Confessions of a Backhalfer

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

By Jamie Kolar, Swimming World College Intern.

Being a backhalfer is something that comes naturally. We normally don’t intend on backhalfing whatever we are doing, whether it is a set at practice or a final in a meet. This skill is sometimes deemed as “saving up,” and although that is sometimes true, it is not always the case.

Here is how to tell the difference: if the backhalfing only occurs on an intermittent basis, then the person is probably saving up for whatever they are doing at the time. However, if the backhalfing is consistent with every race and practice, the person is probably doing it unintentionally.

People often do not like swimming against a backhalfer. They see them “saving up for the last one” and think that the athlete is not really trying for the full effort. In addition, coaches tend to get upset when their swimmer is a backhalfer, because they think that the swimmer could have gone harder on the previous part as well. For backhalfers near and far, we know these statements are not true. Here are some confessions from a backhalfer.

We are not saving up.

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Photo Courtesy: USA TODAY Sports-USA TODAY Sports

Just to illustrate the point, true backhalfers are not purposely trying to “save their energy” for the last 25. We are not being Sally Save Ups. We have been going fast on the last 25 for as long as we can remember, and it something that just occurs naturally for us.

We apologize to those who think that we are saving up for the last 25, but we cannot help our natural instincts. Our intention is not to frustrate those around us; rather, it is simply to swim faster and win. Frustrating those around us may be an unavoidable consequence of our backhalfing tendencies.

No, we are not aware of the fact that we just backhalfed.

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Photo Courtesy: Thomas Campbell/Texas A&M Athletics

The worst feeling ever is getting out of the water and having a coach come up to you and ask, “Do you know what you just did?” with a very annoyed tone. It normally means that we have once again backhalfed a race we were not supposed to. We have talked about not backhalfing the race over and over with our coaches, yet it still keeps happening. We promise coach – it was not intentional, and we do not mean to seemingly ignore your advice.

The best backhalf swims happen when they are unintended. They are often least expected and usually come with a great, close race in the process. As backhalfers, we are often proud when this happens, because it means that we got up and raced our hardest and left all of our energy in the water.

The real reason why we backhalf.

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Photo Courtesy: Swimming World

The real reason for backhalfing may vary from person to person, but in general, it is because we hate to lose any kind of race. Backhalfers are often the most competitive people both in and out of the water and just want to get their hand on the wall first. They are able to find the extra energy inside of them at the end of a hard set or race to fight through that last 25 to make a comeback when they need to surge ahead from behind.

There is something special about the last 25. The pressure is on to see who is going to pull out the victory, and the pressure is on to race as best as you can. Backhalfers surge ahead at the end because they are racing the people around them and have an uncontrollable desire to win and be faster than the person next to them. Backhalfers are the true embodiment of the competitive spirit: fighting until the end for the best possible outcome.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

17 Comments

17 comments

  1. Kate Poxon

    Courtney Poxon remember these days now ur glad to just finish the race alive 🤣🤣

  2. Helen Keyes

    Know a few of those in my daughter’s club

  3. Corella Cope

    Ben Cope you’ve given me many a heart attack doing this!!

  4. Tina Klenke Pierce

    Amy Stutts Martin Chris Martin to my favorite negative splitter Alex 🤣🤣

    • Amy Stutts Martin

      Tina Klenke Pierce this article suits Ax perfectly. He pulled that trick last weekend in the 1000. His fastest lap was lap 40. Poor Valerie was swimming right next to him and was not smiling. And neither was his coach but he got the cowbell!

  5. Shaheen Alghofari

    True say Joe Stott as I represent the backend lads

    • Joe Stott

      Don’t need a back end if you don’t do one

    • Phyllis Bayly

      Jessica Sanftleben Ashley Benko. To a T!!!

  6. Susan Fitch

    We called that negative splitting.

  7. Emily Shallman

    Jennifer Wheeler immediately thought of you lol

Author: Jamie Kolar

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Jamie Kolar is a junior at the the University of Illinois studying health sciences. She swims backstroke, freestyle and butterfly and is a 2106 Olympic Trial qualifier in the 100 backstroke as well as a multiple state record holder in Illinois.

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