|Shinji and Paul Newsome immediately after the 2015 Rottnest Channel Swim|
Paul and Shinji first met 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. Combining that with Shinji's pronounced 2-beat whip-like kick from the knee, Paul realised that the whip-kick caused the cramping which in turn caused the hypothermia as he had to keeping stopping to deal with the cramp. This combination of events led 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 (84 SPM vs. 42 SPM). 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 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 demonstrating this here:
Shinji named 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 on some day soon.
Swim Smooth's 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 over-gliding in the freestyle stroke.
This is what good coaching is all about, coaching without bias or prejudice towards one and all.