Bella Sims Shows New Freestyle Technique in NCAA-Leading 500 Free

In the pursuit of perfection, some of the best swimmers in the world have changed their technique – especially when they head to college with a new coach. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.

World Record holder Katie Ledecky did it when she went to Stanford, and now Olympic medalist Bella Sims seems to be undergoing a similar transition in her freshman year at the University of Florida.

Her 500 free win at the Georgia Invite last week revealed a much more galloping stroke than we’ve seen from her in the past.

A technique that was really popularized by Michael Phelps and his coach Bob Bowman in the 2000s, it was for a time the standard for longer freestyle races. The technique has become more debated lately, with some swimmers using it to differing degrees, but with most swimmers moving away from the most aggressive version that Phelps used to set World Records.

And while Sims isn’t quite galloping at a Phelpsian level, it’s definitely more pronounced than it was when she was training with Ron Aitken and the Sandpipers of Nevada in high school. Before, her stroke was fairly flat, without much dive at the end, now she has a much more visible up and down motion to her stroke.

The technique was good enough for a win in Georgia in 4:32, though that was well-shy of her personal best of 4:28.64 that makes her the third-best performer in the history of the event.

The end of the season will be a more telling evaluation of the new technique, though the mystery of faith in swimming is that we’ll never know what would have been (especially for female distance swimmers entering the late teens).

The head coach at Florida Anthony Nesty is viewed as one of the top distance coaches in the world and his stable includes the likes of 800/1500 double Olympic gold medalist Bobby Finke, plus the aforementioned Ledecky who moved to Florida in the last few years.

Sims’ New Technique (4th from the top):

Sims’ Old Technique (2nd from the bottom, closest to the screen in many shots):

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3 months ago

Great article. I would like to see more technique articles like this one.

Eney Jones
3 months ago

My take is it us because she is swimming with Katie Ledecky. Here is an old article I wrote. Katie is a bigger galloper than Michael

3 months ago

I love some of the stroke breakdowns here…..anybody care to comment on Sun Yang’s style from when he was smashing the mile back in London 2012.

  • Long flat body position
  • Insane shoulder roll when gliding with left hand out…..not so much when right hand glides.
  • Literally one and a half beat kicks for most of the race.
  • Strange bend in knee on down thrust
  • Wacko hand position with relaxed splayed fingers catching all kinds of voodoo water somehow.

And sooooo freakin’ fast!!!!!

Reply to  Flatlander
3 months ago

drugs usually help

tea rex
3 months ago

Bella’s PR (from last winter’s junior nationals):

There, she was also breathing every stroke. The gallop looks a little less pronounced, but I think her 2022 scy stroke looks closer to her current stroke than to her long course stroke.

3 months ago

I’ll die on the hill that Phelps’s 200 Free in Beijing is the most beautiful and perfectly executed race I’ve seen

Reply to  DMacNCheez
3 months ago

the most beautiful and perfectly executed race I’ve seen is David Popovici in
Rome 2022 LC EC

Reply to  Nick
3 months ago

Biedermann beat him soundly.

Reply to  DMacNCheez
3 months ago

I just watched that Phelps 200M Free again and I agree…..what a thing of beauty. Got me fired up!

Reply to  DMacNCheez
3 months ago

Biedermann beat him by nearly a second.

3 months ago

I commented about her change in technique in the original video that was posted. Gallop or not, it is a change from her usual technique

Sherry Smit
3 months ago

Everyone is kinda calling Sims out for being slower than her 4:28, but we all have to remember that this is mid season. These SCC Schools have such good distance programs so i feel like (myself included) i was watching NCAA’s, but it’s not. So 4:32.5 is a really good mid season checkpoint if you ask me.

Reply to  Sherry Smit
3 months ago

Very true, but it’s really hard for HS females that are as fast as she is to continue to improve. Do we really expect her to go 1:39 and 4:26 this year? Dropping 0.8 in the 200 and 2 seconds in the 500 isn’t a lot when you’re swimming at what everyone considers the top middle/distance program in the USA, right? I don’t see it happening. I hope I’m wrong because USA needs her but I will be surprised if she goes any best times this year.

Reply to  ArtVanDeLegh10
3 months ago

She had some big drops in the LCM versions, so I don’t think it’s all that impossible. Not the 1:39 or 4:26 specifically, but I don’t see why she couldn’t shave off some time

3 months ago

Using mechanics based on stature and centric drive by attitude. Not new technique, its called coaching………..

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Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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