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Day 8: Womens 50m Breaststroke
Last Day - one last individual world record
On the final day of the World Championships in Budapest, Lilly King and Yulia Efimova looked to face off one last time. Lilly coming to the race having won the gold in the 100m distance of this race a few days ago, and set a new world record there. She also holds the gold medal in the 100m Breast race from Rio the year prior as well. Yulia was no stranger to this race either, having won gold in 2013, and standing on the podium in this event for the last 4 championships running.
Both of these ladies would also have to face both the current reigning champion, as well as the current world record holder, in this event. These two ladies, while not favoured to win, will have to put up personal bests to beat King and Efimova and retain their titles in this race. So, let’s get right down to it, and see where each of these competitors are excelling and where they could use a little focus to improve their overall outcomes.
Jennie Johansson, the reigning champion, completes this 50m race with a total of 27 strokes on the length, made possible by posting the shortest time underwater. Her speed is roughly in the middle of the field, as is her DPS. Registering the second lowest Stroke Index, a measure of speed times distance per stroke, indicates her stroke is not the most technically efficient of the field. All of these factors combined contribute to a 5th place finish, relinquishing her champion status on this race. To recover her position in this field, Johansson should focus on lengthening her stroke without losing any speed.
Ruta Meilutyte, the current world record holder, comes out with a slightly higher stroke index, speed and DPS. Taking one less stroke than Johansson, while matching her stroke rate, gave Meilutyte a marginal lead. Posting a .5s longer time underwater, put her ahead before the breakout, allowing her to accomplish more with with the same amount of effort on the length. As a result of this additional efficiency, she was able to bring it home in 4th place. To regain her world record status, Meilutyte should work with her coaches to determine if increasing her stroke count while maintaining her stroke rate is the right strategy for her.
Katie Meili matched both Johansson and Meilutyte in stroke rate, while also producing a faster speed, longer DPS and higher stroke index than both as well. This performance, even in the face of one of the shorter breakout times, placed her .2s ahead of Meilutyte to finish in bronze medal position. For Meili to overtake the field here, she will need to increase the distance she goes per stroke, without sacrificing ay speed.
Yulia Efimova finished this race with the fastest stroke rate, but did not register the highest number of strokes on the field. Unfortunately she was not quite able to match Lilly King in terms of speed or DPS, even at the faster stroke rate. While she came off the blocks with the second longest kick out, and took one stroke more than King, her DPS fell just short of King's, hindering her from taking a second breaststroke gold at this championships meet. If she can ever so slightly lengthen her strokes, to reduce that extra one, she may gain those two one hundredths of a second back and beat King next time.
Finally, the new world champion and world record holder Lilly King. . She was ahead in almost every aspect of this race. She swam the most technically efficient stroke, at a 2.65 stroke index, matched Sarah Vasey and Rachel Nicol in the fewest strokes on the length, and well outpaced the entire field in terms of generating speed and DPS. Her stroke rate was in the middle of the field, which is expected given the distance she was generating with each stroke. As a relative newcomer to the international stage, and having never set a world record prior to this competition, it’s safe to say Lily has hit her stride, and we should be seeing a lot more of her in the coming years.
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