5/5/05 Timing the Breath on Butterfly
By Glenn Mills
Demonstrated by Misty Hyman and Kaitlin Sandeno

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I want to start by saying that this article is NOT about which of these swimmers is more correct, or better. Misty Hyman and Kaitlin Sandeno are both world-class swimmers and they are both GREAT. What I want to demonstrate in this article is that both of these great athletes have discovered the way that works the best for them.

What Misty and Kaitlin have discovered is how to time the breath on butterfly. They’ve discovered WHEN, exactly, to fit in the breath relative to the FINISH of the armstroke. Misty breathes late relative to the finish of the stroke. Kaitlin breathes early relative to the finish.

You can see this difference in the two pictures. By the time we see Misty’s hands for the first time, she’s still heading up for her breath. This gives her a very clean breath, and shows she pushes through her stroke just a little bit more than Kaitlin.

When we see Kaitlin’s hands for the first time, she’s already taken her breath and her face is almost completely back in the water again. She stays a bit lower to the surface of the water, and her hands exit a bit wider than Misty’s. This shows she sends her hands OUT a bit more at the end of her stroke.
Two great swimmers. Two different – but effective -- approaches to the stroke. While some might argue that Misty comes up a bit too high, we know that Misty is famous for her FANTASTIC body undulation. While she has a bit more up-and-down motion in her stroke, don’t forget that this motion generates tremendous power, which sends her for-ward with a bit more speed.

By the same token, some might argue that Kaitlin doesn’t have enough body undulation. It’s true that she doesn’t come up quite so high as Misty, BUT she spends as much time as possible moving directly to the other end. By not undulating quite so much, Kaitlin is a bit more conservative with her energy, and she sends all that energy FORWARD. This not only allows her to be a great 200 flyer, but also gives her a great advantage in taking out her 400 IM.

Which way is better? It depends on the swimmer and his or her events. Which way is better for you? It depends on you. The important thing is to maximize your advantage, and to be strategic in the race you’re swimming. Both of these swimmers are powerful, and economic, and it’s only when we slow the video WAY down that we’re able to iden-tify such subtle differences in their strokes. These swimmers have signatures that are unique to them, and that help them maximize their strokes for their events.

Glenn Mills is Swimming World Magazine’s technical advisor. Check out his website at