When The Turn Matters: The Gwangju Men’s 1500 Free Style Podium Analysis

Sometimes the analysis of 1500 meter races can be tedious. A lot of data to be collected and no suspense at all because most of the time the races aren’t close and the training level is the only reason for the final result.

Conversely in Gwangju the men’s 1500-meter free style final was quite thrilling. It was possible within a single race to appreciate all of the pieces of swimming success: an incredible level of training, an unbelievable tactic but above all 3 different technical approaches from the 3 leaders.

Florian Wellbrock, Mykhailo Romanchuk and Gregorio Paltrinieri are three amazing athletes, with the same level of training and all three in excellent physical conditions and therefore they finished with very similar results.

Their challenge was breathtaking and once more we learned that things can change in every moment. With a good analysis it is possible to understand how the management of some phases of the race makes a big difference.

For the data-holics it is possible to download both the analysis of every single athlete in order to see the race evolution as well and the comparison analysis.

First of all, observing the race it is possible to note the big difference in the stroke rate and the stroke length between Paltrinieri and the two others.

Romanchuk and Wellbrock have a long stroke length – more than 3 meters on average: amazing! – and globally-speaking a very low stroke rate.

Paltrinieri, on the contrary, was able to keep a high stroke rate for all race. This is perhaps why he has excelled in

These data are very interesting for all the data-holics but for the analysis of top-level athletes the speed is the main parameter.


The stroke rate, or stroke time for the American friends, and the stroke length represent the means to reach the speed (stroke rate x stroke length = Speed).

When we train young athletes it is important to give suggestions to improve the efficiency of their stroke or their ability to increase the rate according to their needs. When we are analyzing the best in the world, however, we just need to understand how the athletes manage the race to help them to improve.

Definitely there is not a single best way to swim, but every single athlete can find out how he/she can manage the race at their best according to the personal characteristics…but sometimes it is difficult to reach it.

In this race all the athletes swam at a consistent pace and only at the end of the race they increased the speed: it is interesting to compare the evolution of the speed and of the main parameters and the difference between the first 1400m and last 100m.

  • Paltrinieri led for 80% of the race and just in the last 150m took the third position.
  • Wellbrock was able to accelerate at the right moment and win after leading just the 20% of the race.
  • Romanchuk was third for 70% of the race, never first.

The analysis of the swimming parameters shows that Paltrinieri was the fastest in the above-the-water swimming phase also considering the last 100m where the others two increased their speed.

For every 50m, timing only the distance from 15m to 45m, the total time for him was 9’05”09, for Romanchuk 9’06”05 and for Wellbrock 9’06”88.


The main point of this race and its analysis are the turns.

This detail made a lot of difference and it decided the winner.

The turn is not just the rotation but it starts with the approach to the wall and finishes after the breakout.

Some swimmers can keep the speed of the push and of the underwater phase longer, some other absolutely cannot! So it is surely wrong to measure only until 5 meters from the wall.

It is a convention to measure the turn from 5 meters before the wall to 15 meters from the wall. Unfortunately during a race in long course we don’t have any other precise references between 5 and 15 meters before and from the wall.

Click to enlarge

The total time of turn for Wellbrock is 5’20”80, Romanchuk 5’22”23 and for Paltrinieri 5’24”16.

  • Wellbrock: for the swimming part he is 0.83 slower than Romanchuk and 1.79 than Paltrinieri. For the turns part he is 1.43 faster than Romanchuk and 3.36 than Paltrinieri
  • Romanchuk: for the swimming part he is 0.83 faster than Wellbrock and 0.96 slower than Paltrinieri. For the turns part he is 1.43 slower than Wellbrock and 1.96 faster than Paltrinieri.
  • Paltrinieri: for the swimming part he is 1.79 faster than Wellbrock and 0.83 faster than Romanchuk. For the turns part he is 3.36 slower than Wellbrock and 1.43 than Romanchuk. A reminder that Paltrinieri has recently shown world class in open water, including winning the 10k at the US National Championships, where there are no turns.

A deeper analysis of the turn shows us how each athlete has different skills in the different phases of the turn.

Wellbrock is the best in the 5m before the wall, Romanchuk is the best in the 5m from the wall and Romanchuk is the best from 5m to 15m. This point of view shows us how it is theoretically possible to get improvements, but tread carefully…it is just a theoretically point of view.


Another interesting data is the connection between the turn speed and the swimming speed as you can clearly see in the graph of each athlete.

The data-holics can also see some interesting data if we split the race into the first 1400m and last 100m.

Of course, in 1500m races it is not possible to analyze all parameters.

Some coaches and analysts may be interested in different parameters and it is surely possible to take
into consideration other points of view.

I am always available to share my data with anybody and willing to have a profitable exchange of opinions.

With the collaboration of STEFANO NURRA

Analyst of Turkish Swimming Federation

Analyst of Energy Standard

Owner and Founder of Swim Lab


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Craig Jones
3 years ago

Fascinating. Thank you. I’d love to see a similar analysis of men’s 200 breast from 2019 Worlds. Close race, different styles and a world record… statistical and analytical heaven!

4 years ago

Would be super interesting to see this in other races. Obviously Dressel has the best start, maybe ever, but who in textile can go from 15 to 50 the fastest? You could see what Chalmers would have with Dressels start, or look at how trash Townley is at turns

Stefano Nurra
Reply to  DEAN IS GOD
4 years ago

Thanks a lot. We are collecting all request for some new analysis. I am already working on a new article

Honest Observer
4 years ago

In a sense this was a replay of the 1976 race, when you had three also superbly conditioned athletes, Brian Goodell, Bobby Hackett, and Stephen Holland in a tight race. In the end the kicker (in the legs sense of the term, not the end-of-the-race sense) will always have an advantage because he can turn it on more at the end. A guy who has only a two beat kick generally will not have that extra gear to match the guy who can turn on his six beat kick and increase his speed at the end. That’s how Goodell always seemed to have Hackett’s number, and it played out similarly this year.

4 years ago

To the author: Very interesting analysis. Thanks for sharing. Would love to see more of this.

Can you summarize the takeaways? e.g ‘the race was won on the turns’ or ‘ the swimmer who conserved their energy during the swim had more left at the end’. I’m not knowledgeable enough to make any conclusions from this wealth of data.

Stefano Nurra
Reply to  swimsincerely
4 years ago

Thanks a lot. I’m already working on some new analysis to share. It is difficult to summarize too much, it is important to analyze several points of view, otherwise, it is just an opinion not a data.

Reply to  swimsincerely
4 years ago

The takeaway is that Greg needs to work on his turns.

Texas Tap Water
Reply to  Aquajosh
4 years ago

The takeaway is Greg needs to learn to have another speed gear.

4 years ago

Wellbrock went OW finish on Paltrinieri’s butt!

About Giusy Cisale

Giusy Cisale

 GIUSY  CISALE Giusy Cisale graduated high school at the Italian Liceo Classico "T.L. Caro" where she was engaged in editing the school magazine. In 2002, she was among the youngest law graduates of the  Federico II University of Naples (ITA). She began her career as a Civil Lawyer, becoming licensed to practice law …

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