200m Freestyle Race Strategy


Michael Phelps wins the 200m free at 2010 Pan Pacs.By Russell Mark // National Team High Performance Consultant

The 200 free is the true ultimate middle-distance event – it requires both good distance per cycle and speed. You start the race with controlled speed and good stroke length. As the race progresses your muscles will fatigue and the distance per cycle will not be as long as when you’re fresh. Therefore, you must increase the tempo to achieve optimal speed later in the race.

This is reflected in the top 16 men and women used in this analysis. The tempo speeds up from the 2nd 50 to the 4th 50.

200m Freestyle Mens and Womens Tempos.

When increasing tempo, consider driving it from the kick speed. It is important not to get short and choppy with the stroke, but reduce glide time (i.e. the arm extension) or shorten the back-end of the stroke (finish). An aggressive arm entry in the forward direction, into a good catch is critical for the 200m free.

The splits of elite 200m freestyles can also be used to guide/evaluate your race execution. Obviously, the 2nd 50 will be slower than the 1st 50 because of the start and low fatigue. The 3rd 50 is generally slightly slower than the 2nd 50. The 4th 50 is faster or the same as the 3rd 50. (The 4th 50 should be faster though because it ends with a hand touch, whereas the 3rd 50 ends with a foot touch.)

200m Free Split Changes.

Race strategy will vary by the individual, but these tempo and split trends are very good representations of a generally successful way to execute a 200m free. These are the 16 men and 16 women’s races used in this analysis, many of which implement this exact race strategy. 
 Mens 200m Free Analysis.
 Womens 200m Free Analysis.