Friday, April 06, 2018

The Commonwealth Games Triathlon Swims

If you watched the Commonwealth Games Triathlon races from Gold Coast on Thursday night you'd have seen two brilliant races with two fascinating swim legs. Conditions were challenging with high winds and a nasty chop running in the Southport Broadwater Parklands lagoon (particularly during the men's race):

In the women's event, England's Jessica Learmonth blew apart the field with a phenomenal swim, with only Flora Duffy and Sophie Coldwell able to stay anywhere close to her:

We're embarrassed to admit we haven't seen Jessica swim (right) before these games but how good does she look? A stunning display of the Swinger Swim Type in action powering through the water with real purpose (at around 85 strokes per minute) just like Byron in last week's post.

Just goes to show - despite all the naysayers - that this distinct style of stroke is entirely valid in its own right. Also note how Jessica is breathing bilaterally to keep her stroke aligned and symmetrical, a take-home point for your own swimming.

After leading out the swim, Jessica went on to finish second overall to Duffy, a fantastic result for this young talent!

Just as in the men's races, we are starting to see swim-bike breakaways back in the women's elite field too - meaning the pressure is really on for every athlete to swim at a very high level.

The mens race took place in really lumpy conditions and here we see Alistair Brownlee powering along at the front of the field, using a very similar stroke to Jessica. A straighter arm recovery with a fast turnover:

As the UK race commentator says "there's nothing pretty about Alistair's stroke is there - it's chop, chop, chop, but it's effective".

But notice anything unusual about how he's swimming? No?

We've been watching Alistair and Jonny Brownlee swim for many years and we know both prefer to breathe to their left. That normally works out OK in most ITU races because more often than not they are anti-clockwise courses so breathing left lets you keep an eye on course buoys and assess the race line. It was the same on this course too.

But today Alistair's draw was on the left side of the race, with Jonny and Henri Schoemann (eventual winner and another phenomenal swimmer) drawn on the right. Alistair spends most of the first 300m of the swim watching Jonny by breathing right as he knows he's his most valuable ally.

Once around the first turn he starts breathing much more to his left once he knows Jonny is there. He switches and changes at will without any loss of rhythm or momentum:

Great versatility! This ability to swap sides is something that you can easily work on in your own swimming, not just to keep an eye on your allies and opponents around you but to avoid breathing into a running swell or into a low blinding sun.

Swim Smooth!

PS. You can see our study of Gold Medal Winner Henri Schoeman swimming in the Guru here (subscription required):

Congrats on a phenominal race Henri!

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