Blueseventy Swim of the Week: Cody Miller’s efficiency providing new American breaststroke threat

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Disclaimer: BlueSeventy Swim of the Week is not meant to be a conclusive selection of the best overall swim of the week, but rather one Featured Swim to be explored in deeper detail. The BlueSeventy Swim is an opportunity to take a closer look at the context of one of the many fast swims this week, perhaps a swim that slipped through the cracks as others grabbed the headlines, or a race we didn’t get to examine as closely in the flood of weekly meets.

If there’s one American swimmer who has been absolutely on fire for the past nine months, it’s breaststroker Cody Miller.

The Indiana grad and Badger Swim Club pro has been USA Swimming’s most unbeatable breaststroker since his first national title win last August.

In that race, the underdog Miller got under a minute for the first time in his career, using a stellar back half to move from 4th to 1st, overcoming 50 breast American record-breaker Brendan McHugh and short course American record-holder Kevin Cordes.

Since then, it’s been a stream of nearly-uninterrupted dominance for Miller. A silver and a bronze medal in the medley relays at Short Course Worlds. A breaststroke sweep of the Oklahoma City Pro Am, complete with a new American record in the 50. Another trip below a minute at the Orlando Pro Swim Series. Yet another win in the 100 at Charlotte.

And last weekend, the crowning achievement of the season so far: a new lifetime-best in the 100 breast, and the best time an American has put up since Brendan Hansen‘s Olympic swim in 2012.

The time was a 59.51, four tenths faster than Miller went in winning nationals last summer.

But the interesting piece about that swim isn’t the time Miller went, but how he got there.

Miller was devastatingly efficient, swimming with one of the lowest stroke counts you’ll see in any elite breaststrokers in the world right now. The 23-year-old took 16 strokes on the first 50 and just 20 in the back-half.

That’s an extremely low number, and it shows through in the race video, where Miller is noticeably longer and more relaxed than the rest of the pool while still building a lead in the early goings. That low stroke count allows the Badger swimmer to be fresh and dangerous near the end of the race, where he seems to increase his lead exponentially.

That’s not a one-time occurrence for Miller. In fact, looking back at video of his previous sub-minute swims, Miller had the exact same stroke count as his 2014 national championship, and he was actually even longer at the Orlando Pro Swim Series, taking 15 down and 19 back.

Peaty (above) compared to Miller (below) on their pullouts off the turn in the 100 breast.

Peaty (above) compared to Miller (below) on their pullouts off the turn in the 100 breast. The red line on both photos represents the 15-meter mark.

Compare those numbers to Great Britain’s Adam Peaty, the recent world record-setter and the world’s best breaststroker. Peaty is on the other extreme of the spectrum, taking 20 strokes on the way out and a rapid-fire 26 on his return length. (You can watch video of Peaty’s race here).

What’s interesting is to see two different breaststrokers playing to their own strengths. Miller’s low stroke count is partially a function of his underwaters, which have long been a strong point. Peaty (at least in his world record swim) tends to come up earlier, maximizing his speed on top of the water, which is unmatched. You can check this out visually in the screenshots from the right – the angles are obviously askew, but comparing Peaty’s world record to Miller’s lifetime-best does show a noticeable difference in underwater distance.

At the same time, Miller elects to be long and efficient in his opening 50, storing up energy to accelerate into his finish – he looks much like a 200 breaststroker swimming down to the 100. Peaty, meanwhile, makes his stroke all about raw power, turning over quickly and jumping out to a big lead and open water. The Brit appears to ride right on the razor’s edge of spinning through his stroke cycles at the end of the race, but has enough momentum banked up to keep surging forward.

One of the running rivalries internationally is the looming medley relay showdown between the Americans and the British. The event has been the U.S.’s to lose for years now, but a devastating front-half from the British makes them among the most serious contenders in years, led by Peaty’s otherworldly dominance.

But the rise of Cody Miller gives the Americans a new potential hope. Though Kevin Cordes has traditionally manned the spot (and had a great split at Pan Pacs last summer), he’s been plagued by inconsistency so far in his young career, and has also been very quiet all year long, while Miller has flashed dominance nearly every time he’s competed.

If it does turn out to be Miller on the American medley relay in Kazan, the U.S. will hope his cool efficiency is enough to limit the damage Peaty can do on the relay, leaving the red, white and blue within striking distance with their clearly-dominant flyers and freestylers.

Either way, Miller is suddenly the front-runner among what is a deep class of American breaststrokers, setting up a battle for Olympic roster spots that should be nothing if not entertaining.

About blueseventy

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MIKE

I have nothing against Miller but he goes further because of the multiple dolphin kicks off the start. Still great swim though

CT Swim Fan

Judging by the number giving you the down arrow, many are in denial about his start and even his stroke. If everyone would look at around 4:00 in the video, they will see the underwater evidence of 2 rather large and in my opinion unmissable dolphin kicks not to mention dolphin kicks and a bit of flutter kicking after each stroke they show of his. Are the officials afraid to DQ him? If so, that is doing him and the USA no good. With Rowdy and the other guy gushing about him and possibly being in the national team medley relay, I would not put him anywhere near the MR until he fixes the violations in his stroke.

sven

There’s definitely two downward dolphin kicks in there. He’ll only get away with that for so long.

However, regarding what Mike said above, the margin of difference between Miller and Peaty’s underwaters is much larger than what one dolphin kick would do. Even with a pullout, Miller would go further. Not that it matters, though, as it’s not a distance contest. I don’t care how far Miller goes underwater unless it helps us limit the damage Peaty will do.

wave rider

Hit that gear thing and change the speed to .25, it is easier to see when you do that. Cody Miller’s pull out isn’t as bad as it looks in full speed. He obviously does a second kick but it’s a really skinny one. He is clearly trying to cheat as much as he can without getting caught. The swimmer closest to the camera feet come up on his pull down but then he holds himself back from doing a forceful down kick. The swimmer on the other side of miller has very little movement in the legs on the pull down. The natural undulation thing is bs. Undulation is a choice and I think that the rule should be… Read more »

Michael Schwartz

I see one big dolphin kick and then one small undulation of the entire body entire body running through to the legs during the physical pullout. Hardly a second dolphin kick. And if you watch the video you can notice the same undulation motion being performed by both swimmers flanking Cody (although I will say his is slightly more pronounced).

carlo

Cody miller could be disqualified in Kazan or Rio if he tries multiple dolphin kicks. Take out his multiple dolphin kicks and he,s nowhere near Adam peaty.
He was disqualified in the 50 breast. His 100 breast should have been a disqualification.

VulcanSwim

both swimmers take 2 fly kicks on the start, I thought the rule was only 1!

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson just can’t stay away from the pool. A competitive career of almost two decades wasn’t enough for this Minnesotan, who continues to get his daily chlorine fix. A lifelong lover of writing, Jared now combines the two passions as Senior Reporter for SwimSwam.com, covering swimming at every level. He’s an …

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