Wednesday, January 22, 2020

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 on it.

Shinji and Paul Newsome at the 2015 Rottnest Channel Swim 

When Paul met Shinji it was 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 video (see below) with his 2015 Rottnest 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 a good rhythm against the waves and swell. Combining that with Shinji's pronounced 2-beat whip-like kick from the knee, led Coach Paul to realise that the whip-kick brought about the cramping which then led to hypothermia (due to the stop-starting). Ultimately leading to Shinji struggling through at about 3:00/100m pace.
Coach Paul was racing that same day and finished 12th out of 260 starters. Paul swam with a 2-beat kick which was driven much more from the hips and his stroke rate was double that of Shinji's (84spm vs 42spm). This gave Coach 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 didn't look as "pretty" as Shinji's).

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 ideas:

  1. 1. Significantly increase stroke rate and reduce some glide time whilst focusing on a more hip-driven 2-beat kick

  1. This would see Shinji becoming a little more "Swinger"-like in his technique (which Paul argued would suit his height and build nicely), e.g. Olympic Silver and Bronze medallist David Davies

  1. 2. Marginally increase stroke rate and reduce glide time but developing a more consistent hip-driven 4-beat or even 6-beat flutter kick to smooth out any discrepancies in rhythm at the front of the stroke

  1. This would see Shinji becoming more "Smooth"-like but still eradicating some over-gliding, e.g. Olympic Gold medallist, Ferry Weertman. You can see Shinji demonstrating this here:

Shinji ultimately went on to naming his new stroke the "Cold Rough Open Water Swim" stroke (or "CROS" for short), and looked and swam much better at the 2016 Clean Half open water swimming event in Hong Kong as part of a team. Sadly he's not made it back to Rottnest yet, but the two stay in close contact hoping to both conquer the Rottnest Channel at some day soon.

Our ultimate "truth" is to help as many swimmers around the world as possible improve their swimming and this story is testament to that end. 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 the over-gliding thing. This is what good coaching is all about, coaching without bias or prejudice towards one and all.

Swim Smooth!

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