A “Coach’s Eye”: Katie Hoff’s 200 IM (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 Hoff’s 200 IM from the 2014 Arena Grand Prix at Mesa.

In her post race interview, Katie Hoff mentioned that her race in Mesa was “one of the best front half races she has had” in the 200 IM. It seemed that her 200 IM race is what really sealed her comeback and her commitment to Nationals this summer in Irvine, California.

Hoff’s career was extremely successful very quickly. While she took a backseat the past couple of years, she is again one of our comebacks of the 2014 season, and fresh off an engagement, Hoff is having fun and happily back as a top contender.

Unlike her comeback friends Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte, there was not a huge selection of 200 IM videos on Hoff. The best I could get to look at her stroke and race was all the way back in 2007, when Hoff won Worlds in Melbourne. The difference is about 2.5 seconds, but as all these pieces have been, it shows a lot to Hoff’s best versus now, and especially her comment on her front half.

Here is what I looked at –
Stroke Count – Number of cycles or strokes 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 IM 2007 Melbourne Worlds 2014 Mesa Grand Prix
1st 50 Stroke Count & Rate 23 – Strokes
1.05 – Rate
22 – Strokes
1.10 – Rate
2nd 50 Stroke Count & Rate 20 – Cycles
1.5 – Rate
19.5 – Cycles
1.42 – Rate
3rd 50 Stroke Count & Rate 26 – Strokes
1.25 – Rate
27 – Strokes
1.25 – Rate
4th 50 Stroke Count & Rate 20.5 – Cycles
1.40 – Rate
22 – Cycles
1.32 – Rate
Distances Underwater 10m – 7m – 7m – 5m 10m – 8m – 7m – 6m
1st 50 Avg. Meters/Stroke 1.74m/stroke 1.82m/stroke
2nd 50 Avg. Meters/Stroke 1.08m/stroke 1.42m/stroke
3rd 50 Avg. Meters/Stroke 1.65m/stroke 1.59m/stroke
4th 50 Avg. Meters/Stroke 1.1m/stroke 1m/stroke
Splits 28.35 – 33.61 – 37.10 – 31.07 28.21 – 33.37 – 38.96 – 32.38
Final Time 2:10.13 2:12.92

**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**

Looking splits wise, you can see that indeed her front half in Mesa was faster than in Worlds. Hoff’s best time is 2:09.71, from the 2008 Olympic Trials where she split 28.30, 33.11, 37.82, 30.48. This race from Melbourne is her fourth best time ever. Even comparing Mesa to Trials, Hoff was better on the butterfly and just off her best backstroke in Mesa.

Hoff isn’t a big underwater swimmer. She is relatively the same seven years ago to today. I would say her underwaters looked “longer” in Mesa, as previously she seemed to just pop right up and swim before.

So let’s break down her stroke. Hoff has a pretty quick turnover in her butterfly – but in Mesa her stroke rate was actually a bit slower than her swim at Worlds in 2007. There is always that fine line as many swimmers know of “being fast but easy”. And in Mesa, that slower rate actually was more efficient as she was able to over more meters per stroke in Mesa than in Melbourne by almost .1m.

The same was in her backstroke as well. Her number of cycles was the same, but her rate was much slower in Mesa than Melbourne. But her distance per stroke was much higher in Mesa, by almost .3m every stroke she took. She was really grabbing and holding onto water this past weekend, and even just watching the two films, her backstroke looked much more powerful than many years ago.

The back half of her race is where the differences can be seen. While her front half was more efficient in Mesa, the back half was a bit off. Her breaststroke she took one more stroke at the same rate, which put her distance per stroke a bit less than in Melbourne. Hoff doesn’t do an open or crossover turn when she transitions from backstroke to breaststroke, and I think her backwards flip doesn’t really maximize her breaststroke pullout as she only makes it just past 7m off that turn. Easily working on that transition can cut down on strokes per length.

On her final 50, she took two more cycles at a faster rate, which made her distance per stroke much lower in comparison. In that final 50, every single stroke she took she was only cover 1m.  While her breaststroke was just slightly off, this is where the time difference really played into effect as her split in the freestyle here was 32-mid, versus 31-low or 30-high. In a sprint IM event, you have to balance speed with efficiency so you can have the power coming home in these final meters. But as many swimmers know, this is usually an in-season product, as I am sure Hoff is tried and broken down.

The upside is that she is in-season, in training, and she was able to put down a front half that is just as, if not better, than some of her best swims ever in this event. While her breaststroke could be slightly improved, if she can work on more power on the final 50, she will easily be back at where she was a few years ago. While Hoff is older now, and we see many younger swimmers with fast rate, high turn over strokes, she is making the changes in her strokes to maximize more power every stroke instead of just “turning and burning”.

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7 years ago

Is stroke rate in strokes per seconds? Or seconds per stroke?

Reply to  Flyin'
7 years ago

Seconds per stroke.

Reply to  Flyin'
7 years ago

seconds per cycle

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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