Mauger (2012) collected a sample with 264 international competition swims at 400m freestyle by both genders. Although the sample overlapped suit eras, authors found no impact of suit makeup on race strategy. Authors found that a “fast start followed by even pacing” and “parabolic pacing” (fast start, slower middle, fast finish) were the most common pacing strategies, but did not study correlations with time/placing.
IM’s are their own unique animals due to variation in stroke specialties. Saavedra (2012) studied elite 200/400IM performances of both men and women (1,643 total swims) at major competitions (Olympics, US Olympic Trials, Australian Trials, among others) from 2000-2011. Overall, the men favored a fast start strategy (positive pacing) and women favored fast finish strategies (negative pacing). Comparing medalists, backstroke pacing was the most significant differentiator in men, with backstroke and free most significant in women. Looking beyond medalists, breaststroke pacing was the greatest differentiator of performance for men, with freestyle most significant for women.
Robertson (2009) studied top 16 finishers in nine international competitions in all events 100m through 400m events and noted the following findings…
- last lap had the strongest relationship with ﬁnal time in all 100-m events, except men’s 100-m freestyle where the correlation of lap times was identical in the ﬁrst and second lap for males
- the winners of the men’s freestyle had a slower ﬁrst lap than the second placed swimmers, but were differentiated by a smaller drop off (differential between ﬁrst and second lap time) in the ﬁnal lap. In contrast, women’s 100-m freestyle winners were faster in both laps.
- In 200-m events, the strongest determinant of finish time was the middle two laps of backstroke and breaststroke, the third lap in freestyle, and the third and fourth laps in butterﬂy and individual medley.
- Thompson KG, MacLaren DP, Lees A, Atkinson G. The effect of even, positive and negative pacing on metabolic, kinematic and temporal variables during breaststroke swimming breaststroke swimming. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2003 Jan;88(4-5):438-43. Epub 2002 Nov 19.
- Mauger AR, Neuloh J, Castle PC. Analysis of pacing strategy selection in elite 400-m freestyle swimming. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012 Nov;44(11):2205-12. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3182604b84.
- Saavedra JM, Escalante Y, Garcia-Hermoso A, Arellano R, Navarro F. A 12-year analysis of pacing strategies in 200- and 400-m individual medley in international swimmingcompetitions.J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Dec;26(12):3289-96. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e318248aed5.
- Robertson E, Pyne D, Hopkins W, Anson J. Analysis of lap times in international swimming competitions. J Sports Sci. 2009 Feb 15;27(4):387-95. doi: 10.1080/02640410802641400.
By Allan Phillips. Allan and his wife Katherine are heavily involved in the strength and conditioning community, for more information refer to Pike Athletics.