Tom Jager Weighs In On US Sprinting Woes, Matt Biondi, USRPT

Olympic champ and former world record-holding sprinter Tom Jager made an appearance on a Swedish podcast this week, complete with an interesting take on the current struggles of the American men in the sprint freestyle races.

Jager talks to Ola Strömberg of the podcast “Snabbanan – Simma Fortare,” which roughly translates to “Swim Faster” – you can find the full-length podcast on iTunes by following this link. The podcast page is in Strömberg’s native Swedish, but the interview with Jager is done all in English.

The 20-minute interview touches on a number of notable topics, including Jager’s swimming background as a distance-swimmer-turned-sprinter, his coaching philosophy in his current position at Washington State University and his thoughts on parent-coach relationships.

Maybe most notable, though, are Jager’s comments on two hot-button subjects: Ultra-Short Race Pace Training (USRPT) and the current state of American men’s sprinting.

Here are a couple of excerpts from Jager’s interview:

On USRPT:

“My whole career, I’ve always kind of been away from the trends. I’ve been swimming since the ’70s, obviously, so I’ve seen so many trends and so many things that are changing the world of swimming, and ‘this is gonna change everything’ and then five years later we’re onto something new.

“I guess I don’t use the acronym, but we do a lot of race-pace. But not in the same fashion that I think a lot of people do, a lot of the 25s and a lot of the 50s, just repeatedly. I guess that could be good, we just don’t do that much of it that way.”

When asked whom Strömberg should interview for a future podcast:

“From my era… there’s a reason that U.S. sprinting is not so great right now, and it’s because they didn’t listen to what Matt Biondi and myself were doing. They had no concern for it. I think if you want to get to the core of finding out about great sprinting and what happened, I think a great interview would be with Matt Biondi.”

When asked for more detail on modern American sprinting:

“I think the biggest difference is that the athletes and coaches from other countries actually watched what Matt and I were doing, and they looked at the stroke and they looked at the kick… the legs became much more of an emphasis. And while the legs were becoming more of an emphasis across the world, we [US Swimming] were not. We were still in stroke drills and we were in this time in America the late-80s and early-90s where we were kind of ‘anti-yardage’ and we were trying to find our strokes.

It’s really a combination. You’ve got to have great stroke technique, which Matt Biondi showed us… but you also have to have a great endurance base, and that endurance base starts with your legs.”

 

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Rich
5 years ago

“Tom Jaeger is great.”
– Tom Jaeger

read up g
Reply to  Rich
5 years ago

Not sure what article you were reading my good sir, but nevertheless, ‘Prince Jaeger, The Boy’ just gaves you some learning to do, and yous better listen!

read up g
Reply to  read up g
5 years ago

We’s bouts ta change the world of swimming for all… and for all a nice bronze. It’s that olympic chlorine scented christmas spirit, I guess.

swimdoc
Reply to  Rich
5 years ago

He could still take you in a 50 free.

Steve-O Nolan
Reply to  Rich
5 years ago

Exactly what I thought, too. “Do stuff like me, and we’ll be good!”

It’s not that American sprinting is that horrible or anything. It’s not that it’s great, but let’s see how this summer goes.

Swimmer
Reply to  Rich
5 years ago

except it’s Tom Jager….

ERVINFORTHEWIN
5 years ago

Wowwww , thats interesting . Maybe Us Swimming will take some notes … in the near future . Those 2 know very well what they are talking about . They made me love swimming in 1988 .

Bobby
5 years ago

Jager is correct. The legs are critical. The legend!

Paul
5 years ago

I think Tom nailed it. When I talk to some of the younger coaches about setting a base with kicking or swimming in general it seems to be completely foreign. I also do not jump in the band wagon every time something new comes out. You have to pick and choose what will work for you for the long term. I would say speed training as the ability create and to sustain top level speed for The distance or in other words you build a base to swim faster longer.

Brian M
5 years ago

I agree 100%. The one thing I would add would be core power and flexibility to enhance underwaters. Obviously, underwaters are a little different today then they were back in the day.

sven
Reply to  Brian M
5 years ago

I agree core power is important, but how much flexibility do you really need to have an effective dolphin kick? Looking at the best underwater swimmers, they’re not really putting any joint through an extreme range of motion. The only thing I can think of is that some people don’t have great thoracic extension in the upper back, which might effect the stability of the upper body.

Olsswim05
Reply to  sven
5 years ago

Ankle flexibility and general foot pliability is one of the keys to a great kick. Beyond this the argument for flexibility is merely that a more flexible muscle/tendon complex can be trained to general greater power over a greater range of motion.

sven
Reply to  Olsswim05
5 years ago

Ah, I read Brian’s comment to mean core flexibility. Sure, ankle flexibility is important as well, no argument there.

Re: this: “Beyond this the argument for flexibility is merely that a more flexible muscle/tendon complex can be trained to general greater power over a greater range of motion.”

Aside from ankles, I’m not sure the average swimmer would have range of motion problems relating to dolphin kick. Too much range of motion and the drag increase would cancel out any potential power production. None of the joints involved in the dolphin kick that actually produce power go through a huge range of motion. So while a more flexible joint may be able to apply power over a greater range, I… Read more »

SwimFL
Reply to  sven
5 years ago

You have to have lower back, hip flexor, hamstring, and ankle flexibility to have a strong dolphin kick. To maintain the upper body during the kick, shoulder flexibility is critical so the angle of the body doesn’t fluctuate to negate the power gained from the kick.

There was an article on here recently by Gary Hall Sr. about testing the breaststroke kick. There are a lot of similarities in the hip movements of breaststroke and butterfly.
http://swimswam.com/2-great-ways-to-test-your-breaststroke-kick/

sven
Reply to  SwimFL
5 years ago

I have to disagree. Looking at the best dolphin kickers, the hips and lower back are never really in a position that requires a ton of flexibility. The hamstrings are used, but within a range that no one with even average flexibility would have a problem with. Ankle flexibility is useful, of course, but in terms of joints that are used in power production (hips, knees, lumbar area), there isn’t a lot of flexibility required to safely and effectively execute the motion.

Bryce Rittgers
Reply to  sven
5 years ago

Actually a fair amount of lumbar ext is key to a good dolphin kick- so much of kicking is done prone and is predominantly a hip flexor movement- which actually promotes tight hip flexors which can inhibit lumbar/hip ext-it maybe that you don’t see a lot of hip/lumbar ext as there is not a huge ROM at the lumbar spine and hips to begin with. Have you watched a Dolphins very first quick initiating kick? The range is much > than what we do- if we can increase the strength at the end ROM of lumbar and hip ext into flex ion I’d be willing to bet you’d see quite a bit more power exerted- the question becomes how much… Read more »

bobo gigi
5 years ago

The struggles of American women’s sprinting are more important right now.
The best 100 free American girl is about 1 second slower than the best sprinters in the world.
But it’s not new.
Last American girl who won the 100 free olympic gold was in 1984.
Last American girl who won the 100 free world gold was in 1998.
But it’s not so much better on the men’s side.
Only 1 gold medal in the last 6 olympic games.
Last world gold medal in 2001.
I call that a fiasco considering the American domination in most of the other events.

BeeGees
Reply to  bobo gigi
5 years ago

“Manuel and Weitzeil are America’s greatest female sprinters ever”
– Bobo Gigi, early 2014

“Manuel and Weitzeil are too freaking slow”
– Bobo Gigi, late 2015

Olsswim05
Reply to  BeeGees
5 years ago

Both statements can be true, unfortunately.

BeeGees
Reply to  Olsswim05
5 years ago

Then it must have been only in my imagination that Dara Torres, Jenny Thompson, Amy Van Dyken, Sandy Neilson, Jill Sterkel, etc etc were Americans.

Bryce Rittgers
Reply to  bobo gigi
5 years ago

The East Germans and Chinese among others have really hurt American women’s swimming- It’s hard to compare the playing field isn’t level

Victor P
5 years ago

He’s absolutely right. Since Biondi went 48.42 in 1988, the US record has improved an entire 0.9 second. We SHOULD be swimming 46 and change these days. Since Coughlin went 53.4 in 2007, the best textile time has been 53.25 (Manuel). The girls should have produced a sub 53 swimmer by now. Australians have had 3 (Lenton & Campbell sisters) and will soon have a 4th and a 5th knocking at the door. The Dutch have already had 2.

swimdoc
Reply to  Victor P
5 years ago

I wonder how much the super suits screwed up American sprinters and their coaches.

I recently read an interview with Fred Bousquet who described how much he had to change — emphasizing much more leg and core strength —- when the suits went away. As he explained it (and it’s true), the buoyancy of the suits helped minimize the need for a killer kick and the core compression helped keep a stable body line without massive core strength. Maybe the French and others figured this out more quickly than the Americans. Remember, at the time, our greatest swimmer (Phelps) was actively trying to dismiss the importance of the tech suit to support his brand by refusing to go Jaked.

sven
Reply to  swimdoc
5 years ago

I don’t have anything against Phelps, he’s the greatest swimmer of all time. I’m not a huge fan, but I don’t really have anything against him. Still, the thing that always entertained me about that bodysuit situation is he was the figurehead for Speedo when they first introduced the high-tech suits, and then once the suit he was contractually obligated to wear was obsolete, he and Bowman pouted and called BS on it all. I’m glad they eventually realized how ridiculous the suit situation had become, but I still find his role in it all humorous.

Ferb
Reply to  sven
5 years ago

Well, in fairness to Phelps and Bowman, the suit situation got a lot more ridiculous in 2009 (FINA: “Aw, heck with it, anything goes”) than it was in 2008.

sven
Reply to  Ferb
5 years ago

Absolutely. I’m not saying it was their job to foresee the other suit makers going “huh… if some rubber is good, what if we just said screw the ‘strategic panels’ and made the whole suit out of it?” but the Speedo Lazr was the beginning of it all, so I find it funny that Speedo’s poster boy ended up being the one saying it was ruining swimming.

Steve-O Nolan
Reply to  sven
5 years ago

It was a perfect example of people complaining about not getting their way and taking their ball and going home. Bowman came off much like a petulant child – as he often does!

And what, is there supposed to be some magical percentage of rubber on a suit that makes it OK? Go all or nothing, I say.

Joel Lin
5 years ago

“Legs feed the wolf” — Herb Brooks

cbswims
Reply to  Joel Lin
5 years ago

Great reference!

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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