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2/8/05 Eyes Down on Flip Turn
Text and Photo/Video by Glenn Mills
Demonstrated by Scott Tucker

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If you want a GREAT flip turn, you need to pay attention not just to the FLIP but also to how you SET UP for the flip. In other words, how you APPROACH the wall is just as important as how you do your somersault. Many swimmers like to add extra steps and motions to the approach. Some of them hunch up their shoulders, thinking that rising UP will help them drive their bodies DOWN into the turn. Others do a double take, glancing up to make sure the wall is still there. Both of these motions, as small as they may seem, cause the body to rise…and the hips to fall. They interrupt your momentum, and send it in the WRONG direction.

Swimmers understand the importance of head position when they streamline on the pushoff, but sometimes forget how key it is to maintain that position for the rest of the race. By learning how to use the lines on the bottom of the pool, rather than looking at the cross at the end, you’ll end up with a faster, tighter turn. You’ll carry all of your momentum into the wall, and will have more momentum for the pushoff. Increased wall speed will help you start swimming with more speed – always a good thing to do in a race!

Step #1. Keeping your eyes down when you turn starts with learning to keep your eyes down when you FINISH. Start by simply practicing finishes without looking at the wall. Get your bearings by looking for the cross -- or “T” -- on the bottom of the pool, and learn how far it is from the T to the wall. If you need to look at something, look at the spot where the wall meets the floor of the pool, but fight the instinct to look directly at the wall in front of you.

Step #2. After you feel comfortable that you know when you’re going to hit the wall with your hand, move on to your flip turn. Again, start slowly if you’ve never done this, and keep your heels close to your bottom. Stay in a very tight tuck, which will help you to spin faster. As in Step #1, fight the instinct to look forward. Keep your head in the same position it’s in when you swim. When it’s time to turn, don’t lift up with your shoul-ders, neck, or head. Instead, let your head FOLLOW your hand on your last stroke in, down, and around.
In the video, you’ll notice how Scott Tucker, two-time Olympian and Gold Medalist on the 400 Free Relay in 1996, keeps his eyes down, and looks at the bottom as he ap-proaches the wall. He’s practiced this so much that he needs very few visual cues to let him know where the wall is. In the video, he’s turning on a bulkhead, so he has no vis-ual cue for where the wall meets the bottom.

This kind of fluency and continuous forward motion comes with MUCH practice, but will allow you to not only win on the walls, but also to improve your time.

Remember, don’t add steps or extra motions to your turn, and keep your head in the position you know is best for swimming fast...even on the walls.