cunha (BRA) - both of whom have amazing Swinger strokes - will be sure to impress!

Enjoy the games - one things for sure, these Olympics are only just hotting up!

Swim Smooth!


Richard Skerrett said...

Sun Yang is Yang Sun in our style of naming. If you look at the published name lists you will see that SUN is capitalised, which means that it is his surname.

This is true of all Chinese names.

Richard Skerrett said...

Too bad we won't see Sun in the final, since he blew up in his heat. Paltrinieri has a good chance in the final. On paper he's a certainty, but paper doesn't win medals.

Dr Tim Jordan said...


The other face of American Swimming.


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