Rollason On Breaststroke And The Development Of Rikke Moeller Pedersen

In a SwimSwam exclusive Shannon Rollason takes the time to discuss his thoughts on breaststroke and the training of world record holder Rikke Moeller Pedersen.

It was in Athens in 2004 that Shannon Rollason watched one of his charges, Jodie Henry, break the world record in the 100 freestyle in the semi-finals of the Olympics and then go on to win both the individual event as well as taking home gold as part of the Australian 4 x 100 freestyle and medley relays.

Fast forward to 2013, there have been many changes in Rollason’s career, with the most significant being an exodus from Australia to take over the Head Coaching responsibilities at the Danish National Training Centre. Nine years later he once again had the pleasure of watching another of his athletes break a world record in the semi-finals of the premier meet of the season.

Rikke Moeller Pedersen broke the world record in the 200 breaststroke in the semi-final at the World Championships in Barcelona recording a time of 2:19.11 improving on her lifetime best of 2:20.53 by almost a second and a half. It was also the first time since 1952 that a Danish swimmer had broken a world record, the last being Knud Gleie in the 200 breaststroke.

“But, as with all good performances, they are never just one thing. A good aerobic base had been laid down by her previous coach Paulus Wildeboer, and that enabled me to focus on the top end development (stroke/speed).”

Although she did not go on to win the gold it was a great starting point for the work that she has done with Rollason since he began coaching her in February of this year. In that time Pedersen has improved on her lifetime best of 2:21.65, which she swam in London, by two and a half seconds.

After having an incredibly successful summer Rollason and Pedersen sat down and looked at where they needed to focus moving forward, “We sat down and did quite a long debrief, covering all aspects of training and racing,” Rollason told SwimSwam.

“(We) had a look at her oppositions strengths etc. This season I am mindful of her starting back at University, and also it being a long preparation to European Champs in Berlin 2014.”

When analyzing their success Rollason credits Paulus Wildeboer for developing Pedersen’s aerobic base, which has allowed him to do a lot more intense work with the 24 year old, “I think she has benefited from the quality work that has been added to her training program.”

“But, as with all good performances, they are never just one thing. A good aerobic base had been laid down by her previous coach Paulus Wildeboer, and that enabled me to focus on the top end development (stroke/speed).”

An example of this type of training is a simple set of 6 x 100 breaststroke on long rest where Pedersen has been able to hold 1:11s with an even split tactic.

Rollason’s main philosophy around the stroke can be summed up in three points:

  1. I look at breaststroke and the swimmers stroke very individually.
  2. Don’t over coach it.
  3. Don’t make up drills just for entertainment sake.

When first analyzing an athlete’s stroke, a process he had to do earlier this year with Pedersen, he looks at the athlete’s technique then prioritizes the changes he will make based on what will cause the most profound change, “I ask myself what are they doing well, what needs attention. If there is more than one, I start working on the area that will have the most impact on a better performance.”

Like many great coaches Rollason has an approach that focuses on the fundamentals of the stroke and tailor’s them to the individual in a simple process.

He provided SwimSwam with the following insights on what he feels are the major points within the stroke and the strategies he uses to work on those fundamentals:

Body Position

  • Fundamental: Aim to finish in a horizontal position from fingers to toes.
  • Strategy: Using stroke counts and filming the athletes performances in training and racing


  • Fundamental:  Keep the fingers forward and don’t accelerate too early
  • Strategy: Underwater pulling, 2 pull 1 kick,  1 pull + 1 complete stroke and head up pull


  • Fundamental: To kick backwards and make ensure the swimmer finishes the kick
  • Strategy: Single leg alternating, vertical kick, kicking with a pull buoy and kick on their back


  • Fundamental: A classic timing, no overlap, hips accelerate forward with the timing of the insweep
  • Strategy: 1pull 2kicks or 3kicks and fast pull with dolphin kick

When looking at Pedersen’s development moving forward the key will be to continue to focus on technical improvement and efficiency, “All the top international breaststrokers that I have coached have had a strong focus on technique, and I believe that is an absolute requirement of getting to a World/Olympic final,” said Rollason.

Right now the priorities are on timing and when to accelerate in the stroke as well as having a process orientated focus on the requirements of each racing distance on a daily basis.

Although Pedersen has joined the Herning Swim Club she will still be training at the National Training Centre on a full time basis with Rollason.

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9 years ago

All credit to her previous coach Paulus Wildeboer (as acknowledged by Shannon) for his fantastic nurturing of her. Paulus is now a mentor to me and other coaches in Australia and his ideas and insights are already having a positive impact with our swimmers.

9 years ago

Thanks for an interesting article, and hats off to Mr Rollason, so far he’s been doing some great work with Rikke and Jeanette. I’m looking forward to seeing how some of the other swimmers he has training at the NTC go this coming season.

I am originally from Odense, Rikke’s home town, so I have followed her career for a long time, and she is a fantastic example to any swimmer of the virtues of perseverance. She’s come a long way from a really talented kid who had a decent if not spectacular junior career and struggled to make a breakthrough on the world stage, was advised by some within the sport to quit after not making the Danish… Read more »

About Jeff Grace

Jeff Grace

Jeff is a 500 hour registered yoga teacher who holds diplomas in Coaching (Douglas College) and High Performance Coaching (National Coaching Institute - Calgary). He has a background of over 20 years in the coaching profession, where he has used a unique and proven teaching methodology to help many achieve their …

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