A Look at Slower Second Swims

disappointed swimmer

Slower second (or third) swims in an event seems to be a topic that nobody wants to discuss. After all, since these swims usually only happen at bigger meets, swimming slower isn’t something that people want to draw a lot of attention to. But it’s part of the process and needs to be looked at.

For those of you who aren’t aware of the term, second or third swims refer to usually bigger meets where the swimmer makes semi-finals and possibly finals, and gets to swim the event again. A slower second swim means the swimmer swam slower than the time that got them to that semi-final or final. In other words, when it came time to perform big, the swimmer didn’t come through.

As a coach, I’ve certainly seen these swims many times, and the phenomena intrigues me. Why do these slower second swims happen? And how do they happen?

Why do slower second swims happen?

The question of ‘why?’ appears to boil down to one or more of three things: preparation, experience, and strategy.

Preparation

It’s hard to imagine that veteran swimmers don’t know how to physically or nutritionally prepare for a second swim. They’d have been through it many times in the past. The important question is whether they’ve mentally prepared themselves. Bigger meets have different protocols, waiting rooms, louder fans, more pressure, etc. Visualizing and mentally rehearsing the process are some of the tools here. But again, they should all know that. For top swimmers, preparation shouldn’t be a problem, but it might be for regional level swimmers.

Experience

Inexperience can be a big factor at every level, even the Olympics. Every time a swimmer reaches a new level, it’s a new experience. Some handle it without a problem, while others get distracted by the different energy and pace, by the different distractions …read more

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Swimming By the Numbers: How Elite Men Swim the 200 IM

Michael Phelps

It’s the men’s turn this time. Last week we looked at the 200 IM for women, and determined that it was slightly more oriented towards distance than sprinting, all seem to have strong butterfly splits and much wider split variations for the other 3 strokes, and the fastest tended to have the fastest freestyle splits. Now we’ll see how the men fare.

The 200 IM is a little more difficult to figure out than stroke 200s, as any combination of stroke strengths can combine to form a 200 IM. It’s pretty much a given that you can’t be an elite backstroker without being a strong backstroker.

That aside, I’ve come up with a way to look at the numbers, which brings us to this blog.

The Data

The data set consists of 24 elite swimmers at the time of the 2012 Olympics. I used the fastest 24 times and associated splits from the Olympics and the US Olympic Trials. For each swimmer, I used the fastest time they swam during the competition, and not just their last swim.

I also wanted a way to determine if the swimmer was sprint oriented or distance oriented, or in-between. So I added some analysis by gathering each swimmer’s 50 Free LC PB, 200 Free LC PB and 400 IM LC PB. These are swims that the vast majority of the elite 24 had. I was able to collect or estimate all of the 50 Free PBs, since most of these swimmers either swam a 50, 100 or relay 100 at a big meet in 2012 or 2011. Every selected swimmer has a 200 Free PB individually or on a relay. Interestingly, I had the most problems with the 400 IM. Six of the 200 IM elite 24 had no record of a 400 IM from 2010 to 2012. …read more

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Swimming By the Numbers: How Elite Women Swim the 200 IM

Ye-Shiwen

After a long delay, this is the next instalment in a series that looks at how the elite swim the 200 by looking at their race splits. This time we’re analyzing the 200 Individual Medley for women.

It’s taken me a long time to figure out how to analyze the 200 IM. When I analyze a stroke 200, such as 200 Backstroke, I have 50 and 100 metre long course personal bests for each of the top 24 swimmers to work with, and every one of those 24 can be expected to be incredible at Backstroke. But for an IM, every swimmer is not incredible at each stroke, and to do the same analysis I would need 50 metre PBs for each stroke for each swimmer. Those PBs just aren’t available. mainly because many of these IMers just didn’t swim stroke 50s at big meets.

That aside, I’ve come up with a way to look at the numbers, which brings us to this blog.

The Data

The data set consists of 24 elite swimmers at the time of the 2012 Olympics. I used the fastest 24 times and associated splits from the Olympics and the US Olympic Trials. For each swimmer, I used the fastest time they swam during the competition, and not just their last swim.

I also wanted a way to determine if the swimmer was sprint oriented or distance oriented, or in-between. So I added some analysis by gathering each swimmer’s 50 Free LC PB, 200 Free LC PB and 400 IM LC PB. These are swims that the vast majority of the elite 24 had. I was able to collect or estimate all of the 50 Free PBs, since most of these swimmers either swam a 50, 100 or relay 100 at a big meet in 2012 or 2011. Every selected …read more

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The Sad Legacy of East German Doping

People Look Over Barb Wire at Berlin Wall

Last post I discussed the rise of positive doping tests in the aquatics world (here), echoing the terrible doping decades of the 70s, 80s and 90s. Also, last week, Swimming World published an excellent article (here) about the problems and politics with the testing process. With this post I’d like to close out this unintended trilogy with some scary statistics about the disturbing health problems encountered by dopers, and particularly the notorious East German doping program.

Between 1968 and 1988, East Germany won as astonishing 409 Summer Olympics medals, and that didn’t include the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles where they were part of the Soviet bloc boycott. In fact, they had the second highest medal total in 3 of those 5 Olympics, and were never worse than 5th. If we only count swimming, they had the highest medal count in the 1988 and 1980 (Western boycott), and never finished lower than 3rd. Not bad for a population of 19 million at its highest.

Virtually none of their athletes tested positive at the Olympics, or any other international competition. However, rumours were rampant as to how they achieved this incredible performance. A few defecting athletes eventually managed to give us a very good picture of how: State Plan 14.25. This plan, as we found out when files were made public in 1993, started roughly in 1965 and was administered by the state secret police, Stasi. It involved at its peak up to 1500 scientists and doctors in what Manfred Ewald, head of GDR’s sports federation, later described as state-imposed blanket doping. Children were tested in school, and those with athletic ability were put into sports schools, where doping was mandatory and administered to children as young as 10.

The drug of choice was Oral Turinabol, the same anabolic steroid that Russian …read more

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