Jeff Cooper, the man who brought us this homemade video of Michael Phelps’ pre-race routine that looked a whole lot at 11 like it does now, has dug up another video from the Cooper family archives of “that fast kid that we should probably record”.
Remember that these were before the days of YouTube; so if kids wanted examples to watch and imitate on video, they couldn’t just instantly pull up an hour of over-and-underwater footage of Gary Hall Jr. and Alexander Popov voiced over by Glenn Mills or Mel Stewart. They either had to track down someone who was selling VHS’ and wait a few weeks for delivery, or they had to find the fastest kid in their region, lug out the big box, point-and-shoot.
So that’s exactly what the Cooper family did.
Early on, you can hear a conversation between what we assume is Mrs. Cooper and another mom. One remarks that “if he keeps up that pace, he’s going to lap everyone” to which the response is “he breathes every stroke.”
At the time, breathing every stroke and to the same side was still pretty unusual in the United States, especially at the age group level, though it had taken on a lot of traction in places like Australia.
Remember that Phelps was coached by Bob Bowman for basically his entire swimming career, so there’s no huge stroke changes from 11 years old until 27 years old; he obviously became more technically proficient, but the same basic hallmarks are there.
The video is shot at the Naval Academy’s Lejune Hall pool; Cooper estimates his splits to have been:
1:03 … 33
1:38 … 35
2:13 … 35