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On the second last day of this historic worlds championship in Budapest, the highly anticipated Men’s 100m Butterfly race is upon us. With a field full of contenders, this could be anyone’s race.
Joseph Schooling preparing to defend his Olympic championship title, Caeleb Dressel looking to crack the supersuit era world record, as well as secure his second gold of the night, and James Guy setting a huge new PB to break the British record in the semi. This was shaping up to be quite an exciting event.
From a spectator perspective, all eyes were on 17 year old Kristof Malik, and 31 year old Hungarian, Laszlo Cseh. Cseh being a silver medalist in both the 2013 and 2015 championships, the home crowd was looking to him for a repeat performance. Malik making his international finals debut here, having already broken the World Junior Record not once but twice at this meet, could he pull off a hat trick of swimming records and make the podium.
In the first half of this race, we saw all competitors take roughly the same number of strokes (within 3), so the difference in split times had to come from other factors. Let’s look at a couple of them in particular.
Laszlo Cseh had the slowest stroke rate, producing the fewest strokes at 16, but also the least speed of the field. He did however register the strongest DPS, which means he has the strength to be a leader. He also executed one of the longer breakouts as well, however it wasn’t enough to overcome the lack of speed throughout the length. To move into leader position, Cseh needs to add speed to his strength.
Guy was at the other end of the spectrum, producing the fastest stroke rate and nearly the shortest DPS. He was able to produce the speed necessary to finish the first 50m just behind Dressel. Mehdy Metalla, tying with Guy at the 50m mark, produced the same amount of speed at a slightly higher DPS, allowing him to take one less stroke on the length, conserving his energy for bringing it home in the last half of this race.
Dressel found his sweet spot somewhere between Cseh and Guy. His DPS was beaten only by Cseh, and was also able to produce the most speed of the field. By lowering his DPS just slightly, and taking one additional stroke on the length, Dressel was the clear leader at the halfway mark in this race.
Schooling, the Olympic gold medalist of the event, matched Dressel in stroke count, but produced slightly less speed and DPS to finish the length in 4th, after Guy and Metella tied for 2nd.
Milak, was on pace to break the World Junior Record a third time in as many days at the end of the first 50m, even without being at the front of the field to medal in this race. He was running about the middle of the pack in terms of stroke rate, with a higher DPS, but slower speed. He will need to maintain this pace, and close hard to keep that record in sight.
As we move into the second half, the field starts to spread in terms of stroke count, once again changing the landscape of the field for the finish of this race.
While Cseh had the slowest split in the first 50, he was able to produce a top 3 fastest split in the second half of the race. This 50m being far more technically efficient, he took only one additional stroke on this length, and decreased his DPS and speed less than the rest of the field as well. Unfortunately, It wasn’t enough to recover his overall position in the race, placing him in 5th place overall.
Schooling, who ended the first 50m in 4th (behind a tie for 2nd), was able to maintain more of his distance per stroke and speed than Guy, enabling a tie for 3rd between the two competitors. Schooling’s second length wasn’t a drastic a change as Cseh; he remained balanced enough to support his position, benefiting from his past experience in this event on the world stage.
In contrast, Guy’s second length did look much different than his first. He increased his stroke count more than anyone else, and lost more DPS and speed than almost all of his competitors. Thankfully he had built a buffer coming out of the first 50m, allowing him to maintain his position and finish tied for 3rd with Schooling.
Milak pulled out all the stops in this second half, swimming this length only .2 seconds slower than Dressel. He sped up his stroke rate and reduced his time underwater to increase his stroke count by 3 strokes on the length. He produced the longest DPS of the field, and hit a speed only .01s behind Dressel’s. All of these changes from the first 50 to the last allowed him to set his third world junior record in as many days, and finish this event with a silver medal.
Finally Dressel, who not surprisingly had the fastest split time again. He started out increasing his time underwater, reducing his need to increase his stroke count as much. He also reduced his DPS by just under a quarter of a meter, while simultaneously increasing his stroke rate more than anyone else in the field. While he did not have the most technically efficient length, he was the clear leader in speed, and came out victorious for the second gold in under 30 minutes. Finishing only four 100ths of a second off the world record, making this a textile best for this event, and making him the second fastest man to ever swim this race.
This event highlights the importance of balancing stroke rate, speed and DPS to gain, maintain or lose position in such a short distance. Being able to remain relatively stable from the first to last length provides the greatest opportunity to finish in a top position. The race simply isn’t long enough to recover from a poor start, but is also too long to maintain full power for the duration. To succeed, each athlete must find the right balance of distance and pace to build the speed to stay near the front, but retain enough power to apply a burst and bring it home in the end.
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Swimming analysis is courtesy of Tritonwear, a SwimSwam partner.