3 Takeaways for Swimmers Watching the 2016 Rio Olympic Games

Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

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Editorial Coverage Sponsored By FINIS

By Ashleigh Shanley, Swimming World College Intern

Every four years, swimmers get the pleasure of seeing our sport in the spotlight.  During those few weeks in August, it seems as though our sport finally gets the recognition the athletes deserve for the American and world records that are broken each year, and then broken once again at the Olympics.

However, swimmers can gain a lot more out of the Olympics than the satisfaction of seeing our fellow athletes and teammates hard work pay off.  When the best swimmers in the world come together to compete, we can learn an immense amount about our sport even while sitting on our family room couches!

Between prelims, semifinals and finals each event is broadcasted at least two times.  This means that for every stroke and every event, we have the opportunity to study and learn from the best swimmers not only in the United States, but the world.

So although you may not be competing in the Olympics and may be done with summer competition, whether you are a visual or auditory learner there are many ways you can improve and enhance your swimming by watching each session in Rio.

1. Study and observe technique with multiple camera angles.

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Photo Courtesy: Pixabay

For the most part, off of every start and wall, the cameras broadcasting the Olympic Swimming will transition from an above view, to an underwater view.  Although this view generally just focuses on the swimmers in the middle of the pool, it gives you a perfect angle of some of the world’s top swimmers’ strokes.

By seeing these athletes technique, it can help you visualize the perfect angle your arm should be at when it is pulling through in freestyle or exactly what it is supposed to look like when your coach tells you to keep your elbows high on your breast pull.

With an underwater visual, you are given and inside look at the strokes of some of the best swimmers across the globe, and this opportunity does not come often!

Take advantage of watching each session, and observing what aspects of a swimmer’s stroke are impeccable and what might just be key to their success.

Not only can the underwater cameras be incredibly helpful to those who like to learn visually, but the above water angles can also be extremely valuable.  From the bird’s eye view, it is easy to see the perfect line a breaststroker may get in, or the perfect entry a backstroker has with each stroke.

And from the side or front angle, it is easy to see the specific breathing technique and pattern of an elite freestyler or how streamlined flyers get with every entry on each stroke.

With every session, you can learn so much through observing the technique, breathing pattern and race strategy of the world’s best swimmers so take advantage of the free lessons!

2. Listen to the post-race interviews and elite advice.

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Photo Courtesy: David Rieder

After each race members of Team USA, and the top finishers of each event, will be interviewed on how they felt, what they were thinking, and even their race strategies.  These interviews could not be more helpful to young swimmers.

We hear our coaches tell us over and over to relax going into a race, to have a race plan that we are confident in, and to not let how we may be ‘feeling’ affect our race.

However, by hearing the world’s top swimmers discuss how they were relaxed, had a certain race plan or how they prepared for a race in general, it serves as first-hand proof that what our coaches preach to us day in and day out is indeed going to help us succeed.

Not only does it serve to reinforce the specific details of racing that our coaches try to teach us, but they also share tips on how they succeed.  They throw out snippets about how they might stay calm prior to racing, what their race strategy was for a particularly good swim that may have been different from their prelim or semifinal swim, or if they can manage to summarize it– what it feels like to win a gold medal.

These bits of information may just be boring interviews to the every day person, but to swimmers, we can use each and every interview to enhance parts of our racing.  Some of us might not learn well visually, but hearing what these top athletes have to say about training and racing can cause aspects of the sport to click in our head, changing your training or racing forever.

3. Use their success as your motivation.

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Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

Many of us have finished up our summer competition and are preparing for the fall season, whether it be club, high school or college swimming.  And with a short break, it is the perfect time to set fresh, new goals.

There is nothing more motivating than seeing Katie Ledecky break her own world record or Michael Phelps earn his nineteenth gold medal.  Throughout the next week there will only be more amazing accomplishments by swimmers around the world that will give you chills.

But what you can do from your family room couch is remember the excitement and pride you feel for your country when an athlete wins a medal or breaks a record, and channel that feeling into your goals for next season.

Use that feeling as a way to keep you motivated.  Strive for that feeling every dual meet or even every practice, so that when it comes to your winter championship meet or even your spring championship meet, you are hungry to feel the same way you did when you saw Ledecky or Phelps celebrating their wins.

Most people watch the Olympics, particularly the swimming, to see Phelps and the familiar faces break world records and win medals, but we swimmers can get so much more out of watching each session.

With one more week of swimming, be sure to pick up on a few technique changes you can implement into next season and use Team USA or another swimmers Olympic success to motivate you into the fall.

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Author: Ashleigh Shanley

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Ashleigh Shanley is from Ann Arbor, Michigan and is a rising senior at Duke University. She swims breaststroke and IM, and has been a part of Duke's ACC Championship team for the past three years. She is studying psychology while receiving a certificate in journalism and media studies.

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