By Matt Barbini//National Team High Performance Consultant
While there are obvious similarities in the execution of the 100 backstroke in short course yards and long course meters, there are also significant differences. In my opinion, the differences are so stark that the two races cannot accurately be described as two versions of the same event. Rather, they should be thought of as two different events that each require their own skills, strategy and execution. Check out the chart below for a comparison of how our four 2012 Olympians in the 100 meter backstroke performed their best long course race and their 100 yard race last weekend at AT&T Winter Nationals.
First and likely most impactful is the percentage of the race that is swum versus the percentage that is performed underwater. In their best long course performance, our four Olympians swam an average of 74.9% of the race while spending 25.1% underwater. Last weekend, they swam an average of only 53.5% of the race and spent 46.5% underwater. This obviously relates directly to the number of cycles performed, as well as the amount of time spent without breathing, necessitating a clear difference in strategy and physical skills. In 2012, the men took an average of 32 cycles to complete 100 meters, while last weekend 100 yards only required 17. The women averaged 38 cycles in long course to 25 cycles in short course. While this decrease in cycles is significant, it is largely offset by additional time spent underwater, increasing the emphasis on strong dolphin kicks and effective breath control.
Neither race is necessarily more or less challenging than the other, they simply require different approaches. To treat them as slightly altered versions of the same race would be ineffective, and the same can be said for many other races when considering the transition from yards to meters and vice versa.
Long Course Race Data Used:
Grevers – 2012 Olympic Trials (52.08)
Thoman – 2012 Olympic Trials (52.86)
Franklin – 2012 Olympics (58.33)
Bootsma – 2012 Olympic Trials (59.10)