Applying Science to the art of swimming

Catching up with starts & turns in SA Swimming

Practice makes perfect…

Does it really? The answer is NO! Practice will probably make fit, however perfect practice in training will better assist the journey to perfection.

Complacency is a mental state that many an athlete kicks into when the going gets monotonous, tiring or un-interesting. Both the athlete and the coach are equally to blame for allowing entrance into this state. Once this state of being complacent is entered into, all things that are important or that require some thought and correct action seem to disappear out the pool. Very suddenly practice becomes just a practice and poor, incorrect habits and techniques are engaged in order to get what is required of them over with in the quickest, easiest and least tiring method possible.

Bring on the analysis

Looking at continued in-depth analysis of our SA swimmers, it can be generalised that competition starts and turns are a huge issue that must be dealt with. When comparing start splits (over the first 15 metres) in a race and turn splits (from 5 metres in and 10 meters out), to other swimmers around the world, it only then becomes clearly evident how much attention we need to pay to these crucial points within an event or in a race.

Looking at some of the analysis done at the 2010 SA Nationals event. When we consider the variables of start and turn splits, one can clearly notice the vast inconsistency of these split times. This inconsistency is not only noticed amongst competitors in the same event, but more importantly within the individual swimmer’s performance across different events. When comparing these times from heats to finals, or when comparing consecutive turns in a longer event, the variations in split times are clearly evident.

What is the cause of this? Is it the athlete who is continually in a complacent state of mind, the coach who possibly pays little or no attention to these variables, or who finds it hard to attend to each individual and their mistakes? Or is it possibly due to the lack of competing or poor inter-group competition we may have in the SA swimming context?

This issue is very likely a combination of all these factors that forces the majority of SA swimmers to continually play catch-up not only with themselves against personal bests, but also at the highest level against the best in the world.


For the full article that includes in-depth analysis and comparitive data from top local and international athletes at various events, feel free to contact author Ryan Hodierne



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About Ryan Hodierne

Ryan is a sports scientist who firmly believes sport makes the world go round. His specialty is in Performance Analysis. He has assisted many of SA’s national teams at the highest level, including the Olympics. He’s a training author and keen adventure athlete who competes in off-road events of all kinds. He is the official Otter African Trail Run and Tour de Tuli training coach. Ryan currently resides in Singapore where he functions as a biomechanist, serving the nation’s top profile athletes at the Singapore Sports Institute. Email him at

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