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

by Amanda Smith 18

April 24th, 2014 News, Pro Swim Series

Well the “GOAT” is officially back. While he may have finished second tonight to Ryan Lochte, his time shows that he is once again a force in the swimming world. His final time of 52.13 was one of his best Grand Prix times in his career (fastest was in Missouri 2008 at 51.52).

Before finals tonight, I got some film of the 100 butterfly from the 2012 Austin Grand Prix. For all the swim fans out there, it can give a better glimpse to Phelps’ stroke rate in season, like how he is here in Mesa.

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
Number of Underwater Kicks (Start and Turn)
Time Spent Underwater – Start to first breakout; foot leaves the wall to breakout
Splits = 50 times within the race
Final Time = Overall finishing time

Preview Analysis
Prelims Analysis

100 Butterfly Beijing 2008 Shanghai 2011 Austin Grand Prix 2012 Mesa Prelims Mesa Finals
RT 0.71 0.68 0.7
Stroke Count – 1st 50 16 16 16 16 16
Stroke Count – 2nd 50 19 18 19 18 19
Average Stroke Rate – 1st 50 1.2/stroke 1.2/stroke 1.25/stroke 1.25/stroke 1.2/stroke
Average Stroke Rate – 2nd 50 1.15/stroke 1.2/stroke 1.22/stroke 1.25/stroke 1.15/stroke
Splits 24.04/26.54 23.94/26.77 24.96/27.55 25.15/27.69 24.76/27.37
Final Time 50.58 50.71 52.41 52.84 52.13
Underwater # & Distance Off Start 10 Kicks – 15m 10 Kicks – 15m NA – 15m NA – 15m
Underwater # & Distance Off Turn 10 Kicks – 12.5m 10 Kicks – 12.5m NA – 12.5m NA – 12.5m
Underwater Time off Start 4.9 seconds 4.6 seconds 4.8 seconds 4.6
Underwater Time off Turn 4.25 seconds 4.4seconds 4.6 seconds 4.6

Phelps was .71 faster here tonight in Mesa – about .4 tenths on the front half and .3 on the back half. There were a lot of “little things” that contributed to this race being that much faster tonight than in prelims.

First, we can talk about stroke rate. This morning he was consistently 1.25 on both ends of his race. Tonight, he was under that on the front half at 1.2 seconds per stroke, and even faster on back half, at 1.15 seconds per stroke. This is just essentially saying that he was able to accelerate the water quicker tonight, resulting in a faster turnover.

If you go to our chart, you can see that the rates we saw tonight (and I by no means say they are 100% accurate because I am doing it from video footage with multiple angle changes), is most like the race in Beijing. The stroke rates align very well, and so do they stroke counts. Tonight he was out at his typical 16, which is 2.18 meters per stroke, but he was back in 19. This is perhaps they “chase down effect” as in Beijing he was running down Cavic, and tonight he was turning to run down Lochte.

19 strokes over the 37.5 meters he looked to swim has him at about 1.97 meters per stroke, compared to the 2.08 meters per stroke when he takes 18 stroke in the lap.

I added in the Austin Grand Prix statistics, and Phelps swim from this morning is very comparable to Austin. But the performance Phelps put up tonight, he was overall just better than he was in Austin leading up to the Olympic Games in 2012. The interesting thing was that he also took the “extra” stroke on the back 50 in Austin as he did tonight in Mesa. Perhaps this could be a in season training component, as most swimmers feel broken down and not as efficient in season compared to when they taper.

I don’t think the time underwater is that much to factor in. They were incredibly hard to time tonight with the camera angles, and the result in the chart was my average after multiple takes. It just proves that he normally stays underwater longer off the start typically than he did tonight, and vice versa off the wall tonight, he stayed under long than he typically seems to.

Phelps has the 50 tomorrow, and unless I find some video of his old 50 freestyles, I unfortunately won’t be able to break down the numbers for that race. Unless he surprises us all and whips out a 50 butterfly, then we can compare his 50 race to his 100 race.

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“he normally stays underwater longer off the start typically than he did tonight, and vice versa off the wall tonight, he stayed under longer than he typically seems to.”

That’s my impression too. But who knows, the camera angle is very bad.

Steve Nolan

A+ work getting video from Austin 2012.


As much as I can’t stand Lochte and his 5 year old attitude, trust me when I say that his kind of performance worries Bowman. Phelps will not swim anything in the next Olympics that he doesn’t have a good chance of winning to protect his legacy. Anything but gold will only lower his credibility and marketability not in my eyes, but in the eyes of the public who don’t know anything about swimming.

I want Phelps to dominate again and I would hate to see such a D bag like Lochte shine over him. Lochte is looking fast, and based on his speed I don’t see how Phelps could even beat him in the 200 IM in Rio either.

Steve Nolan

You know you’re right, which is exactly why Phelps didn’t swim the 400 IM in London.

And I don’t think Lochte can even swim breaststroke yet.


lol! Thank you.


Steve- he did swim the 400 IM in London- he just didn’t medal. He came in 4th.


i think steve was making a joke lol


and why he didn’t swim the 200 free in athens?


Maybe even a few month from now, Phelps will be faster than Lochte in 100 fly.
I am not worried with Phelps in 100 fly.
200 IM is a different matter.

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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