Conference Paper

Pacing and Team Strategy in Relay Events in Swimming

Authors:
To read the full-text of this research, you can request a copy directly from the authors.

Abstract

Interest in medal winning opportunities in swimming relays has grown with the addition of mixed events at the FINA World Championships and the 2020 Olympics. Although pacing is considered crucial for success in individual events, there is a lack of research examining pacing in relays. Performance in relays may be affected by the order swimmers are placed within a team. The purpose of this study was to compare pacing strategies in relay events with corresponding individual events, and examine the relationship between team selections and performance. Race data from FINA World Championships between 2011-2017 including 50-m splits and overall race time were analysed retrospectively. A total of 256 (128 male, 128 female) 4 x-200-m freestyle relay final swims involving 192 swimmers were analysed. Individual 200-m freestyle season’s best time for the same year was located using FINA world rankings. There was no substantial impact of pacing strategy on 200-m freestyle performance, except positive pacing led to slower times in individual events for females. Relay swimmers are typically faster in the first half of their 200-m leg, but slower in the second half, when compared with their individual events. Approximately half of the swimmers changed pacing strategy when competing in relay events. The majority of relay teams placed their first or second ranked swimmer on the lead-off leg, and their third or fourth ranked swimmer on the third leg. Successful team strategies were different for males and females, although the quality of the swimmers in a team also plays a role.

No full-text available

Request Full-text Paper PDF

To read the full-text of this research,
you can request a copy directly from the authors.

... To date, the research on swimming relays have focused on (1) the composition of the male-or female-only relay teams and (2) differences between individual and relay race performances. The relay team order refers to the order in which swimmers are placed within a relay team (McGibbon et al., 2018). Different strategies are used in international relay events according to the swimming capacity of individuals on the team and to the performance levels of the four swimmers (McGibbon et al., 2018;Fischer et al., 2019). ...
... The relay team order refers to the order in which swimmers are placed within a relay team (McGibbon et al., 2018). Different strategies are used in international relay events according to the swimming capacity of individuals on the team and to the performance levels of the four swimmers (McGibbon et al., 2018;Fischer et al., 2019). Teams tend to place the fastest two swimmers in the first and fourth relay legs with the slowest two swimmers in the second and third legs, although differences are observed from men to women relays and also from medalist to non-medalist teams (McGibbon et al., 2018). ...
... Different strategies are used in international relay events according to the swimming capacity of individuals on the team and to the performance levels of the four swimmers (McGibbon et al., 2018;Fischer et al., 2019). Teams tend to place the fastest two swimmers in the first and fourth relay legs with the slowest two swimmers in the second and third legs, although differences are observed from men to women relays and also from medalist to non-medalist teams (McGibbon et al., 2018). For example, successful teams in the 4 × 200 m freestyle relay from World Swimming Championships tended to save their first ranked swimmers for the fourth relay leg. ...
Full-text available
Article
The primary goal of the present research was to determine the order of swimmers on a mixed relay team that would ensure the best performance in the Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA) World Championships held in Kazan (Russia, 2015), Budapest (Hungary, 2017), and Gwangju (South Korea, 2019). The data were obtained from database websites for the 4 × 100 m freestyle and 4 × 100 m medley official results,1 including 660 records from 188 entries of finals and 472 preliminary events. The results showed that the fastest swimmers (according to their best season times) were located primarily in the first or second positions of the freestyle relay. The most successful gender strategy for the 4 × 100 m freestyle (57 out of 82 observations) and for the 4 × 100 m medley (29 out of 83) relays was the order male-male-female-female, although no statistical differences were found (p = 0.79) for the medley relays. In the 4 × 100 m freestyle, the second (p = 0.002; β = 1.62) and third (p =0.003; β = 1.41) relay legs had a statistical effect on the total relay time, whereas in the 4 × 100 m medley, all four relay legs had a statistical effect (p < 0.001) on the final performance, the weight of the four strokes being different in heats with respect to the final round. Also, a later position of the first female swimmer or the consecutive position of two female swimmers in the team order significantly affected the relay performance in specific events. Mixed relay events appeared to present specific strategies in comparison to traditional male- or female-only relay lineups.
Full-text available
Article
Ten male collegiate swimmers (age = 20.2 ± 1.4 years, height = 184.6 ± 5.8 cm, mass = 82.9 ± 9.3 kg) performed 3 swimming relay step starts, which incorporated a one or two-step approach, and a no-step relay start. Time to 10 m was not significantly shorter between step and no-step starts. A double-step start increased horizontal takeoff velocity by 0.2 m/s. A single-step together start decreased vertical takeoff velocity by 0.2 m/s but increased takeoff height by 0.16 m. Subjects were more upright at takeoff by 4°, 2°, and 5° in the double-step, single-step apart, and single-step together starts respectively, than in the no-step start. Entry angle was steeper by 2°, entry orientation was steeper by 3°, and entry vertical velocity was faster by 0.3 m/s in the single-step together start. Restricting step length by 50% had little effect on step starts with the exceptions that horizontal velocity was significantly reduced by 0.1 m/s in the double-step start and vertical takeoff velocity was increased by 0.2 m/s in the single-step together start. These data suggested that step starts offered some performance improvements over the no-step start, but these improvements were not widespread and, in the case of the double-step start, were dependent on the ability to take longer steps.
Article
In the past, studies and book recommendations on relay starts in swimming have been predominantly focused on the change-over time (COT) as a performance criterion. Aside from the circular backswing start with parallel foot placement, few studies have analysed differences in the take-off movement including step approaches as well. Although trends could be identified, the results remained still somewhat inconclusive. In contrast, no study has examined as has examined whether a reduction of COT in between wall contact of the income swimmer and the take-off of the outgoing swimmer is an optimal relay start strategy, as advocated by various swimming experts. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to compare two different relay start strategies: offensive strategy minimizing COT and conservative strategy to maximize horizontal peak force (HPF). In this regard, a learning intervention with 24 elite-level swimmers (12 females, 12 male) was conducted to compare both strategies regarding relay start time, HPF and COT. Subjects were randomly assigned to two feedback groups: COT versus HPF at take-off. The results of this study showed a clear advantage for HPF feedback for relay start performance measured by wall contact of the incoming swimmer and head passage at 7.5 m of the outgoing swimmer. In addition, similar reductions in COTs were found in both training groups. In conclusion, swimmers should focus on force production rather than minimizing COT. For the latter, deteriorating consequences for force production must be considered.
Article
To investigate if swimming performance is better in a relay race compared to the corresponding individual race. 166 elite male swimmers from 15 nations were analyzed within the same competition (downloaded from www.swimrankings.net). Out of a total of 778 observed races, 144 were Olympic Games performances (2000, 2004 & 2012), with the remaining 634 performed within national or international competitions. The races were 100-m (n = 436) and 200-m (n = 342) freestyle events. Relay performance times for the 2nd to 4th swimmer were adjusted (+ 0.73 s) to allow for the 'flying start'. Without any adjustment, mean individual relay performances were significantly faster for the first, 50-m and overall time in the 100-m events. Furthermore, the first 100-m of the 200-m relay was significantly faster (P > .001). During relays swimmers competing in 1st position did not show any difference compared to their corresponding individual performance (P > .16). However, swimmers competing in 2nd to 4th relay team positions demonstrated significantly faster times in the 100-m (P < .001) and first-half of the 200-m relays in comparison to their individual events (P < .001; ES: .28-1.77). However, when finishing times for 2nd- 4th relay team positions were adjusted for the flying start no differences were detected between relay and individual race performance for any event or split time (P > .17). Highly-trained swimmers do not swim (or turn) faster in relay events compared to their individual races. Relay exchange times account for the difference observed in individual versus relay performance.
Article
Relay exchange times have been proposed as a training target to improve final placing in swimming competition. This study investigated that possibility by analyzing relay exchange times from the 2007 and 2008 USA NCAA Divisions I and II Swimming and Diving Championships. Exchange times from 1292 teams competing in 200 and 400 yard free and medley and 800 yard free relays were studied. The mean team exchange time for non-disqualified teams was .746 ± .232 (standard deviation) sec. Finish places were improved by faster relay exchange times for 205 (15.8% of 1292) teams - exchange times were faster than the next placing team by a time equal to or more than the difference in final times. It is recommended that swimming relay training include strategies to optimize exchange time. However, coaches and competitors must carefully weigh benefits against risks - 3.1% of the teams were disqualified for early relay take-offs.
Article
Abstract The purpose of this study was to investigate the association between relay exchange block time and final performance in 4 × 100-m and 4 × 200-m freestyle and 4 × 100-m medley relays as a function of sex (men and women) and classification (medallists and non-medallists) in international competitions. Nineteen international competitions covering a 13-year period (2000-2012) were analysed retrospectively. The data corresponded to a total of 827 team relay histories (407 men, 420 women). Kruskal-Wallis and Mann-Whitney tests were performed to determine any differences by sex, classification, and event. Similarly, the relationship between the exchange block times and final performance was examined by means of a Pearson correlation analysis. In the three events, the men's exchange block times were shorter than those of the women (η(2) = 0.049-0.109; P < 0.001). The exchange block time was especially relevant for the women's relay medallists in the 4 × 100-m freestyle (r = 0.306, P = 0.021) and 4 × 100-m medley (r = 0.385, P = 0.011), while for men the relationship was clearer for the non-medallists. These results suggest that the exchange block time should be considered as one of the performance parameters of swimming relay starts, and thus should be included explicitly as part of training. In particular, the coach could design training targeted at standardising an optimal exchange block time equal to or less than that expected for other teams in the competition.
Article
Pacing strategy selection can exert a significant influence on performance in events where time to completion is the measure of success. However, few studies exist examining pacing in elite sport, with even less examining pacing in swimming. The objective of this study is to identify which type of pacing profiles are most prominently used in elite 400-m freestyle swimming. Two hundred sixty-four swims from elite national and international competitions were analyzed in high-frequency pacing capture for mean speed (every 6% of the race). Each swim was subsequently categorized into one of six different pacing strategies through a computer algorithm and then performance analyzed in relation to completion time to the current world record, sex, and swimming suit used. Fast-start-even and parabolic pacing profiles were the most frequently used, irrespective of sex or swimming suit worn (120 and 89 swims, respectively). Although these strategies yielded closer performance times to the world record (96.08% ± 2.12% and 96.04% ± 2.2%, respectively) than other strategies, this difference was nonsignificant (F2,228 = 1.00, P > 0.05). This is the first study using a large sample size in elite freestyle swimming to demonstrate that a fast-start-even and parabolic pacing strategy are most frequently used in elite competition. The performance benefits that these strategies may yield should be considered by coaches and athletes, with possible integration of pacing training before competition.
Article
In this study, we examined aspects of the 4 x 100 m relay that are amenable to mathematical analysis. We looked at factors that affect the time required to complete the relay, focusing on the performance of elite male athletes. Factors over which the individual athletes, and the team coach, can exercise some control are: the starting positions of the runners on legs 2, 3 and 4, the positions at which baton exchanges occur, the free distances at the baton exchanges and the running order of the athletes. The lane draw is shown to have an important influence on the relay time, although it is outside the control of the team coach. Teams drawn in the outside lanes benefit from the inverse relation between bend radius of curvature and running speed. For teams composed of athletes with different times over 100 m, we show that the fastest relay times are achieved with the fastest athlete taking the first leg, with the slowest two runners allocated to the final two legs.