Analytical Estimation of Starting Tactics of Medalists in Freestyle Swimming during the XIX Olympic Games in Beijing 2008

Фотографии: 

Ewa Dybińska1, Katarzyna Kucia-Czyszczoń1, Paweł Bieniek1, Tadeusz Ambroży1 Dariusz Mucha

1 Sport Institute - Department of  Water Sports, University School of Physical Education, Cracow, Poland University School of Physical Education, Krakow, Poland

Key words: swimming performance, strategic solutions, male swimmers, front-crawl.

Introduction. Swimming is a sport in which swimmers compete in various distances and styles, therefore a swimmer needs a comprehensive training in terms of physical, functional, technical, mental and tactical skills to achieve an optimal result. The intensive development of sport in the modern world, big competition on the international arena, and the continuous evolution of records require constant improvement of training methodologies and extensive use of scientific and technological improvements.

The determinants of achieving good swimming results are the subject of numerous scientific studies. The studies in many cases deal with the physiological aspects of a swimmer, mainly in the context of anaerobic capacity [8, 10], as well as the aspects of technique [1] and motor skills [3, 12].

A large group of authors focus on the analysis of kinematic parameters such as swimming stride length and shoulder movement frequency (turnout), pointing at those indicators as important factors in swimming efficiency at different distances and disciplines [6, 7, 9, 11]. There is no doubt that these results provide very important, but still not quite complete information about the factors determining an optimum result in swimming. There are also numerous different field studies available in the literature, such as studies on coordination or technical parameters, for instance: the starting jump or turns, which are also significant in the swimming race, and consequently in the final sports achievement [2, 4].  A tactical analysis in the context of obtaining satisfactory sports results seems to appear somewhat less frequently in the field literature. What inspired the authors to make detailed observations on this subject was meeting the needs and expectations of modern competitive swimming in terms of tactical analysis in front crawl.   

The main purpose of the study was to analyze tactical solutions used by competitive swimmers, medalists of the XIX Summer Olympic Games in Beijing in individual front crawl races at distances of 50, 100 and 200 meters.

Therefore the following research question were posed:

1. What kinds of tactics in individual front crawl competition were used by the finalists of the XIX Olympic Games Beijing in 2008?

Methods

Observations have been carried out on 9 swimmers, Olympic medalists of the XIX Summer Olympic Games Beijing 2008, competing in individual front crawl events. The swimmers represented 5 countries: United States (3), Australia (1), France (3), Brazil (1), and South Korea (1). Three of them stood on the podium twice, while all of the others won a single medal. 

The results of the freestyle finals of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, in the form of official times and split times were obtained from the website www.swimrankings.net [5], gathering a database from the European Swimming Federation (LEN).

A detailed comparative results analysis of swimming race components was performed for the mentioned finalists of the front crawl events in order to accomplish the purpose of testing. These results are summarized for each athlete individually, taking into account all of their participation in each event (from the qualifiers to the finals) and the results obtained by their rivals. Therefore, the following was analyzed in detail: 1. The results achieved by the finalists of the 50, 100 and 200 meter front crawl events; 2. Block time; since this is the combination of block time (the interval between the starting signal and the first movement on the block) and movement time (vertical and horizontal force off the block), in total being the time difference from the starting signal to when the swimmer's feet leave the block; 3. Results of each 50 m sections of the analyzed distances (100, 200 m) called split times (50m); and average swimming speed (V) of the individual sections of the distance.  At the distance 50 m front crawl there is no split time in 50 m. To determine the correlation between response start time, the individual sections of the distances and the final results, Pearson's linear correlation was used by calculating the correlation coefficient r. The authors used Statiscica 6.0 software from StatSoft Poland  in order to do statistical calculations.

Results

50m front crawl event

In the final 50m front crawl event the top three places were as follows: 1st place –  Cesar Cielo (BRA), 2nd place –  Eamon Leveaux (FRA),  3rd place – Alain Bernard (FRA).

 Table 1. Detailed results (s) of front crawl sprinters in the 50m race

P

Swimmer

Heats

Semi-Finals

Finals

+

(s)

RT

(s)

SS

m/s

Time

(s)

RT

(s)

SS

m/s

Time

(s)

RT

(s)

SS

m/s

Time

(s)

1

Cielo

0,67

2,33

21,47

0,67

2,34

21,34

0,68

2,35

21,30

2

Leveaux

0,75

2,33

21,46

0,79

2,30

21,76

0,75

2,33

21,45

0,15

3

Bernard

0,74

2,30

21,78

0,75

2,32

21,54

0,73

2,33

21,49

0,19

 

Legend: P – place, RT – block time (s), SS – swimming speed (m/s) „+” – loss to the winner (s)

New Olympic Records are marked in bold.

As the data in Table I shows, the fastest response time was shown by the  Brazilian swimmer, Cesar Cielo, reaching a value of 0,67-0,68s in all three races, both qualifying and finals. The bronze medalist, Frenchman Alain Bernard had the second-fastest block time (0,73–0,75s), and his fellow-countryman, the silver medalist, Eamon Leveaux was the third (0,75-0,79 s). Block time proved to be important in 50 meters front crawl, as confirmed by Pearson's linear correlation, which showed a strong dependence of block time with the final result and the factor adopted the value of r =0.7 (p <0,001). Cielo and Bernard gradually increased their swimming speed from one race to another, achieving the best results in the final event (Cielo – 21.30 and Bernard – 21.49 s). A significant difference is also noticeable in the results between the first and the later races of the swimmers. Leveaux achieved a better result in the heats (21.46 sec) and a slightly worse result in the semifinal (qualifying to the finals only in 7th place) to win a silver medal in the finals (21.45 seconds).

100m front crawl event

In the final race at a distance of 100m front crawl the order was as follows: 1st place –  Alain Bernard (FRA), 2nd place –  Eamon Sullivan (AUS),  3rd place – ex aequo: Jason Lezak (USA) and Cesar Cielo (BRA).

Table 2. Detailed results of the men’s 100m front crawl event (s)

P

Swimmer

Heats

Semi-Finals

Finals

+

(s)

RT

(s)

SS

m/s

Time

(s)

RT

(s)

SS

m/s

Time

(s)

RT

(s)

SS

m/s

Time

(s)

1

Bernard

0,74

2,09

47,87

0,76

2,12

47,20

0,74

2,12

47,21

2

Sullivan

0,66

2,10

47,80

0,65

2,13

47,05

0,67

2,12

47,32

0,11

3

Lezak

0,73

2,07

48,33

0,73

2,09

47,98

0,70

2,10

47,67

0,46

3

Cielo

0,71

2,08

48,16

0,72

2,09

48,07

0,68

2,10

47,67

0,46


Legend: P – place, RT – block time (s), SS – swimming speed (m/s), „+” – loss to the winner (s)

New Olympic Records are marked in bold

The results of the individual 100 m front crawl events (Table II) show a visible difference (of 0.35s) between 1st and 2nd place, and the results of the swimmers who finished in third position, achieving the same result in the final (47,67s), in which only the Brazilian (Cielo) clearly improved his previous results. Bernard and Sullivan, except for the heats, swam at high speeds, beating the two world records in the semifinals. Bernard was also able to maintain the high performance in the finals (47.21 sec), beating the Australian (47.32 sec) by 0.11s. All three athletes (Bernard, Lezak and Cielo), except for the Australian Sullivan, got their best results in the finals. The Australian Eamon Sullivan had the best block time (average of 0,66 s) before swimmers Cielo (0,7s), Lezak (0,72s) and Bernard (0,75s).

The Pearson correlation coefficient between the reaction time (Fig. 5) and the result in the final race was r =0.23, which indicates a low correlation between these variables and is not statistically significant. The Australian Eamon Sullivan had the best reaction time (average of 0,66 s) before swimmers Cielo (0,7s), Lezak (0,72s) and Bernard (0,75s).

200m front crawl event

In the final 200m front crawl event the following swimmers took the three top places: 1st place –  Michael Phelps (USA), 2nd place –  Tae-Hwan Park (KOR),  3rd place – Peter Vanderkaay (USA).

Table 3. Detailed results of the men’s 200m front crawl event (s)

P

Swimmer

Heats

Semi-Finals

Finals

+

(s)

RT

(s)

SS

m/s

Time

(s)

RT

(s)

SS

m/s

Time

(s)

RT

(s)

SS

m/s

Time

(s)

1

Phelps

0,73

1,88

1:46,18

0,74

1,88

1:46,28

0,73

1,94

1:42,96

2

Park

0,67

1,88

1:46,73

0,68

1,89

1:45,99

0,67

1,91

1:44,85

1,89

3

Vander-kaay

0,73

1,86

1:47,39

0,75

1,89

1:45,76

0,75

1,90

1:45,14

2,18


Legend: P – place, RT – block time (s), SS – swimming speed (m/s), „+” – loss to the winner (s)

New Olympic Records are marked in bold.

The final race in the men’s 200m front crawl (Table III) was dominated by Michael Phelps of the USA (1:42,96), ahead of Tae-Hwan Park of South Korea (+1,89s) and Peter Vanderkaaya (+2,18s), also from the USA.

When taking into consideration the start block time (Table III) at this distance, it was Tae-Hwan Park who got the best result for this parameter over all three races (0,67–0,68–0,67s), before Phelps (0,73–0,74–0,73s) and Vanderkaay (0,73–0,75–0,75s).

Michael Phelps presented the greatest progress of results in various stages of the event, obtaining the final result of 1:42,96 min, significantly improving the results of previous runs (1:46,18min and 1:46,28min). Park and Vanderkaay also demonstrated an improvement (-1.88 s and -2.25 s) in the finals compared to the heats. The latter two swimmers showed a speed increase from race to race (from 0,1 to 0,2 m/s), whereas Phelps achieved the same results in the first two races and he achieved the highest speed in the final race (1,94 m/s). The linear correlation coefficient between the response time and the final result for this distance stood at -0.09, which means that there was no significant correlation between these variables.

The Pearson correlation coefficient between the reaction time  and the result in the final race was r=0.23, which indicates a low correlation between these variables and is not statistically significant. The Australian Eamon Sullivan had the best reaction time (average of 0,66 s) before swimmers Cielo (0,7s), Lezak (0,72s) and Bernard (0,75s).

Discussion

The results of this research may suggest that individual tactics play a very important role in swimming. Each athlete makes their own choice of specific tactical solutions, led by their morpho-functional abilities. It seems that there is no such thing as one optimized, standard tactical model, which combined with the maximum possible swimming speed would always guarantee final success. However, the most desired ways of racing can be specified and applied to the men’s front crawl 50, 100 and 200 meters competitions. As the results of the research indicated, response times to auditory stimuli (start signal) can influence the final result. The medalists at 50m front crawl showed a dependence on this factor (p <0.01), which means that it is desirable for swimmers competing at these distances to have high efficiency of the nervous system. In other front crawl disciplines  the impact of starting block time was marginal, as the relationship between these variables was not statistically significant.

Tactics for 50m front crawl distance seem to have little importance for the optimal result, because of the short length of the race, lack of turns and strength-speed nature of the event. This situation forces the swimmer to develop and maintain a maximum swimming speed during the whole race, which equaled 2.33 m/s ± 0.01 for the medalists. It is desirable at all distances of the Olympics to qualify to the next stages of the competition with the results deviating from the best performance, which allows a competitor to minimize the fatigue effect and to mobilize the body for further starts.

As follows from the data, the winners of the analyzed races (50, 100 and 200m front crawl) achieved the best results in the finals, except for the 100-metre distance, where the winner’s difference to the results in the semifinals was -0.01). During the final races the medalists have shown various characteristic ways of dealing with the distances. Characteristic for all medalists in the 100m race was swimming the first 50m section at a much faster pace  (the average was higher by 2.16 s than the finals) than the second half of the distance. But it seems to be logical, because it is influenced by the start. The same tactics were used for a distance of 200m, but the difference between the results of both 100m sections increased in each next phase of the competition, as did the performance on individual laps. It seems that in front crawl sprint races up to 200m the most effective tactic is to achieve and maintain the longest possible maximum swimming speed until the end of the race.

Conclusions

1.It is believed that not only tactics for an individual race is important, but equally significant is to elaborate the strategy for the whole event and to prepare the swimmer to compete in the system of heats, semifinals and finals.

2.There are no universal, model tactical solutions that could be applied to all front crawl events. It seems that both distance and the stage (heats, semifinals or finals) of the competitions have an impact on the selection of a particular strategy.

3.However, some of the following tactical objectives can be formulated:

  • sprinters (a distance of 50 and 100 m front crawl) should start at maximum speed, according to their abilities, and try to maintain that speed until the end of the race;
  • average -distance swimmers (200m front crawl) should adopt the most optimal tactical solutions characterized by increasing speed in the second half of the distance.

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Author’s contacts: Phone: +48503909267 Fax: +48 12 683 11 13, E-mail: dybinskaewa@gmail.com