The Importance of a Powerful Start in Competitive Swimming

The following are a few examples of the importance of a good start.

What a difference a good start makes:

"The biggest surprise of the night came in the men's 200-meter backstroke when relative unknown Aaron Peirsol, a 16-year-old from Southern California, posted the fifth-fastest performance in history, winning in a time of 1:57.03.  Peirsol, who won a silver at last summer's Pan Am Games, becomes the third-fastest man ever, behind only Martin Zubero of Spain, who won the gold medal in the event in 1992, and fellow American Lenny Krayzelburg, the world record holder.  'I can't even comprehend that right now,' Peirsol said. 'We were thinking a 1:57 at trials might be enough to make the Olympic Team, but now I almost go a 1:56.  I had an awesome start.  I'm amazed.  That's not me.  I'm the guy who comes back in the last 50, not ahead in the first 50."

Quote from an article in NBC  Swimming // News // 29 Mar 2000

"He had the lead throughout the race and was able to hold off strong challenges at the end from Chris Fydler, AUS in second with 49.51."

"I knew I had done all the background work and knew if I touched first at the 50 metres then it was every man for himself to try to catch me."

"In the second men's final-the 400 individual medley, James Hickman, ENG, wanted to make amends for losing a shot in the 100 fly when he was disqualified for a false start. Hickman took the lead from the start only to have to battle Trent Steed, AUS, on the freestyle leg and be touched out 4:19.89 to 4:20.17."

"Petria Thomas took the women's 100 butterfly in a Games record time of 59.42.  'I knew it was important to get a good start and charge down that first 50, I was a bit surprised with my swim and it was a matter of swimming in front for a change, I usually come from behind when I race,' said Thomas."

"Simon Cowley completed the breaststroke double winning the 200 on the last lap just ahead of teammate Ryan Mitchell, by 7/100ths with England's Adam Whitehead third."

Quotes from an article in Swimnews Online Report on the 1998 Commonwealth Games held at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - September 12 - 17, 1998.

"South Africa's Olympic champion Penny Heyns held on over the
closing stages to win the 100m breaststroke from Australias Samantha Riley
(1.07.67) and Brigitte Becue (BEL) 1.08.43.  Heyns showed her superior strength off the blocks when she opened up a lead right from the start and it was not until the last 25m that Riley started to close the gap."

Quote from an article in Swimnews Online Report on the FINA WORLD CUP 6 Sydney, Australia - January 15 - 16, 1999 (25 M)

"Current men's world champion, Bill Pilczuk(USA) was eliminated in the first swim with a 24 seconds high, citing a slow start on his part as the cause. ....a two second deficit in his normal race pace."

Quote from a news announcement in NEWS & FACTS ON SWIMNEWS ONLINE TODAY'S NEWS - October 14, 1998.

 Another PowerStartsTM Secret 

As we saw in Technique Comparison, it is not so much who gets to the water first that wins the start.  It's the momentum that is created and the path of least resistance to the momentum that wins.

We imagine that when Bill Pilczuk mentions that he had a slow start he is not talking about his reaction time on the blocks.  Rather he is referring to the lack of momentum and the lack of a powerful surge.  Bill knows that he did not get the surge from the height and angle of entry that he knows creates the power to start the race.