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:


“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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Ray Woods
6 years ago

First thing gentlemen, men are men right , women are women, (not girls). The world swims 25 and 50 meters. The U.S. Swims mostly 25 yards. And last the legs are Key.

Kevin DeForrest
6 years ago

I have long maintained that one of the best ways to create faster swimmers is to invite better athletes into the sport. Swimming is not, inherently, fun. We make it fun by creating a team atmosphere (high school and college swimming are great examples of that), and by incorporating friendly and competitive elements into practices. Eventually, we must encourage aspiring swimmers to embrace the joy of the work = reward equation – swimming fast IS fun (more fun than not swimming fast) and work is required to achieve that.

I had the pleasure of swimming relatively fast at one time. Interestingly, Tom and I swam for the same age group coach, Penny Taylor, and put in a LOT OF… Read more »

6 years ago

Rafael I wasn’t trying to downplay the Campbell sisters. I think australia are lucky to have them and yes the US are lucky to have Phelps and now ledecky.
TA, yes Simone Manuel and vanderpool wallace can do a lot more squats than the Campbell sisters and sjostrom etc but it doesn’t mean they,all swim any faster. How fast you move through the water doesn’t necessarily corrolate to how many squats you can do. And just bcos Simone Manuel is crushing everybody in the US doesn’t mean it will translate internationally.
Also in your first paragraph you say “talent wise” ( think raw strength and fast twitch).
raw strength and fast twitch are not really talents. raw… Read more »

Gina Rhinestone
6 years ago

Who is the poised lady in the sunhat & black/ white boat necked dress ? If that is Tom on the blocks you’ve been classily photo bombed. She is gorgeous .

6 years ago

Tá but us policy is that they take top6 on 100 free if these are not the top 6, then they would drop this rule? Bzfish the rule is simple actually. All relay only swimmers must swim in any given round. So if ervin and feigen are top 6 and goes as relay only they must swim.

Reply to  Rafael
6 years ago

USA hasnt published the olympic team selection criteria? At least I havent seen it yet so I don’t know if they are required to bring the 5th and 6th place finishers in the 100Fr. Its possible the coaches could leave them off the team if its allowed per the team selection document. The Fina rule indicates that if they are a relay team only member then they have to at least swim the prelim. You can’t bring someone and decide you dont want to use them.

Reply to  Ta
6 years ago

Actually I am basing myself on the last ones.
Probably all countries will pick the safe way on the relay picking process.
If US on top 6 (all swim finals) has Locthe Phelps (Adrian and Dressel or Rooney pick the 2 stops, but Schneided may also take the top 2) and Rooney/Schneider.. they may pick the top 6 (High possibility of Conger out)
But if Ervin/Ifeigen place top 6 (Due to absence at finals or poor perfomance of others) probably they won´t take top 6.
Actually I think 4 teams will have the luxury of taking top 6.
US: Phelps. Dressel, Adrian and Schneider/Rooney/Conger/Greevers/Chadwick for the last spots)
Brazil: Cielo, Chiereghinni, Santana, Fratus and… Read more »

Reply to  Rafael
6 years ago

Look at how many members of Brasil and Russia’s relays were trained by US sprint coaches. There is no need to panic about US sprinting, we should always be looking to improve though

Reply to  Rafael
6 years ago

Thanks Rafael., I knew they took 6. Didn’t realize they all had to swim ( I assume a prelims swim is sufficient?) I always assumed the US would send out swimmers 3,4,5,6 for prelims unless someone had a crazy schedule ( Phelps,lotchte) Obviously the concern is making the big heat…

Reply to  bzfish
6 years ago

A prelim swim is sufficient.. the question about top 6 is US and Australia result at Last World (US did not final and Australia is not even qualified for Rio yet)

6 years ago

Interestingly enough, there is another guy from the old school preaching about the importance of kicking, mr Gary Hall Sr

Kirk Nelson
6 years ago

Agreed, but do you see any reason why the United States shouldn’t be able to dominate a country (Australia) that has 1/13 as many people in swimming? I don’t. I suspect a higher percentage of kids are involved in swimming in Australia compared to the U.S., but I doubt the percentages are different enough to make up for the huge disparity in population.

6 years ago

Population doesn’t always correlate to how many good swimmers a country has. India has 3 times as many people as the US, but have no where near the quality of swimmers. Granted the US has better infrastructure and development when it comes to swimming, but population isn’t he end all be all

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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