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Starts and Turns

The Starting Block - The Finish

Wayne Mc Cauley | March 1, 1993

This start is to be practiced only in a deep pool (5 feet or greater) and under the supervision of a coach, and only one person in the lane at a time.

Many races are lost on the starting block or the dive into the water.There are three distinct phases of the start,the starting block technique, the dive into the water and the pullout or breakout.

First we will concentrate on starting block technique. The person who reacts fastest and gets their body moving toward the water wins the start. Whether using the grab or the track start, always have your head down and your hips as high and as close to the edge of the blocks as possible. This positions your center of gravity closer to the edge of the block. For those who use the track staff, never rock back and then forward. It costs you a second before you finally start going toward the water. Try starting with your eyes closed! The start light isn't for you, it's for the timers! You can't see it anyway so why not close your eyes and react faster to the sound of the starting beeper! Armin Harry won the Olympic 100 meter dash and Steve Lundquist won the 100 meter Breast using this technique.

When the beeper goes off, quickly push (don't grab) on the starting block with your hands. This gets the body moving towards the water quickest and positions the body for best use of the leg thrust. With the legs, try to explode; then concentrate on using the toes (which were curled over the front of the block) for additional push. Once the start begins and you are hurtling through space, the dive begins. You can gain .1 to .3 seconds on the start, but you can gain or lose .5 to 1.0 seconds on the dive.Therefore the dive is mush more important than the actual start technique.

During the match races with Mark Spitz and Mat Biondi, Spitz actually won the start. Unfortunately Spitz did a flat dive, while Biondi did a perfect single hole entry dive. After the first stroke Biondi was over 1/2 body length ahead and the race was already won. Steve Lundquist in the '84 Olympics came up 1/2 to 1 body length ahead of the field. Whether you are going for an Olympic gold medal or a blue ribbon at a masters meet, it is always better to start the race out front.

To learn the single hole entry dive, always start water. Follow this sequence:

  • 1) Head down, chin on chest, rear as high as possible.
  • 2)React to start beep or pistol.
  • 3)Head up, push with feet and toes upward and outward.
  • 4)Head down and arms down, while following the whole body through water where the head and arms went.
  • 5)Correct your depth under water, depending on the stroke.
  • 6)Blast to the surface, all strokes this should be the strongest most powerful stroke in the race.

Tip, stick near the starter for a few races, learn the cadence and sound of the starter beep. Being familiar with the sound before hand will improve your start reaction time.

Your coach should always be there and he/she will be able to help you learn the dive correctly. Practice until you cut with your eyes closed. Then be prepared for new personal bests at the next swim meet.

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