SWIMNEWS ONLINE: July 1997 Magazine Articles

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Backwash features short clips, gossip, letters and opinions. Contributions are welcome.


Scholarships soon

The University of Toronto swim team just conducted a fund raising drive to take advantage of matching funds from both the province and the university for any new donations to a student aid endowment fund.

With $100,000 raised by the alumni and friends, the total after matching came to $300,000. The swim team will have an endowment of $15,000 annually (equal to five tuition awards).

While there are some restrictions (you must be a returning student, 2nd year or later, must be an Ontario resident and have financial need), it is a giant step forward for helping to fund, and therefore keep, swimmers in Canada.

"What's the Limit?"

Despite poor equipment and pouring rain, a group of interested swimmers and coaches got a peek at Alexander Popov's freestyle video in Canet, with a personal commentary by his longtime coach and collaborator, Gennadi Touretski.

Entitled "What's the Limit?", the video is a highly technical description of Popov's freestyle techniques, including the starts and turns.

Touretski explains that the film is "designed for athletes," with the key elements of Popov's success being "fitness and technique."

"It is a new approach: looking to nature to explain how to increase efficiency," he said. Important aspects explored are the elastic quality of muscles, rigidness of the body, and simultaneous movement of the limbs. Touretski looks at race horses and fish as prime examples of what to imitate to increase speed.

The film, which is 24 minutes long, also shows a detailed analysis of the 100 freestyle race in Atlanta between Popov and American rival Gary Hall.

Popov's stroke is governed by the principle involving the three Rs-range, rhythm, and relaxation. Touretski stresses the importance of maintaining the same technique at different speeds, from full effort speed to SSS, or "super slow swimming."

To gain an insight into the way this outstanding swimmer works, never wasting a stroke, it is certainly worth a look. It is soon to be distributed worldwide and the same sequence will eventually be available on CD-ROM. The winning duo plan to make more videos, tackling aspects like fitness and strength more specifically.


American swimmer Jessica Foschi had her two-year suspension for steroid use cut by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, clearing the way for her immediate return to international competition. The court did not question her steroid use, but considered the two-year suspension too "harsh."

FINA, international swimming's governing body, which had banned Foschi after she tested positive for the metabolic steroid nesteroton at the 1995 U.S. national championships, was ordered to pay the teenager 15,000 Swiss francs (US $10,400) to cover her court costs.

The suspension period was to end in early August. Foschi continued to compete within the U.S. as her lawyers successfully argued that FINA's ban applied only to international competition directly sanctioned by FINA.


Swimming videos are all the rage, and after Popov and Touretski, there is now Lange & Partner, otherwise known as the duo of short course world champion Sandra Všlker and her coach and partner, Dirk Lange, seeking to market their secrets. Entitled "Fascination of Freestyle Swimming," the video looks at both Všlker's and Britain's Mark Foster's freestyle techniques from the start through the phases of the stroke, turns, and finish. There is extensive underwater and flume-work footage and lots of slo-mo sequences, making up 30 minutes that is visually attractive if lacking in any real pedagogical substance. Having put DM 80,000 (about $60,000 Cdn) into the project, Lange says they "hope to break even." Introduced at the German Championships in Munich, the film will sell for DM 39.90, and is slated to be produced in an English version.

New Hall of Famers

Inducted as the class of 1998 at the International Swimming Hall of Fame:

Paul Bergen, USA and CAN Honor Coach
Christina Caron, FRA Honor Swimmer
Don Harper, USA Honor Diver
Abdel Latif Abou Heif, EGY Honor Open Water
Lina Kachushite, URS Honor Swimmer
Mustapha Larfaoui, ALG Honor Contributor
Dezso Lemhenyi, HUN Honor Water Polo
Tim McKee, USA Honor Swimmer
Gao Min, CHN Honor Diver
Betsy Mitchell, USA Honor Swimmer
Pablo Morales, USA Honor Swimmer
Anthony Nest, SUR Honor Swimmer

Gerald Forsberg, GBR Honor Pioneer Open Water
Norma Olsen, USA Honor Pioneer Synchronized
William A. Prew, USA Honor Pioneer Swimmer

German coaches against doping

In a rather ironic gesture, the German Swimming Federation and its coaches circulated a petition during the German Championships in Munich for the "betterment of world swimming" that detailed their intent to support the "fight against doping."

The petition, to be sent to FINA, asks FINA to "help make swimming drug-free on all competition levels." Among other suggestions was the call for more unannounced testing in the top 25 swimmers in each event at all competitions, and further testing of the top 100 swimmers in the world, with no less than 1200 tests conducted a year. They also wish to see all test results on the Internet and have any positive results show up as quickly as possible.

Given the legacy of doping in Germany, internal drug testing is a priority for the German Swimming Federation, which spends at least DM 60,000 (about $46,000 Cdn) a year just on the collection of the samples; more money is poured into the analyses of the tests by the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Franziska van Almsick is sometimes tested several times a month.

But the whole petition leaves a bad taste, as if overt action now-so many years later-will excuse the cover-ups that are still happening. Perhaps a real, thorough housecleaning will restore their credibility?


I believe that when pool water attacks tooth enamel it is because the calcium hardness in the water is not at the correct level. When this happens the water looks for calcium, wherever it can find it, in tooth enamel, concrete, tile grout, etc. For those for whom this is a problem, some consultation should take place with the pool operator to find out what the calcium hardness is in the pool and remedy the situation with appropriate quantities of calcium chloride, 77%-80%.

The calculations are available in any complete pool test kit. The operator should have one that includes this test. If not, then the coach should buy one and test his own water. Coaches also have some responsibility for the safety of their environment. Hope this helps,

Herb F. de Bray
Manager: Facilities and Aquatics,
Dept. of Athletics and Services, Brock University,
St. Catharines, Ont. Canada, L2S 3A1
Telephone: 905-688-5550 x3596
Fax: 905-688-0541

Canadians going south

It is curious that the Canadians mentioned by Bill Bell that were the exceptions by staying in Canada were also three of our medal winners. As well, the years that Stephen Clarke has gone to the Olympics were years that he was training in Canada. What other medallists trained in Canada? (Just Marion Limpert, and Mark Tewksbury.) How many Olympic hopefuls have not been on the same schedule as Swim Canada while swimming in the NCAA and failed to qualify for the Olympic team?

Bill Bell, stop trying to convince young swimmers that stateside is the way to go when the top Canadian swimmers are produced and stay here!!!

Michael Martin
e-mail: martina@direct.ca


The letter from Bill Bell in last month's Backwash deserves a response. Canadians are becoming accustomed to American nationalism and egoism, but his total lack of attention to facts cannot go unanswered. Let me point out at the outset that there are many outstanding club and university coaches in both Canada and the USA, but to suggest that the future of Canadian swimming should be reliant on the NCAA model is naive at best.

In the late 70s when all the best Australian swimmers went to the USA for university, the Aussie program fell on hard times. Their return to greatness in the late 80s coincided with the stay-at-home philosophy of the best Australian swimmers.

Bell goes back almost 30 years to highlight 10 Canadian swimmers who have done well in the US college system. Read on to find how many have graduated. There are a few more that he missed including. However, if we go back only 20 years and look at all the Canadian Olympic swimming medallists in that time, we come up with 34 names: Shannon Smith, Graham and Becky Smith, Garapick, Gibson, Pickell, Evans, MacDonald, Hogg, Corsiglia, Sloan, Jardin, Amundrud, Barb Clark, Henning, West, Davis, Ponting, Baumann, Goss, Abdo, Ottenbrite, MacPherson, Rai, Kerr, Nugent, Higson, Melien, Tewksbury, Gery, Cleveland, Stephen Clarke, Myden, and Limpert. The US college system can claim some bragging rights for three, including Clay Evans, who grew up in the USA. I have excluded from US bragging rights swimmers like Anne Ottenbrite who went to the US after her Olympic success (and returned disillusioned).

It seems that the "rare exceptions" Bell spoke of are not the 31 Canadian medallists who stayed in Canada but those three who left and performed well.

Of the 10 Canadian swimmers at US college that he mentions in his letter, four are still in school, three graduated (I think) and three came home to Canada without finishing school (a story that is repeated all too often). One of the swimmers who graduated had to do a makeup year in a Canadian university to qualify for a Canadian graduate school.

Many Canadian swimmers still come home disillusioned with the quality of education, the compromising of their academic standards, and the feeling of being owned by the athletic scolarship. The high standard of university education in Canada is well documented.

Our Canadian high performance sport delivery system (SNC) continues to work hard to address the needs of the elite athlete within the context of the Canadian university program (CIAU). Canadian efforts at integrating the club and university systems, national and provincial centres, and the World Cup circuit should be a model to the ongoing NCAA/US Swimming friction. Bell preaches that in the US college system "only the fittest survive." At Canadian universities we prefer to coach our student-athletes and offer the most appropriate level of competition for their needs.

He suggests that we "send our best athletes-particularly our men-south to college in the United States." It seems intuitive that in a country with 10 times the population of Canada, the USA should do 10 times better than Canada. As the American men won nine medals in Atlanta and Canada won two, the math indicates that perhaps all the better American swimmers should attend Canadian universities!

Alan Fairweather
University of Guelph,


Cecil Colwin's articles are interesting but are missing the drama of being in the water-not knowing if disqualification would result by using the new stroke of butterfly in breaststroke events, trophies taken away after delayed decision of officials, and sometimes the public address system announcing disqualification before the event was finished.

Sixty years of swimming experiences are covered in my recent book Between the Lanes published last year, including what it was like to pioneer the butterfly stroke-first hand.

It was necessary to use devious devices to make up a race:
"It shall be by invitation only, no entry fee, no prize, and listed as a novelty event-not a race."
And a wag of a fellow competitor responded reassuringly that anyone swimming breaststroke would be disqualified!
It was a sheer joy to use the new stroke, a freedom-which did away with the feeling of swimming against the tide that the old fashioned requirements of breaststroke inflicted.
Even though we were considered rebels to try butterfly, we were still forbidden to use anything other than a wide breaststroke kick, which was part of the rules for that stroke. Only our arm recovery was a "different" interpretation of the rules-which did not state how the arms were to recover anyway-over, on, or even UNDER the water.

In 1951 a USA swim team came to a meet in Christchurch and the manager Ray Daughters invited me to America to further my butterfly swimming-but as a student then I did not have the finances.

Later that year when I was visiting England to attend the ASA Loughborough Course, Matt Mann, a leading American coach, asked me to demonstrate butterfly as his clinic in Brighton. I surmised at the time that it would be more diplomatic for him to comment on a "foreigner" to his English audience.

Other edicts from on high, during that period:
"É butterfly as a separate stroke will not be of long duration."
"Butterfly is not to be found in any rule book, therefore it is illegal."
Most of my competitive days were during World War II when the 1950 and 1944 Olympic Games were cancelled and the 1942 and 1946 Commonwealth (British Empire) Games were not held.

But for the dithering of officialdom here-I would have loved to have competed in this stroke internationally before my competitive days were over.

Although most of the rest of the world appeared to be using the new stroke, albeit in breaststroke events, my country was one of the last that officially recognized butterfly. And it was definitely not a style to be used if one wished to gain selection then.

Norma Williams,
Auckland, New Zealand


Re "The 50 Year Saga of the Breaststroke Rules"
Congratulations on a very thorough and interesting account of how the Breaststroke saga has evolved over the years. It is an excellent historical account of stroke technique, coaching, and how swimming legislators have been caught up in one (two) of the fundamental swimming strokes.

Dr. David Pyne
Exercise Physiologist
Australian Institute of Sport
Canberra, A.C.T.


I read Cecil Colwin's articles (The 50 Year Saga of the Breaststroke Rules and When is a Stroke Not a Stroke?), for which "bravo" is too weak an interjection.

First, I appreciate Colwin's scholarship in telling the "50-year Saga." It definitely gave me a new perspective on both the timelessness of the whole stroke, the form, the function, and the relentless pressure to swim faster dictated by our current philosophy of competition. In some ways it's unfortunate that swimmers are rewarded for speed and not beauty.

I also very much appreciated Colwin's article "When is a Stroke Not a Stroke?" with its balanced approach to the issue of preserving the strokes. He gives credit to innovators, be they coaches or swimmers. At the same time, he spells out how to preserve the integrity of each stroke, honouring the beauty of its form. Obviously, the suggested name change to define "freestyle" as "the crawl stroke" speaks to that, as well as the implication that free and fly competitors be restricted from kicking beyond the point where backstrokers are now required to surface.

Congratulations on suggesting crafting rules that reflect such clear thinking! As a professional coach of twenty years, I would welcome such changes to the rule books.

I believe Cecil Colwin has struck exactly the right balance with these suggested rules changes.

Scott Lemley,
Wrightwood, California


I thought that Cecil Colwin's "The 50 Year Saga of the Breaststroke Rules" was excellent! The research was very well presented in a format for all to readily understand. My congratulations!

Stuart W. Alldritt
Life Member-Australian Swimming Inc.


What Cecil Colwin has undertaken is of utmost importance to Swimming, almost as important as getting on top of the performance-enhancing drugs situation!

By involving those who know what is going on at the "training pool" level, the coaches and senior swimmers, and by encouraging informed debate, only in this way will Swimming halt the rules chaos that is rapidly consuming us.

Our FINA legislators, although they may not think so, need help. The collective ineptness and stupidities of FINA are well illustrated, countless times, over the years. For instance, for how many years did we have to put up with the stupidly ill-conceived part of the breaststroke rule that head must always remain above the water after start and turns?

In the early 1970s I sat in a "Hungry Jacks," with the late Bill Lippman, then the Chairman of the FINA Technical Committee, and made the case for the head being required to show only once per stroke. Bill said that he agreed and would take this to the Technical Committee. However, after some two years, nothing appeared to have happened and I asked Lippman how things were going.

I was told that the Technical Committee agreed to the change but that the Bureau had rejected the idea "because there had already been too many rule changes"! Like the drug situation today, the politics of the situation, what looked good, was more important to the rule makers than the actual well-being of athletes and the sport.

Finally after many years of swimmers being DQed because judges reported they saw slithers of water flowing over swimmers' heads, the obvious change was made to a bad rule.

The moral is clear: today, at this critical time in the progress of swimming, there must be extensive consultation before Swimming jumps from the frying pan into the fire and comes up with new and inept rules that will, no sooner as they are published, be found faulty and will retard the progress of our sport.

The Backstroke Turn Rule

Again I ride my hobby horse concerning the present very bad FINA backstroke turn rule, which virtually means that if a swimmer is "caught short" of the wall after commencing the turning movement there can be no glide to the wall and disqualification should follow, as it spasmodically does.

The rule concerning "continuous turning movement" continues to be inconsistently, and often unfairly, applied by stroke judges. This was a badly thought out rule right from the beginning, but we are stuck now with the "no touch" concept and not having to be on the back throughout the complete race. The rule, however, has to be looked at again.

From FINA's own films of the 200 backstroke final at the Barcelona Olympics, in frame by frame slow motion video, it is clear that at least 4 swimmers who can be studied-two were medal winners-did not make continuous turning actions but used a gliding (and kicking) action and should have been disqualified. They were not.

I understand that members of the FINA Technical Committee saw the slow motion video clips I prepared in 1992. Apparently they did not see any reason to change a rule honoured mainly in the breech. Were the "gliding actions" too hard for them to make out? Or was there a gentlemen's agreement over interpretation of the rule for the Olympic Games? It is unfair for rules to be arbitrarily "interpreted." Where this is perceived as needed, a rule change usually is called for.

Having gone so far in changing the backstroke turn to "no touch" and allowing the swimmer to be on the front before turning, clearly the way the situation can be made much fairer for all is to allow what most swimmers have been doing. Many "drift" and kick powerfully (which slows them down anyway). Some backstrokers do make a continuous turning action.

My suggestion is to apply a "5 metre" rule. Once the head passes under the flags and the swimmer is technically on the back, from then on the turn to the front would be permitted and the swimmer should be able to remain in this position kicking into the wall if the swimmer opts to slow down the turn by needing to glide in this way. But this should be without risk of disqualification, in addition to losing time.

Alas, other anomalies in the swimming rules, particularly in respect of underwater swimming will not be solved as easily as the present faulty backstroke turn rule. However, NOW is the time to start.

Forbes Carlile
Ryde, NSW, Australia

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