Take Home Points:
  1. The Spaniard Mireia Belmonte Garcia shaved 1.17 second to the Women 200m Butterfly WR, being the first lady swimming bellow 2 minutes (1:59.61). Silver medal was snatched by Katinka Hosszu (HUN) with a final time of 2:01.12
  2. In this post you will find the analysis of the race strategy by these two swimmers during the final and on the way to the World Championships.
  3. Considering all FINA World Cup legs, MBG did on average the first half of the race in 1:00.67 and the second half in 1:04.07; while KH 0:59.90 and 1:05.06. So, the difference between them was an advantage of 0.764s for KH in the first 100m and a disadvantage of 0.997s.

So far, the best race at the Doha 2014 World Championships (25m) was delivered by the Spaniard Mireia Belmonte Garcia (MBG) in the Women 200 butterfly final, breaking the World record by more than one second. In another piece you may find the video and an analysis to her race. Today, we will try to have some insight on the race strategy and the build-up on the way to this final. Both Mireia and Katinka Hosszu (KH, HUN) delivered some of the most entertaining races over the FINA World Cup Series this year. So, why not compare the two of them?

The best World Cup performance was delivered by MBG in the Moscow leg (2:02.99) and by KH in Tokyo (2:03.14). At the 2014 World Championships the Spaniard clocked (1:59.61, WR) and shaved 1.17 second to the record set by Liu Zige (CHI) in 2009. Katinka Hosszu clocked 2:01.12 in the same final. Both swimmers show the same typical profile, being the first half of the race faster than the second half (Fig 1). As usual the first split is the fastest. The 4th split was the slowest for the Spaniard till early October. From October onwards, the 3rd split becomes slower than the 4th.

It is more interesting is to compare both swimmers in each split (fig 2). Over time we can see a trend for a slight improvement in the reaction time for MBG. With no surprise, the split times are better in the World Championships final than over the World Cup Series. If we do not consider the World Championship race, MBG seems to be improving her split times in the second half of the race. From the Beijing leg onwards, the 3rd split (100-150m) became the slowest. I.e., the 4th split is faster than the 3rd between October and December. An excellent article for a scientific journal would need to relate these performances to the external training load (i.e. periodization). Some insight could also be gathered based on some mathematical models as we shared here earlier.  But for that, requires more time and is a post for another day…

Now we need some math to back up the analysis. Based on data in table 1 we can see that the final time between both swimmers is rather similar (i.e. the probability of existing a true difference is quite small). But, if we do the analysis by race splits we start to realize that there are moderate and large differences in the split times and reaction time. Let me share (recap?) a few lines that we hear all the time: “One size does not fit all”, “There is no right or wrong way to do the things. There is your way”, “There are several strategies to reach a given performance”. Table 2 is great to showcase that. Indeed there are different strategies to reach the same outcome.

Variability inversely correlates with consistency. If one is less consistent, than they exhibit higher variability. If variability increases than something is changing a lot over time. The change over time is higher for MBG than for KH. Mireia has been improving more in selected race splits, hence a higher variability. Their race strategy is very different during the start (i.e. reaction time), first and last splits. So, we need to investigate further what these differences are.

To learn about the differences in the split times I will profile the race (fig 3, table 2). For more details on the procedures kindly refer to a piece posted earlier comparing N. Adrian (USA) and J. Magnussen (AUS).  One concern that I should acknowledge is the low number of races available to profile the swimmers (8 races). Therefore, more than predicting the performances I am keen to understand what will be the main trend (i.e. race strategy) and who shows advantage in each split.

There is 95% of confidence to report that MBF is faster on the blocks (reaction time) and the last split. The 3rd split is an even battle between the two rivals. It is challenging to state that clearly one is better than the other. Hosszu takes the lead in the first split and in a less obvious way she keeps it in the second. Based on this, I am wondering if KH tries to take the lead in the first half of the race and get a safe gap between her and the Spaniard because the later one has a powerful finish. If in the first half KH does not obtain a large enough lead, then she may know MBF will catch her.

Considering all FINA World Cup legs, MBG did on average the first half in 1:00.67 and the second half in 1:04.07; while KH 0:59.90 and 1:05.06. So, the difference between them was an advantage of 0.764s for KH in the first 100m and a disadvantage of 0.997s. We can say this in another way, if one wants to win the race, they must have a 1st half at least one second faster than the other competitor. For swimmers, have a body length or more of advantage during the 100m turn (v=1.70m/s, i.e. to travel 1.70m distance in one second, so one body length). If we keep the same reasoning, but doing the calculations only for the races in October and November, because MBG has improved the second half of the race, we get some insight into race strategy and perhaps why Katinka Hosszu went out so fast at World Championships in the 200 Butterfly.

By Tiago M. Barbosa PhD degree recipient in Sport Sciences and faculty at the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

The post Why Katinka Hosszu Went Out so fast at World Championships in the 200 Butterfly appeared first on Swimming Science.

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