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The aim was to: (i) compare Ruta Meilutyte (LTU) WR in Moscow (October 2013) and Alia Atkinson (JAM) in Doha (November 2014), both with a time of 1:02.36; (ii) learn the effect of the taper on Alia´s performance (Singapore vs. Doha races, 5 weeks apart).
Water entry and water break was not different comparing Ruta and Alia.
Alia Atkinson showed a shift in the stroke kinematics between the Singapore and Doha events (decrease in the clean speed, stroke length and efficiency but increase in the stroke rate).
Alia’s breakout was around the 8-9m and 9-10m distances in Singapore and Doha, respectively. She not only stayed underwater longer, but the turning speed was also higher (10.6% and 6.9% faster in the first and last turns).
A lot was already said about Alia´s WR and gold medal at the SCM World Championships held last December in Doha. It is great for her, for Jamaica and for the World swimming according to the reasons pointed out in a very comprehensive way in the specialized media. Let´s go back one month, November 2014. Early that month, a few weeks before the Championships, it was held here in Singapore the last leg of the 2014 FINA World Cup Series. Overall, the leg was fairly entertaining considering that: (i) most swimmers were away from home at several weeks to compete at the legs of the Asian cluster; (ii) each leg is a two-days meet packed with a lot of events; (iii) most swimmers race more than two events per day; (iv) there are claims that some of them still have training sessions between the morning and evening races; (v) probably they are looking forward to the World Championships in 4-5 weeks time. However, a couple of athletes posted very promising races, swimming at world record paces.
That time, my comment to a few friends and peers was that if Chad and Alia can race at WR pace 4-5 weeks before Doha, after a good taper, probably they will smash some records in December. So, we must keep an eye on them. Surprisingly, at least for some people, that did happen. So this bring us to today´s post: (i) compare Ruta Meilutyte (LTU) WR in Moscow (October 2013) and Alia Atkinson (JAM) in Doha (November 2014), both with a time of 1:02.36; (ii) learn the effect of the taper on Alia´s performance (Singapore vs. Doha, 5 weeks apart).
Ruta is well known to be very quick on the blocks (i.e. reaction time). However the water entry and water break is not so different comparing RM and AA (table 1). Between Singapore and Doha, Alia covered one more meter fully immersed but only spent an extra 0.13s. Hence, one might consider that she improved the first and second glides in the start (RM: 2.43m/s; AA: 2.30m/s and 2.44m/s; an improvement of 5.8% in 5 weeks).
AA was slightly faster in the first split than RM (AA: 29.46s; RM: 29.56s) but that paid-off even though she was slower by 0.1s in the following one (Table 2). In Singapore, AA did the first split at the WR pace (29.58s). I am not sure if she was only testing paces, really wanted to break the World record but was too tired, saving energy for the remaining events of the session because she raced back-to-back two finals: the W100Br (at 06:24pm) and the W200IM (at 06:53pm). Only she and her coach have the right answer to that.
Surprisingly the Atkinson´s stroke kinematics were slightly lower than the one performed by RM (table 3). Clean speed, stroke length and efficiency (i.e. stroke index) are lower, but the stroke rate higher. Interestingly, the same trend can be verified comparing the Singapore leg with Doha´s final. In Singapore, 81.8% of the speed was related to the stroke length, while in Doha only 35.34%. So, it seems that she had a strategy based on the stroke rate in Doha, a nice and “smoother” technique in Singapore.
So far, we learned that Alia Atkinson start was quite good, and there was a shift in the stroke kinematics. This lead us to the question on how did she performed during the turns and the finish.
Over the three turns, AA increased the distance to the water break (table 4). She was doing the water break around the 8-9m and 9-10m distances in Singapore and Doha, respectively. Not only she stayed longer fully immersed but the turning speed was also higher (10.6% and 6.9% faster in the first and last turns). Regarding the finish, the difference between RM and AA is 0.06s. AA showed a slight improvement by 0.04s (1.2%) between November and December. Therefore, it seems that the turns were determinant for Alias Atkinson World Record.
To wrap-up, comparing RM and AA WR at the W100Br by the same time of 1:02.36, it seems that the start and the turns were determinants for the later swimmer´s performance. Over that race, the clean swimming relied more on the stroke rate than the stroke length or swimming efficiency. That improvement on the start and turns did happen between the race delivered in Singapore and the final in Doha. Moreover, there was a slight shift in the swimming mechanics (higher SR, lower SL).
Can’t wait for the long course meters woman’s 100 breaststroke world record showdown, any predictions?
By Tiago M. Barbosa PhD degree recipient in Sport Sciences and faculty at the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
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