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Day 2: Womens's 100 butterfly
Sarah maintains her record and medal, but Rikako show what the future holds!
The second day of racing in Budapest brought us a very exciting women 100m Fly final. With high potential for Sarah Sjostrom to break her own World record and a possible World Juniors record that could be beaten by either Rikako Ikee or Penny Oleksiak.
This final was a big throwback to Rio, as 4 of the 8 finalist here in Budapest also swam the final in 2016. Sarah Sjostrom defending her throne, Penny defending her WJR and aiming for the podium, Emma Mckeon and Rikako Ikee looking to secure podium positions they barely missed last year.
As the field was introduced, people looked to the current world record holder Sarah Sjostrom. Would she stay dominant in this event at another World Championship? Or will someone else surprise us all and take the Victory?
In the first 50m of this short race, Sarah, Emma and Kelsi all swam 20 strokes on the length, with identical DPS, and very close time underwater. The difference between first and third place was in the stroke rate, as well as speed. Sarah, in true champion form, completed her strokes much faster than Emma, giving her greater speed to maintain her lead. Kelsi, who didn’t even make finals in Rio, came in hot showing the world she’s ready to compete. She actually had the fastest stroke rate of the three, but lacked the speed to carry her to first. She took one less stroke heading into the wall, costing her velocity, allowing Emma to hold the second place position with a slightly higher speed.
We see a similar metrics to Kelsi with Svetlana and Yufei as well, where they spend slightly longer time underwater after the start, allowing them to register faster stroke rates with slower speed. These two competitors also registered more strokes on the length. They both displayed efficient turns and starts to build from, so if they can focus training efforts on lengthening strokes, they will be well positioned to keep pace with the leaders of the field.
Rikako gave us some serious food for thought in this first length, as well as the race in its entirety. She swam what is technically considered the most efficient first length, meaning she took the fewest strokes, and went the furthest with each. However, she also registered the slowest speed after the first 50m. If she is able to get more speed at this level of efficiency she will be one to watch. As we entered the last half of this race, she was able to maintain her efficient approach, and even outpaced her competitors, maintaining speed better than the rest of the field. As the race ended, it appeared she may have still had fuel in the tank; if she could put out a little more power in each stroke, at the same rate and DPS, this would be a very different finish for her.
Kelsi showed us something completely different in the second 50m. She registered a substantially longer time underwater than the rest of the field, as well as much longer than her own dive breakout. Her DPS is still significantly lower than Sarah and Emma, however her strong underwater gave her the edge to land her podium position over Penny.
Penny had an interesting race, just missing the podium this year. She spent less time underwater than the leaders in both lengths, resulting in more strokes per length. Her strokes weren’t quite as efficient as the rest, costing her speed and energy. It was clear she was tired by her second 50m, as she lost power and strength, while maintaining her stroke rate. This combination of short time underwater and inefficient stroke causing her to tire quickly ultimately cost her the podium position in this race. Penny should focus on increasing her time underwater to conserve energy. She can then decide if it's a better strategy for her from an endurance perspective, to focus on building stamina to sustain more strokes at a faster rate, or lengthening each stroke for extra distance.
This was a great race start to finish, with few surprises. The key learnings to take away from this race are to watch Rikako, if she is able to harness her stroke efficiency as she gets stronger, she has the potential to be the Katie Ledecky of Fly. Kelsi also shows the value of perfecting the underwater portion of this race. Fly is hard, so build longer and stronger underwaters to reserve energy if you haven’t built the strength in the stroke. Sarah was able to easily maintain her leader position on the race, registering a new championship record while just missing her world record. She should keep her eyes on these younger swimmers as they perfect their performances to edge in on her territory.
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