Race Strategy: 100 Butterfly Stroke Counts
BY KATIE ARNOLD//HIGH PERFORMANCE CONSULTANT
Everyone knows that part of good race preparation is having a specific plan for how you will swim an event. In butterfly, we have talked about breathing patterns and tempos, but we haven’t discussed stroke counts. After the World Championships this summer, I was curious about 100 fly stroke counts for the best swimmers, so I decided to do some research.
I looked back at the 100 butterfly from the 2012 Olympics and the 2013 World Championships for both men and women, and I tracked each of the 8 finalists through prelims, semifinals, and finals to see if there was anything to be learned from their stroke counts. The data is below, followed by my thoughts on what I discovered.
In general, all of these swimmers were remarkably consistent in their stroke counts from prelims to semifinals and from semifinals to finals. Most of these athletes only varied their stroke count by one stroke on either lap. A small number (4) varied their stroke count by more than one stroke in a lap, while about the same number (5) maintained the exact same stroke count by lap through all three races. This means that out of 21 swimmers*, 17 either maintained their stroke count throughout the competition, or varied by only 1 stroke in a lap.
This shows me that the best butterflyers in the world are making stroke counts part of their race plans. These athletes understand that to swim fast consistently, they must have a detailed and specific race plan that they practice regularly.
*One swimmer was excluded from these findings because I could only collect data from one race.