A “Coach’s Eye” On Michael Phelps’ Comeback: 100 Butterfly Prelims

by Amanda Smith 3

April 24th, 2014 News, Pro Swim Series

So now that Phelps has dropped the 100 freestyle here in Mesa, we can just take a look at his 100 butterfly. While I am comparing him to some of his best performances, it at least can give us some idea of where he is in his training in his comeback.

Phelps finished first this morning at 52.84, putting him in the A final tonight as the top seed.

Let’s go over what we looked at:

RT = Reaction time off the blocks
Stroke Count = Butterfly – One stroke; Freestyle – One cycle (two strokes)
*Average Stroke Rate = Time it takes to complete one stroke — then we took that total off all the strokes and divided it by the stroke count of that lap
Splits = 50 times within the race
Final Time = Overall finishing time

We have added for Mesa the number of underwater kicks off the start and turn, plus the time from start (beep) to the final kick/movement into the breakout. Same for the turn, with time starting as his feet leave the wall. The video was very poor, so all I have to compare is a few notes from Beijing where he seems to average 10 kicks off the start and turn and take 4.9 seconds of kicking off the start and 4.3 of kicking off the turn. Don’t hold me to those numbers, but it will give me something to compare.

Here is what I gathered this morning off the video provided to us by Universal Sports:

100 Butterfly Shanghai Beijing Mesa
RT 0.68 0.71 0.7
Stroke Count – 1st 50 16 16 16
Stroke Count – 2nd 50 18 19 18
Average Stroke Rate – 1st 50 1.2/stroke 1.2/stroke 1.25/stroke
Average Stroke Rate – 2nd 50 1.2/stroke 1.15/stroke 1.25/stroke
Splits 23.94/26.77 24.04/26.54 25.15/27.69
Final Time 50.71 50.58 52.84
Underwater # & Distance Off Start 10 Kicks – 15m NA – 15m
Underwater # & Distance Off Turn 10 Kicks – 12.5m NA – 12.5m
Underwater Time off Start 4.9 seconds 4.8 seconds
Underwater Time off Turn 4.25 seconds 4.6 seconds

Pretty much, Phelps is consistent. The fact that he can take nearly two years away from the pool, and still hit his stroke count, underwater kick, underwater distance, etc. is incredible. I think the biggest piece of the puzzle here is his stroke rate, which is exactly what I predicted. He doesn’t have the speed per stroke on the front or back half.

Phelps has always been solid on the back half and it is because of his ability to maintain his stroke rate, when others may begin to slow down due to fatigue. You look at all of his past races we have looked it, his front and back halves are mirror images, as they were in Mesa this morning.

Some have asked us what is his distance per stroke. He is the same here as he was in Beijing, as taking 16 strokes over 35m of swimming is about 2.18 meters per stroke. On the way home with about 37.5 meters of swimming for 18 strokes, leaves him at 1.97 meters per stroke. I don’t think is the factor between the Phelps in Athens, Beijing, Shanghai, etc. etc. I think the difference is with his stroke rate; his ability of how fast he can accelerate the water each stroke he takes.

Hopefully tonight we can see if Phelps can up that stroke rate to be a bit faster tonight. Plus, his underwaters off the turn were about a half a second slower than they were in Beijing, which could also be some easy time to shave off.

But nonetheless, welcome back to swimming Phelps!

In This Story

Leave a Reply

2 Comment threads
1 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
3 Comment authors
newest oldest most voted
Steve Nolan

So how’s this compare to other in-season meets? Comparing the same fruit there, methinks.


when he was at Austin grand prix back in 2012 he did a 52 in prelims I believe. so he is probably about half a second if not a little more slower. I cant remember exactly what he did but he is slower compared to his other non tapered times. but not by much


glad underwaters were incorporated this time!

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 …

Read More »

Want to take your swimfandom to the next level?

Subscribe to SwimSwam Magazine!