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by P H Mullen

May 7, 2002

Superstar in breaststroke

I watch Bob Strand at local Pacific Masters swim meets in northern California. All of us watch him. That's what you do when there's a superstar in your midst. Strand specializes in one thing and does it better than almost anyone else in the world: he swims breaststroke.

In 2001, the San Francisco-based swimmer who swims for The Olympic Club claimed six world records, 10 national records and 12 number one rankings. Most impressive was his short course season when he obliterated the previous 55-59 U.S. standards in all three breaststroke events, going 29.09 in the 50, 1:03.22 in the 100 and 2:20.49 in the 200-yard breaststroke.

In long course, he was equally strong, setting two world records, a 1:14.80 for the 100-meter event and a 2:46.31 over 200 meters. Both times were faster than most men his age can swim freestyle. In short course meters, it was more of the same. Strand set four world records, four national records and enjoyed four number one rankings.

published in Swim magazine, May-June, 2002

It was a banner year for Strand who owns all the breaststroke—and the 100 IM —national and world records in the 50-54 age group. Strand appears to be several generations ahead of his competitors, as some of his 1996 records clocked faster than his own 45-49 records. Consider this: he lowered the 100-yard breast national record from 1:05.29 to 1:01.87; sliced more than three seconds from the long course 100 with a time of 1:12.38; and shattered the 200-meter breast by over 10 seconds—all three faster than his own 45-49 records.

Strand is also a solid freestyler and IM-er and says he would like to try a little more backstroke next year, his original stroke as an age grouper. "Talk is cheap, but I'm really kind of thinking maybe I'll swim a little less breaststroke next year. I'm thinking, too, maybe next year I won't enter breaststroke at nationals, but I can see myself going there and going nuts that I didn't enter." Well, the competition surely won't mind. But Strand says that's the benefit of Masters. "Sometimes you can just take a year and do a whole bunch of different things."

Strand swam as an age grouper through high school, but due to what he called "some disruptions," dropped out of college swimming. "I bet I swam a total of three laps between 1970 and 1990." Strand only returned to the water in 1990, and he has been on a steady climb ever since. "It's been pretty amazing," he says. "I've been swimming faster every year, and I think I'll swim faster this year than last." Strand says it's ironic that his breaststroke was so successful in 1996, considering he hadn't started swimming it seriously until 1991.

Strand trains pretty consistently throughout the year, topping off at 20,000 yards a week plus weights. We can only imagine what the future holds for this relatively recent Masters returnee.

by Lee Nessel , published in SWIM magazine, March-April 1997

Robert Strand lives in Santa Rosa, California and swims for The Olympic Club.