When Paul Met Shinji

Thanks for the great response on last week's blog, we've had so many questions about Paul helping Shinji with his stroke that we thought we'd share a little more of the back-story on that this week:

Shinji and Paul Newsome immediately after the 2015 Rottnest Channel Swim 

These guys first met up in Perth just after Shinji had to unfortunately withdraw from the 2015 Rottnest Channel Swim due to severe cramping and hypothermia.

If we compare Shinji's famous Youtube video swimming single 25m laps in the pool...

With his Rottnest Channel swim performance (where he had to retire three-quarters of the way through the event)...

...it is clear that his stroke style was not optimal for the Rottnest conditions.

Contrary to what many might believe, his long stroke and slow cadence made it impossible to get into any sort of rhythm against the waves and swell. The tough conditions can be really seen in this video of Paul swimming in the early stages of the same race: youtu.be/9QB1zSShrVQ

Combining that with Shinji's pronounced 2-beat whip-like kick from the knee, Paul hypothesized that the whip-kick "kick-start" possibly caused the cramping which in turn caused the hypothermia as he had to keep stopping to deal with the cramp. This combination of events led to Shinji struggling through at about 3:00/100m pace prior to withdrawal.

As a testament to Shinji's "kaizen mindset", 6 months ago Shinji released this video which highlights the issues with over-gliding quite clearly: youtube.com/watch?v=VCxNMB_Lq5c

Paul was racing that same day and finished 12th out of 260 starters. Swimming with a 2-beat kick which was driven much more from the hips, his stroke rate was double that of Shinji's (84 SPM vs. 42 SPM):

This gave Paul an average pace of 1:35/100m over the 20km course. This stroke style allowed for better rhythm and fluidity in these rougher conditions (even if Paul's stroke doesn't look as "pretty" as Shinji's in the pool).

How could Shinji improve his open water stroke? After the race, the two discussed candidly how Shinji could work to adapt and improve his stroke for a second attempt at the Rottnest Swim at a future date.

Paul suggested two alternative ideas:

1. Significantly increase stroke rate and reduce glide time whilst focusing on a more hip-driven 2-beat kick.  This would see Shinji becoming a little more "Swinger-like" in his technique (which Paul argued would suit his height and build nicely) replicating swimmers such as Olympic Silver and Bronze medallist David Davies.

2. Marginally increase stroke rate and reduce glide time but develop a more consistent hip-driven 4-beat or 6-beat flutter kick to smooth out any discrepancies in rhythm at the front of the stroke. This would see Shinji becoming more "Smooth-like", so eradicating over-gliding from his stroke. e.g. Olympic Gold medallist, Ferry Weertman.

Shinji ultimately chose option 2 and you can see him using this significantly different stroke in the 2016 Clean Half open water swimming event in Hong Kong:

Shinji named his new stroke the "Cold Rough Open Water Swim" stroke (or "CROS" for short), and you can see visually how much more effective it is in open water - it now looks much more purposeful with the much improved rhythm and kicking technique. Sadly he's not made it back to Rottnest yet but the two stay in close contact hoping to both conquer the Rottnest Channel on the same day soon.

You'll still find a multitude of other Youtube videos proclaiming an overly-long catch-up style stroke as the most efficient way of swimming in the open water over long distances but we'd challenge these swimmers to improve by observing the clear step forwards Shinji has made in the last few years.

Swim Smooth's ultimate "truth" is to help as many swimmers around the world as possible to improve their swimming and this story is testament to that end. We know that there will be more than a few of you out there who will be inspired by Shinji's brilliant development and be able to learn something from our tips outlined above.

We've been humbled by Shinji's open outlook to his improvements and in turn his subsequent education of his own swimmers on the pitfalls of over-doing over-gliding in the freestyle stroke.

Swim Smooth!

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