Simone Manuel is one of the fastest sprinters in the world! At the 2016 Games in Rio, she won gold in the women’s 100-meter freestyle and the 4×100-meter medley relay, and silver in the 50-meter freestyle and the 4×100-meter freestyle relay.
What does it take to be as fast as Simone? We broke down her technique to find out!
Simone’s freestyle catch and pull are top notch. Her arm enters the water in line with her shoulder and she stretches out long to maximize her distance per stroke. Then, she bends at the elbow, initiating an early vertical forearm catch. Keeping the elbow nice and high is important here — doing so helps her pull more water than she would with her arm straight!
Related: What is Early Vertical Forearm?
One minor nitpick in her catch. During some strokes, Simone’s fingertips angle up as she stretches her arm out. That’s creating some extra drag for her — it’s better to focus on keeping the fingers straight, or angled slightly down.
In the clip that we analyzed, Simone is looking slightly forward, and her head bobs slightly as she initiates her catch. Ideally, she’d be looking straight down, but it’s likely that these clips were from a video shoot, so her technique wasn’t top priority. If you watch Simone’s race footage, her head position is solid.
Keeping your eyes focused on the bottom of the pool ensures that you maintain proper body position. Your body follows your head, so if your eyes look up, your hips will drop and create extra drag. Conversely, if your eyes look down, your hips will stay closer to the surface of the water, allowing you to move through the water more smoothly.
For sprinters like Simone, dryland training is a major contributor to strength and power in the water. Simone does quite a bit of swimming-specific gym training to help her explode off the blocks and off the turns and maintain a high stroke rate for the 50 and 100 freestyle.
She incorporates explosive single leg hops and plyometric pushups, along with barbell work.
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