This super sprinter prepares for excellent flip turns as well as poor ones
Practice, practice, practice. It’s a mantra that transcends sport into almost every aspect of life. Abbey Weitzeil knows the importance of practicing many important components of swimming even after she feels she has perfected them. This is how she’s become a two-time Olympian and NCAA champion.
Weitzeil will represent the United States in the 50 and 100 freestyle in the Olympics and will likely be a part of several relays. In her 100s, there’s only one flip turn, but Weitzeil knows that it can make or break a race.
“I put a lot of emphasis on turns,” Weitzel says. “Coming out of college [at the University of California, Berkeley], we spent a lot of time on turns because short course is mostly turns.”
Get Over Quick
Weitzeil says a crucial part of executing a great flip turn is “learning to get your hips over quick,” another way of saying that it’s important to make the rotation as fast as possible. Many swimmers only focus on getting their feet over quickly, which might not set up a good push off the wall. Creating your rotation from your hips, Weitzeil says, gets your entire body to rotate better and generates better momentum for your push.
Sprinters create a large wave that they carry into the turn, and in many instances, that wave can almost completely stop your speed if your push-off is too shallow. Weitzeil works on positioning her body on the wall so she can push off under the wave and keep her speed into her first stroke.
Most elite swimmers know how many dolphin kicks to execute on their push-off in order to maintain speed into the first stroke. Weitzeil says she never counts her dolphin kicks because she doesn’t go the maximum allowed distance of 15 meters underwater. Her average kick count is four to five after the turn, which she practices often.
“Learning the motion of the kick is important,” she says. “Learning to kick up, not just down, is very important.”
Plan for a Bad Turn
Most swimmers remember a poorly executed turn in a race, which probably affected the remainder of their race.
“Having a bad turn really sucks, especially in a sprint race,” Weitzeil says. “We practice what to do when you miss a turn, particularly getting your speed back right away. Practicing that in training will help.”
It’s crucial to learn from the bad flip turns as much as you learn from good flip turns. An elite athlete can go into immediate crisis mode after a bad flip turn and will do what’s necessary to lessen the damage.
“You can’t expect to nail (a turn) perfectly in a race,” Weitzeil says. “You have to practice having the awkward stroke or being too far from the wall. Just try to reiterate what you do in practice, so when you get into a race you don’t have to think about it.”
- Technique and Training