As part of a series studying what makes elite Olympic athletes tick, The Olympic Channel analyzed American sprinter Abbey Weitzeil, who won gold and silver medals at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio as a member of USA’s 4×100 medley and 4×100 free relays.
Weitzeil went to St. Mary’s College in London to work with Professor Greg Whyte, a former Olympian and current sports scientist and coach at Centre for Health and Human Performance (CHHP). Whyte and his team put Weitzeil through a series of exercises to test her reactive force, power output, lung function, and upper body strength. To begin with, Weitzeil has the perfect body type for a sprinter. Whyte explains, “The typical body type of a sprint swimmer is tall and long because speed in swimming is about stroke rate times by stroke length. Combine that with high strength and high power output and that will increase the speed of arm turnover.” He remarks that Weitzeil’s “exceptionally long arms” are weapons that “allow her to create a long stroke length, allow her to create speed.” Later, after testing her lung capacity and upper body strength, he explains, “For a sprint-based anaerobic swimmer, her aerobic capacity is good, which will support her sprint swimming and critically support her in training.”
Watch the video here:
The narrator concludes with the following remark:
“Abbey has shown that to be an Olympic medal-winning sprint swimmer, it’s not enough to just have the perfect shape. You need a combination of lightning-fast reactions, explosive power that can be deployed instantaneously, and huge upper-body strength all underpinned with a determination to push your body to the maximum.”