A “Coach’s Eye”: Ryan Lochte’s 200 Freestyle (With Race Video)

Editor Note: SwimSwam.com now has the web rights to US Grand Prix races aired by our partner, Universal Sports Network. Above, please see Lochte’s 200 free from the 2014 Arena Grand Prix at Mesa. 

So we took a look at Michael Phelps’ 100 butterfly race, his comeback swim at the Mesa Grand Prix. But, there were a couple more comeback swims that deserve a deeper look at. Ryan Lochte is a comeback kid himself, after a bit of a freak fan accident in 2013 on his knee. If anyone saw him at Mesa and has watched him race over the years, you can see a visible difference in his stroke since changing to SwimMAC under David Marsh – as did the announcers on Universal Sports.

I went back in the databases to look at Lochte’s times in this event. Then I went over to YouTube to see if I could find any good videos to look at his races. To give the best comparison of Lochte in season, I analyzed Lochte at the 2011 Indianapolis Grand Prix and this past weekend at Mesa. His best time is 1:44-mid, and he seems to swim just under 1:50 in season, so for comparison reasons, I decided to leave out his “best” swim — plus, the video availability was non existent for counting strokes and rate.

Before I get into some number crunching and stroke analysis, one of the biggest thing I noticed was in Lochte’s suit choice. As a huge swim nerd myself, I rarely, if ever, have seen Lochte “suit up” for a Grand Prix event. This was his first swim with SwimMAC, and he wore a race suit all weekend; as do all the SwimMAC members. I am guessing this is a philosophy of Marsh’s – putting yourself in a position to swim fast every single time you step on the block.

Here is what I looked at –
Stroke Count – Number of cycles (2 strokes per cycle) each lap
Stroke Rate – Average rate of a cycle completion
Underwater Distance – Approximately how far did he kick off the walls or start
Meters Per Stroke – Taking an approximate distance of his swimming, I calculated his distance per stroke (not cycle)
Splits & Final Time

200 Freestyle 2011 Indianapolis Grand Prix 2014 Mesa Grand Prix
1st 50 Stroke Count & Rate 13.5 – Cycles
1.45 – Rate
13.5 – Cycles
1.5 – Rate
2nd 50 Stroke Count & Rate 14.5 – Cycles
1.55 – Rate
15 – Cycles
1.5 – Rate
3rd 50 Stroke Count & Rate 16 – Cycles
1.45 – Rate
15 – Cycles
1.45 – Rate
4th 50 Stroke Count & Rate 17.5 – Cycles
1.45 – Rate
16 – Cycles
1.4 – Rate
Distances Underwater 12.5m – 10m – 8m – 7.5m 12.5m – 10m – 10m – 10m
1st 50 Avg. Meters/Stroke 1.38m/stroke 1.38m/stroke
2nd 50 Avg. Meters/Stroke 1.38m/stroke 1.33m/stroke
3rd 50 Avg. Meters/Stroke 1.31m/stroke 1.33m/stroke
4th 50 Avg. Meters/Stroke 1.25m/stroke 1.25m/stroke
Splits 25.53 – 27.27 – 27.80 – 28.81 25.43 – 27.72 – 28.17- 28.16
Final Time 1:49.41 1:49.48

**These are the numbers I got from watching the film – the videos aren’t the best quality with angles and camera changes, but I consistently got these numbers when I watched multiple times**

Visually, Lochte has a different stroke already. He looks “longer” in Mesa, almost taking on a modified straight arm stroke in his freestyle. When I coach, you want your swimmers to swim “big”, using your arms to maximize your stroke distance and power for each stroke. Looking at the video back from Indy, he looks considerably stronger in the water in Mesa. He is keeping his stroke long and big throughout the race, while before he would look very choppy and short, especially as the race ended.

This all contributes down to the idea of keeping your distance per stroke. Time wise, this two race were almost spot on, but they were swum totally different of each other.

First, Lochte is a very strong underwater swimmer, and in Mesa he seems to be more consistent. The reason why he pulled ahead of Darian Townsend is because he stayed must further underwater on that last wall. Lochte, outside the start, was solidly at about 10m off each wall, which is over the barely 8m and 7m off the last two walls in Indy. The further you go underwater, the less “swimming” you have to do essentially.

Back to his new stroke, Lochte is taking less stroke cycles per length in Mesa. While the front half was almost the same stroke count wise, the back half was much better held together in Mesa versus Indy. And his average stroke rate per length backs that up. While his rate was slower on the front half in Mesa, he had a faster rate on the back half in Mesa.

Looking at each stroke at a time, he seems to be maintaining better meters per stroke in Mesa, on average, than in Indy. While he seemed to be more efficient in Indy the first 100, he paid for it big on the second, and if you go watch the video, you see his stroke “falling apart”. Perhaps Lochte is working on taking his time in the race, really waiting to put it into that final gear; we saw a taste of it in Mesa when he dropped his rate .05 on the third 50, and then another .05 on the final 50m.

Just on the outside, Lochte seems to be looking way stronger and more efficient in the water in Mesa. And statistically, he is stronger in holding his race together from start to finish.

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His lower stroke count might not be because of better technique or stroke or whatever, but because all of his underwaters were longer in mesa than in indy…

Becky D

Yes, the stroke count is lower on the back half because he covered more distance under water. Keep in mind that the meters/stroke is calculated only over the distance above water (e.g. DPS = stroke count / 40 meters rather than 50 meters).

Becky D

Oops. Distance divided by stroke count.

(It was a long work day.)


To clarify what I was saying… His averages strokes per 50 are actually marginally better in indy. In addition, considering his improved underwaters, his Mesa raw stroke count per 50 is only barely marginally better than in indy… So I’m making the argument that his technique stroke-wise hasn’t necessarily improved, whereas his underwater’s are are better in the backhalf in Mesa and the same in the front half in both races… So if his front half is the same in terms of underwaters, and the stroke count and meters per stroke are very very very close in both races, but he was faster in Indy in the front half, I’d say his old stroke was better. the back half had… Read more »

Terrific article and race footage. thanks! Is there any chance you’ll comment on the not-so-good strokes and common stroke errors, or is that off limits?
I noticed a couple of swimmers do a loping sort of stroke that looks like a lot more work as the head comes way out of the water, making the stroke lopsided. Do any coaches actually teach this method?


Like Phelps and Lezak?


I meant McBroom in this video, and to a lesser extent Lindenbauer.


I don’t think that the loping stroke is at all a “not-so-good” technique. In fact it is very much in-vogue in the last 5-8 years with middle-distance and distance freestylers. You will notice that Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky, Paul Biederman, and a number of other swimmers all employ this to great effect.

Here is Gary Hall Sr. talking about different stroke types for different people. Skip to 4:55 to see him demonstrate the “hybrid” or loping freestyle technique:


So weird to see Lochte with (near-) straight arm stroke.

About Amanda Smith

Amanda Smith is a former swimmer at both Indiana and USC, where she earned a total of nine All-American honors at the NCAA Championships. Smith, a middle-distance specialist as a swimmer, was also 3-time USC School Record holder, a 2012 NCAA Woman of the Year nominee, and an Olympic Trials …

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