The road to 21 seconds: A case report of a 2016 Olympic swimming sprinter

SAGE Publications
Publication Type:
Journal Article
International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching, 2019, 14, (3), pp. 393-405
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This study aimed to describe training characteristics as well as physical, technical and morphological changes of an elite Olympic swimming sprinter throughout his road to 21 s in the 50 m freestyle. Over a ∼2.5-year period, the following assessments were obtained: external training load, competitive performance, instantaneous swimming speed, tethered force, dry-land maximal dynamic strength in bench press, pull-up and back squat and body composition. From 2014 to 2016, the athlete dropped 3.3% of his initial best time by reducing total swimming time (i.e. the total time minus 15-m start time – from 17.07 s to 16.21 s) and improving the stroke length (from 1.83 m to 2.00 m). Dry-land strength (bench press: 27.3%, pull-up: 9.1% and back squat: 37.5%) and tethered force (impulse: 30.5%) increased. Competitive performance was associated to average (r = −0.82, p = 0.001) and peak speeds (r = −0.71; p = 0.009) and to lean body mass (r = −0.55; p = 0.03), which increased in the first year and remained stable thereafter. External training load presented a polarized pattern in all training seasons. This swimmer reached the sub-22 s mark by reducing total swimming time, which was effected by a longer stroke length. He also considerably improved his dry-land strength and tethered force levels likely due to a combination of neural and morphological adaptations.
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