Developing Stephanie Rice by Michael Bohl (2009)


INTRODUCTION: My name is Coach Bill Rose and I am the outgoing President of the ASCA. I have the pleasure today of introducing our first speaker and it indeed is a pleasure. This young man, Michael Bohl, was the ”2008 Australian Coach of the Year.” To be the coach of the year in Australia you have got to be somebody. We are really, really excited to have him. He is the coach of Stephanie Rice. She is a Gold medal winner in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. 3 time World Record Holder. He will be talking about her today as well, but he doesn’t stop there, he had three other Olympians. He is going to probably correct me because there are probably more, but he had Nick Sprenger, Meagen Nay (a finalist in the 200 backstroke) and Kenrick Monk who is an up and coming and already there 200 freestyler, sprinter, etc. It doesn’t stop there though; he is also an open water coach. He has coached two world champions in the 25K. One being Brendan Capell and another the other Josh Santacaterina. Both were World Champions in 2004, 2005, 2007. He has coached an Olympian in the triathlon in Athens. He has been the Olympic coach in 2008. Was on the staff of the 2007 World Championships in Melbourne. His real claim to fame, he told me this morning, was being able to swim for Bob Steele at Southern Illinois, back in the day. Please welcome Michael Bohl.

MICHAEL: Well, good morning everyone. Thank you very much for that nice introduction Bill. It is a pleasure to be here. I almost wasn’t here. I got in last night at 8 o’clock, went to bed at 10:30. I thought I would be up this morning at about 6 or 7 to try and prepare a little bit better for this lecture. I looked at my alarm clock and it was 7:47 am, so I have had to make the mad mercy dash into the shower and down here, but I finally made it. It is very, very nice to be here.

Has anyone ever flown from Australia before? It is a long way away. It is about 13 hours from Brisbane to L.A. and then another 5 hours to get to here. It was quite a long way and I am actually leaving tomorrow. I have sort of spent a long time away from home this year. Having been overseas quite a bit. I think 11 weeks was the last I worked out. I am trying to spend as much time, as I can, back at my program. I am going to fly back tomorrow afternoon about 5 o’clock to make it on pool deck on Monday morning at 5.

Just to kick off with, obviously Australia and the U.S. has been a very friendly rivalry there for the last twenty or so years. We have a lot of respect for U.S. coaches. Obviously the number one nation in the world. You are everything that all the other swimming nations are trying to look up to. You are very much a source of motivation for a lot of other coaches out there in the world trying to emulate your performances. As Bill mentioned, my first association in the states was back in 1991-1992. I spent a couple of years with Bob Steele at Southern Illinois. Bob, in those years, had a very extensive program. I think there were two American swimmers and there were about 37 foreign athletes on the team. There were swimmers from South America, England, and Sweden, etc., Bob, as Bob always does, we had a fantastic time at the University. It really gave me a great sense of what swimming in the U.S. was like over here. A lot of competition, a lot of competing and a lot of weekend travel. I can remember going to my first meets on one of the school aircrafts. It was one of those old 1962 American airplanes. You had to walk in and as you walked in you had to walk up. It was like an old B-52 bomber and we flew to South Carolina. I saw my life flash before my eyes about three or four times when we were flying in.

Last year I came to the ASCA clinic and it was a fantastic time, listening to the people that were lecturing. I was very honored to be asked by John Leonard to come here today. Beijing, just sort of returning back to Beijing, it seems like it was years ago now, but really just a little over 12 months ago. Every week I look up to the heavens and just blow God a kiss for what happened to my group in Beijing. We had some fantastic results, but it quite easily could have gone the other way there. I said at the Australian Coach’s Clinic back in May, that I thought Kirsty Coventry was probably the most unlucky female athlete competing at the Olympics in Beijing. When you have a look at her performances, she broke the world record on four occasions. Both medleys and the 100 backstroke and then the 200 backstroke which is the one she won. But quite easily she could have been the person having the outstanding meet and Stephanie might have got silvers in everything. I really thank the Lord up there for what happened. What I would like to do is just speak a little bit about Beijing and just to try and set the scene a little bit. I have got a 4 minute slide show that just encapsulates a fair bit of Beijing. Just to take everyone back there a bit, but just to describe Beijing sort of fairly briefly to you guys that haven’t been to an Olympics. It was a fantastic place. The people there were absolutely great hosts. The pool, the water cube was sensational. One of the best aquatic facilities that I have been to in the world, fantastic atmosphere. The pollution was a little bit rough. It was pretty hard to cope with that.

I think the Australian team, we are a very, very close group of coaches. We actually had to share an apartment. There were 5 people sharing an apartment. You have all probably seen Ken Wood. Ken Wood was the coach of Jessica Schipper. He coached Leisel Jones, when she first broke world records. He is a very, very famous coach in Australia. Ken is in his high 70’s, almost 80, so, Ken got his own room in the apartment. Stephen Widmar who coached Libby Trickett at the time, was in there sharing with Ian Pope. Vince Raleigh and I had to share a room together and we had a little bit of a problem with the plumbing in our room. I think over in Beijing, all of the water and all of the sewage go into one pot. It all seemed to come down to our room, so we had a little bit of a problem. There was always a mad scramble to the toilets every morning. The catch cry amongst the Australians was every lunch and dinner. We tried to get stuck into the Peking Duck over there. The Peking Duck was fantastic and my roommate, Vince Raleigh, he is a very dry guy, came in on the third day and said “Bohl, I know that you had to go into the bathroom after me, but there is a smell in there that is going to outlast religion.” “Give yourself about 10 minutes and then go in.” Every morning we would try and set the alarm 5 minutes before the other person to try and get in there on time. That is actually a true story.

What I will do is just run through this power point display. There is a guy on the Australian team called Laurie Lawrence, who is one my old coaches, as well. He was on the Olympic Team in ’84 with Jon Seiben winning gold and ‘88 with Duncan Armstrong winning Gold. In ’92, he did not have a very successful ’92, but every Olympics since he has gone along to the Olympics as the Australian team motivator. Not just for swimming, but for all the sports. It is his role to try and keep everyone upbeat. What he does, he goes around with a camera and takes a lot of photos. He also spends a lot of time at night and through the morning motivating people. So just sit back and just have a look at Beijing again in pictures. (Video playing)

Okay, so you can see there are a lot of memories. I think one of the greatest things that I got to witness at the Olympics was obviously looking at Michael Phelps’s swims. I think that Bob Bowman did a fantastic job preparing Michael’s 17 swims over 8 days. I think what a lot of people did not realize, is not only the physical that is the hard bit when you are going to these big meets like the Olympics, but it is also the mental side of things. Having to keep getting athletes up day after day after day. It is such a hard thing to do. To just exemplify that, before the Olympics, I had only been to one Olympics prior to that in 1992 in Barcelona as a coach. I just assumed you prepare someone, you get them ready and they race and they hopefully make a final, get a medal and you go on to the next day. However, so many things go wrong when you are at the competition.

At the Olympics, at the very first session, it was the 400 medley and Stephanie had not had any injuries, had not been sick, all the way through the last six months coming into the Olympics. We get to the Olympic heats and she is warming up. She has done about half an hour in the warm-up pool and she stopped to put her feet on the bottom of the pool and said, “Bohl, I have got a bit of a sore shoulder. It is just starting to get a little bit sore” and I just said to myself, “this is, you know I am thinking to myself – this is the Olympic Games, things are not supposed to go wrong here.” Obviously you do not communicate that to your swimmer. “Oh that is okay Steph, you probably just slept on it a bit funny this afternoon.” Let’s go ahead and see the physio for a couple of minutes. He will sort it out and then we will get you back in again. So, we did that. She got in again, swam the heat, got through that okay and the next morning at the finals, she has done about twenty minutes in the warm-up pool and all of a sudden the shoulder was twice as bad as it was yesterday so I am thinking to myself, she is going to race in about an hour’s time and I have got a little panic going through my head. I am trying to keep myself as calm as I possibly can. She has gotten up on the physio table. The physio has manipulated it and she has got up and says, “it is no better” so I panicked a little bit more, and Tom O at this stage has come over to see what was wrong. “Oh nothing Tom,” she has just got a little bit of a niggle and she has gotten back in and swam the 400 medley final in the end and won that which was good.

The next day was the 200 medley heat. She got through that okay. 200 medley semi… started to get a little bit of a ticklish throat and then the final came up in the morning. I think it was on about a Tuesday morning and I had my other swimmer that was on the team, Meagen Nay, doing a warm-up. She wanted to get in and warm up before the final’s warm-up started. She had heats of the 200 backstroke that night. I am in there warming up Meagen about two hours before the swimming, before the start of finals. We are doing a main set and all of a sudden Ian Pope, Grant Hackett’s coach, has come over to me. He said, “Bohl, you are not going to like this, but Stephanie is over in the massage area crying on the doctor’s shoulder. I thought to myself, “Pope, get out of here,” I am trying to warm this kid up because I thought he was only kidding and he said, “No, I am serious.” So, I looked across and she has got her head on the doctor’s shoulder. so I have seen Tom O, our National Head Coach and I have given him my stop watches and told him what to do with Meagen.

I have gone over to Stephanie, pulled her away from the doctor, pulled her into a room and I just couldn’t stop her crying and after about five or ten minutes I am looking at my watch thinking we have only got an hour and 20 minutes until the 200 medley final is on. I couldn’t calm her down to work out what was wrong. After about 5 or 10 minutes she slowed down and what it was, was she had just started to get sick and she felt in her own mind that the 200 medley was the race that she was expected to win. That was the one that she was the World Record Holder in. The 400 Medley obviously with Katie being the World Record Holder, I guess the emphasis was more on her, but for the 200 she felt like it was her race and she felt in her own mind that she was not ready to swim at her very, very best because of this tickle in the back of her throat and a stuffed up nose.

So, I am thinking of stories that I can relate to her about things that have happened in the past and I thought now I won’t tell her any good football stories. I will try and think of a swimming related story. I told her the one about 1994 about Daniel Kowalski. In ’94 in Rome at the World Championships, he had vomiting and diarrhea. The doctor’s said he couldn’t swim. To cut a long story short he hopped up and swam, got a silver medal. He did his best ever time and never ever went faster than that 1500 Meter time in the next six or seven years that he swam. Stephanie looked across and she said, yeah, so? I said “Stephanie, on the Richter Scale of 1-10, 1 being nothing and 10 being Krakatoa about to erupt, you are about a 4 or a 5.” “Daniel Waiski was about a 9. She had trouble in her own mind working that out, but we ended up calming her down. She went on to swim quite well in that race as well.

I think it is a misapprehension of a lot of people that things don’t go wrong. Things go wrong all the time. I have just got a couple of slides that I wanted to run through you in talking about Stephanie. The very first slide is where it really all began for Stephanie. She joined my program in 2003, so she currently has been with me for six years. The very first summer preparation that I had her for was this preparation here and you can see it is the Australian Age Championships in Brisbane. I am a very big believer in trying to motivate people that are very visual through doing up things like this. It is just a little slide depicting the girl that is the fastest girl in the World currently that Yana Klochkova, back in the year 2005. It is a bit of a roadmap if you like, for the next four years of what Stephanie would have to do to improve if she wanted to get up to that level. Looking at that slide she swam at that meet 2:18 and you can see Yana Klochkova’s time is 2:10.

It is really just setting a roadmap for Stephanie, looking at the splits. Looking at the overall time of the swimmer that is swimming fastest in the world and what she had to do over the next four years. It is something that is very, very simple, but I think it is something that is important that we do with all of our swimmers that are in my top squad at the start of every season. Trying to set the roadmap, looking at the people that you are going to be up against, looking at their strengths and looking at their weaknesses. I think with Stephanie, this is the thing that really clicked into gear. That she had to do to try and bridge the gap between her and the other girls.

The next slide here is just an improvement chart going from 2005 through to 2009. What I have included in that improvement chart is that Stephanie does not swim a lot of breaststroke in competition. She does a lot in training, but not in competitions. If you just look through the years, the 100 butterfly is on the top level there. As a 17 year old, 59.1, moving down to this year going 57.6 at our trials. You can see the steady improvement. However, in 2007, the 100 fly went up a little bit and in 2008 it came down. 100 backstroke, working across 64.00 down to 61.1. The 100 freestyle, 59.7 and Stephanie really came to me as a 15 year old. She was a real 100 meter fly and a 100 meter backstroker.

What I did when she first came to the program was just analyze and have a look at her strengths and her weaknesses. She had not swum a lot of medleys. I think her best for the 400 medley back in 2003 when she came across was 5:12. She wasn’t showing a lot of promise in that event, but it was an event that I thought she had the capabilities of going very well in. You can see the 200 medley, 2:17 obviously down to 2:11 now. The 400 medley 4:46 down to 4:32. The really big improvement I think came, and if you have a look in the medleys, specifically in 2007 to 2008 and that is really where I wanted to talk to a lot about today. The preparation of the 12 months, just an overview of the preparation of the 12 months coming into both our Olympic selection trials and on to the Olympic Games. You have a look at the 200 medley. 2:11.42 was the time that she did in Melbourne to get the Bronze medal.

Twelve months later at her trials in March ‘08 she dropped down right about 3 seconds in the 200 medley. I think part of it was the LZR suit. Coming in February of 2008 was the first occasion she got to use that new LZR suit in the 400 medley in 2007 of March at the World Championships in Melbourne where she actually went 4:41. I think it was to place third in the 400 medley and at the Olympics in Beijing, 12 months later, 4:29.4. So you can see a fairly big improvement there. Just looking at the World Championships, I think we learned some lessons from the World Championships in Melbourne and those three lessons were specifically that Stephanie’s starts and turns had to improve. They are better. They are still not fantastic.

I think if we have to look at a person that competed at the World Championships in Rome and did a great job with the starts and turns it was Ariana Cooke who was just absolutely unbelievable off the walls. However, Stephanie is improving in that area. We thought her breaststroke had to improve, but also her strategic development. We had to come up or formulate a plan in March or post-March 2007 that was going to try and take her all the way through to doing something special at the Olympics.

This is a comparison that we had done up. We had people from our Academy of Sport and from Swimming Australia that do comparisons. On this occasion, what we did was we just did a comparison of the 400 medley from the World Championships in Melbourne specifically in the areas that are highlighted. There are areas that the #1 swimmer in the world at the time, Katie Hoff was doing exceptionally well and the areas we thought that Stephanie really had to improve.

If you have a look at the first box at the top up there, what that time there, is an accumulation of the starts, turns and finish. If you separate the starts, turns and finishes so all of the skills. You look at those as a separate entity and then have a look at the free swimming speed you can see that Katie Hoff is far superior to Stephanie in the starts, turns and finishes. Something like three seconds over the course of one dive and seven turns, Katie Hoff is three seconds superior to Stephanie so it is something that we really had to focus on close to the World Championships in March for Stephanie to improve. Of course if you look at the free swimming time, there is about a 5 second difference. Katie accumulates 193 seconds of swimming. Stephanie, 198, so there is about a 5 seconds difference between the two and there is around about 3 seconds difference in starts, turns and finishes. The second box on the bottom is the breaststroke leg. Katie was amazing in Melbourne.

I personally didn’t think Steph would get anywhere near Katie come the Olympics looking at how superior Katie was at the Melbourne World Championships. There is a difference of about 6 seconds just in the breaststroke leg. Katie split 1:15.5. Stephanie 1:21.6. The really amazing thing about Katie in that race is, if you half her 100 meter split which gives you right about 37.7 for a 50. In the 200 medley split her breaststroke was about 37.3 to 37.2. Katie Hoff in Melbourne – there wasn’t a lot of difference in the swimming velocity between the 400 medley and the 200 medley which is just totally amazing.

What I want you to do now if I can get this going, is just give you a look at some of the technical changes and there are only very small snippets of video that we tried to change with Stephanie in her breaststroke. We tried to get her swimming a little bit faster. This is taken at our home pool at St. Peter’s. We had video people coming in once every couple of weeks and working with us. We would usually pick maybe a Friday morning as a recovery session. we would have someone from the QIS come in and actually work with our kids to try and get them a little bit better in this regard.

If you just watch Stephanie’s technique here. She has almost a butterfly action through the catch of the stroke at this point in time and the other thing we tried to fix. There were two other things, we thought that her hands as she was recovering forward that there was too much of a gap between the hands, so as her legs were driving her arms forward. There was too much frontal resistance so we tried to tidy that up through getting her hands closer together and as I said up there that you can just watch her hands there as she is driving forward. There is too much gap between them and also with the hands, trying to increase the outward press of the stroke, therefore increasing the power phase of the stroke a little bit. The third thing that we brushed up a little bit before this as well was Stephanie’s breaststroke kick. We just felt with her breaststroke kick she was channeling her feet on too wide an arc so we tried to narrow the kick up so we had the power phase of the kick working over a smaller surface area. So looking for the hands being too far apart and not much of an outward press on the breaststroke stroke.

This is the comparison. This was taken at the training camp that we had just prior to going away to the Olympics. You can see from this one, the change in her technique. There is a little bit wider outward press through the front of the stroke. The hand is a little bit tighter on the recovery part forward. Just a subtle little change. I thought it was something that was quite significant in Stephanie moving forward with the breaststroke. I think knowing that you have got a problem is the first thing that you have got to identify. Then you have got to try and come up with the roadmap how you are going to improve.

Stephanie is a very visual person. Her seeing the video footage of it was very important so. That is what we did in training. We used to set it up where we had the person come in, we would video, we would pull her straight out of the pool. We would show her and as soon as she saw herself she would be able to make those necessary adjustments straight away. Looking at some of the key points in the World’s preparation if we go back to March 2007 was where Katie Hoff was very dominant in both the 400 and the 200 medley. After that, we had an International meet in Chiba, Japan and at that meet Stephanie moved her 400 medley down from 4:41 which she did in Melbourne at the Worlds to 4:37. So she dropped 4 seconds. September to December was when she got back from the International Meet in Chiba. I sat down with her and we came up with a bit of a plan as to how we were going to try and get her closer to the medals. We were not even talking about winning, but we were trying to talk about getting her into a podium winning performance at the Olympics the following August. From September to December what we worked out, what I wanted to do was put her in with my distance swimmers so each week she was accumulating somewhere between 70 and 75 kilometers a week and ten swimming sessions. If we work that out, it is right about 7 kilometers a session, 2 weight sessions that were done weekly.

For the weight sessions Stephanie has got a personal trainer that works with her. With our age group swimmers we do gym as a group. As they get older around 17 or 18 years of age what we do is we have them working in smaller groups and they go to a personal trainer. I just feel they get a lot more out of it when they do that and they feel it is a little bit special.

Rather than the whole group doing it together they do ten swimming sessions a week together so for the gym we farm them out to different people. Three dry land training sessions, which is a combination of medicine ball, body weight exercises weekly. There are two to three stair runs that I think were very beneficial for Stephanie.

Stephanie has got a female shape. She puts on weight quite easily. She was about 4 kilos overweight at the World Championships that we just had in Rome. She has been having a little bit of trouble getting that weight off, but it is slowly starting to come. The last bit I have written there is recovery on demand. I know a lot of people with their programming, the swimmers do things in different ways. I believe with middle distance swimmers and distance swimmers, rather than put a whole week recovery in, I think a lot of those guys have recovered after two or three days. The middle distance kids have got very good recuperative powers.

What normally happens if we give them a whole week recovery… you get to choose their Wednesday. I get a little bit bored watching them swim slowly and I can see they are squirting water at each other, hitting each other over the back of the head. The distance swimmers look like they have recovered to me so, I start working them a little bit harder again. My middle distance and distance swimmers work more on a recovery on demand. What we want to do after two or three weeks is pretty hard work. Monday through to Wednesday we might do recovery and then by the Thursday we are ready to get going again.

The second part of this preparation was from January through to March. Our season is obviously reversed to the U.S. January to March for us is the end of summer, so I guess it would be like your August. We had our selection trials in March and from the January to March period you can see the weekly volume drop down to 50-55. The plan was to get a lot of longer stuff into Stephanie’s preparation from September to December, not losing sight of the fact that we wanted to keep the speed going as well so even though she was going 70-75 K a week from September to December. She was still doing a fair bit of quality work in there as well. It wasn’t about just doing all short rest, aerobic stuff. There was certainly a big element of that. There was also quality stuff that was thrown in and what I did from January to March was we reduced the kilometers down to 50 to 55 K a week. We did one less swimming session a week. She was averaging around 6 kilometers a session.

Friday afternoon was the session that she normally would take off. If you look through the weekdays, Monday through Friday, she had Wednesday morning off. We would also give them the Friday afternoon off. Two weight sessions weekly and four dry land, but we increased that a little bit. We kept the running going with her, once again, to try and address those weight issues and the recovery on demand. What we really saw through this period from September through to March was we keep a very close eye on Stephanie’s skin fold and weight.

We have got someone from our Academy of Sport that comes out to our program every three weeks and does skin folds. When you have a look at the weight and skin fold, her weight came down about 2 or 3 kilograms. Which is maybe about ten pounds, from September through to March. I think doing that really high volume work that we did from September through December really contributed greatly in her losing that. I think to girls it is very important that their self-image is up high. I also I think as her shape started to change a little bit she started to get a little bit more confident with things as well.

Moving on from there, we had the Olympic trials in March 2008 where she got the 200 medley and 400 medley world records. I can still remember the Trials. It emulated the Olympic program exactly. She looked great in the heats of the 400 medley. I think she went 4:36 or a 4:35 looking fairly comfortable. I was hoping for maybe a 4:32 or a 4:33 trying to get down close to what Katie did in Melbourne. I can still remember standing on the edge of the pool watching the 400 medley and I think she turned in something like 2:11. I was thinking to myself, why in the hell is she going out this fast. She is going to die, but she didn’t die. She kept going and going and going. After the race, I just stood there staring blankly at the end of the pool. I wasn’t even excited. I was just in disbelief that she had actually broken the world record.
It is the first swimmer that I have ever coached do it and it was a good feeling. Well I can’t remember, but I think it was pretty good. She looked pretty excited too though.

Now the next block of preparation was from April to August. I am going to actually go through to give you an idea of what we did through a week. I am sure that there are people out there that are thinking what did they specifically do. I am going to give you a snapshot of training. We can go through a few things. This is just an overview. I post the trials through the Olympics from April to August. We took her weekly volume back up to 60 to 70 kilometers a week. That was an average of about 6 to7 kilometers a session. We went back up to 10 sessions a week. I took her back down to 9 sessions a week. It is amazing how much better they feel when you just drop that one little session. She likes doing 9 sessions a week, but she also does a lot of extra things in there as well like Pilates, spin classes, etc., etc.

One of the big things I think was instrumental to watch Stephanie achieve at the Olympics and we were very, very lucky. I have got to give “Tom O” a rap here. Alan Thompson, I sort of sold him the idea that in this preparation from April to August, the thing we were lacking in Australia was competitions that went for more than two days. The Olympics was a 5-day meet for us because she had the medleys at the start. It was the 400 medley and then the 200 medley and then the relay after that so she was racing the five days so what I wanted to do was to try and find two meets back to back. We did that going over to Europe to the Mare Nostrum Tour. We did a meet in Rome that went for three days and then we had one day of traveling and there was a two-day meet. We went on the back of that to a meet in Barcelona so that simulated very, very closely to what Stephanie had to do when she got to Beijing.

I wanted to throw something extra in there so the line and you can see at the bottom that we had a pre-meet camp before we went over to the Mare Nostrum Series. For nine days prior to that I wanted to beat Stephanie up a little bit for about 7 or 8 days. We wanted to try and get her into a reasonably uncomfortable situation coming into these series of meets. So, what we did was we flew from Brisbane through Europe, which took us about 24 hours to get there to Paris, and then we had to catch another plane to Nice. That was another two to three hours and then we had to catch a bus for about an hour down to San Rafael. So, it was a pretty extensive travel. We got there the day actually, but the next day we went a little bit easy. I didn’t want to kill them entirely so we went two 5K, pretty much recovery sessions from the trip. Then for the next week she did about 7 to 7.5 kilometers a session, but the sessions were really, really tough, really tough, you know, quite grueling. I had my other two athletes on the trip as well; Nicholas Springer and Meagan Nay. We hired some lanes at the pool and just worked really, really hard. We got to the Tuesday. Now the meet in Rome started on the Friday. It was a Friday, Saturday, Sunday meet. The English were there as well. We flew out on the Thursday.

On the Tuesday afternoon after the 7.5 K session I was going back on the bus after the pretty hard training session. I said guys, “we are going back. “We need your running shoes and during the day I had done some reconnaissance. I found the highest mountain I could find in San Rafael. I said, “we are going to run to the top of this mountain and back.” It was about 300 steps to the top so we run up. They are all quite excited about it, surprisingly enough. We ran up to the top of the mountain. I did it with them. You would not think so, looking at me, but I did struggle through it. We got to the top then went down to the bottom. When we got to the bottom, Stephanie was in the lead. She turned around to go again and Meghan Nigh and I looked at each other and rolled our eyes and went, “Oh God.” So we did it again, got to the bottom, she has turned around again. She has done four 300 steps up and 300 steps down. It took us around about 50 to 60 minutes to do this, but I think it sort of gave me a really good insight into the type of person Stephanie was at that stage.

Looking at the training she did coming into Beijing, at the training pool as well, we did those hard dry land sessions. She would do a training session after it and then there were some sessions there, where she felt she was starting to lose a bit of strength. She would say to me, “can you stick around and do a bit of extra dry land training with me?” I would say, “righty oh.” I would say “how long do you want to do?” “Half an hour.” After about an hour and 15 minutes she was quite content with what she had done. She is one of those people that just fixates on something. Stephanie gets her mind stuck into something, she is very, very hard to pull off on something.

That training camp that we did, we had to hobble onto the plane on Thursday to go over to Rome for that first meet. That meet really physically and mentally toughened up Stephanie so that she was able to encounter anything negative that was going to happen to her at the meet.

This is an example of a typical week in Stephanie’s preparation just prior to the Olympics. If you look at the course of a week, what we traditionally do on a Monday morning is a descend series of 300’s. These are just examples. I try and not do the same sets all the time. I try and mix it around so the example I have used there on the Monday morning is a series of 9 x 300’s on 4:30. These are all long course meters and what we do on those is we descend the 300’s one to three so the first one is comfortable, the second one faster and the third one faster again and the descend would descend within the descend so the ninth one should be the quickest. The sixth one should be a little bit slower than that and the third one should be a little bit slower than that so for example the first one might be 3:45 – 3:35 – 3:25 – 3:40 – 3:30 – 3:20, etc., etc.

The best on a series that Stephanie has done was she has pushed a 3:11 on the last 300. Which is quite good in a pair of nylons at the end of a set like that. Other examples that we sometimes might do; it might be three 4’s, three 3’s, three 2’s, three 1’s, once again where we descend 1-3. I just figure that they are out of the water on Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday. When they come back in the water on Monday they can be a bit rusty. The Monday morning session is to help get them ready to the pretty solid set they have got Monday afternoon.

If you look at the overall picture of the week. We do four main sets Monday afternoon, Tuesday afternoon, Thursday afternoon, Saturday morning. I think when I first started coaching I had too much hard work at the front of the week and the swimmers were getting through to Wednesday or Thursday and they were falling in a heap Friday and Saturday. If you look at the course of a sixteen week or a twenty week preparation, I think the swimmers were putting together 16 half weeks or 16 ¾ weeks. What I tried to do with my weekly patterning now is I have tried to balance out the main sets. Making sure the kids are getting in enough recovery. So, they are able to put the whole week together strongly. I like to see them finishing off the week with a very solid session on Saturday morning.

Monday afternoon we would normally go a threshold type set. Different coaches will call these different things and I am fully aware of that. What we call threshold work is work where they are working around at that 20-30 beats below their maximum heart rate. They are working at pretty solid intensity. The main set I have written there is 4 x 100’s and a 200. That is the block of work so 600 meters of work followed by a hundred easy and we work through that 4 times.

We should work through a set of each stroke so the first 4 x 100’s would be all fly, the 200 would be a hundred butterfly, a hundred backstroke. She is switching the strokes and then we go a hundred easy. Then she would go the next set, 4 x 100’s backstroke followed by a 200 where she went 100 backstroke to a hundred breaststroke. She was able to hold reasonably solid times working through that set. We didn’t always do them that way. Sometimes on the 4 x 100’s she might go 2 x 100’s butterfly, 2 x 100’s backstroke and then the 200(100 fly and a hundred back). Sometimes she might go 4 x 100’s, 100 fly, 100 back, 100 breast, 100 free and the 200 usually she would go 100 fly to 100 backstroke, changing it around. I think kids can get a little bit bored doing the same thing all the time. It is pretty important to try a variety.

The idea behind the blocks of 600 meters of threshold is important that when we are doing these small blocks that they are doing at least their race distance. For someone like Stephanie who is competing in the 400 medley, doing a 600 meter block of work gives them the confidence to be able to swim a good 400. If you can hold good strength and good power for 600 meters and doing it 4 times through, you are getting quite a good overlay there.

We back up the next morning (Tuesday) and do a medley set. I haven’t written it in, if you want to write this set out. This is one of the stop sets that we used to do. We used to go a 2400 meter set and usually we will do it in blocks of 800 meters so what we do the first set; it might be 4 x 50 of butterfly, 2 x 100’s of backstroke, 4 x 50 of breaststroke and then 2 x 100’s of freestyle. A set of 50’s of fly, the 2 x 100’s of backstroke, each adds up to 200 meters. Going through the four strokes is 800 and then we would reverse it up on the next set. The 100’s we would do fly, 2 x 100’s fly, 4 x 50 of backstroke, 2 x 100’s of breaststroke and then 4 x 50 freestyle. Usually the third set I would give her the choice of doing either one of those, giving her the confidence to be able to hold together strongly either 800 meters. Work that three times through for 2400 meters. This was a good way of getting her confidence up in preparing for the 400 meter medley.

With those we would not look at doing those as intensive swimming. It would be on a short rest interval so she would do all that set on a 45 cycle so the 50’s are fly on 45. The 100’s are backstroke are all 1:30. The 50’s are breaststroke which is quite challenging. On 45’s she would usually have a “Whinge” about that. In the freestyle we would normally put on maybe 40. Just harden that cycle up a little bit so I think the cycle determines the intensity. When you are going the shortest rest type stuff like that, the expectation isn’t on going super fast. It is really on trying to build that strong base up to the 400 medley. The Tuesday afternoon set, was one of the keys in her preparation and how well she did this. I have coached thousands of swimmers over the 22 years I have coached. I have never seen a swimmer that can do the lactate accumulation work the same way that Stephanie does and what we did with Stephanie on the Tuesday afternoon. I am sure coaches call this different things, no matter which country you come from. If we had 20 Sport Scientists in the room you would probably get 20 different opinions on what this sort of work was called. I try and keep it simple so I understand. I think sometimes the more I read, the more confused I get so I just call this lactate accumulation.

What we are trying to do on this type of work I think is we are getting overloaded in three areas 1) We are getting an overload in the volume that we are doing 16 x 50’s. Stephanie is training for a 400 meter or a 200 meter so if you look at the 400, it is double. 16 x 50’s is 800 meters. She is training for the 400, so you are getting an overload there. 2) You are getting an overload in velocity. If you look at Stephanie’s race pace for the 400 medley and the 200 medley, she is swimming at much higher velocities and much faster velocities. When I tell you the times in a minute. 3) she is getting an overload which is lactate.

We always take lactates on these sets. With someone like Stephanie, when she swims the 200 and the 400 medley, her lactate is normally between about 7 and 9 after the race. During these sets of 16 x 50’s on 1:30, Stephanie’s lactate, after 4 would be at about 4, after 8 it would be at about 8, after 12 it would be about 12 and after about 16 it would be up to about 16. She is getting reasonably close to double the amount of lactate in her system that she is going to be experiencing. When she is racing and the thing that stood out really closely to me was that Stephanie, more so than any other swimmer I have coached, was able to maintain that speed all the way through.

To give you an idea of the speeds that she was going on this sort of work. This is all from a push. She would be pushing fly’s 29.3 to 29.2. For backstroke she would go a 31.1 to 31.2. Breaststroke she would go a 36.2 to 36.3 and freestyle she would go 28.1 to 28.2. She would just do that set after set after set and she would try and mix it up a little bit so she might go 4 medley order. 8 where she went two of each and then finish up with 4 medley order. The next week we do it she might go 4 fly, 4 back, 4 breast, 4 free. She needs to keep stimulated. If she keeps doing the same thing the same way she gets very, very stale. I think 1:30 is a good cycle to do it on. We have tried her on 2 minutes before. We sometimes swim on 2 minutes to vary it up, but obviously the rest cycle determines how fast the swimmer works at.

If I was to give this set of 16 x 50 on the minute, there is no way that the swimmers would be able to hold the same sorts of velocities that she is holding. I think those sets are very, very good. They are obviously sets that you have got to build up to. We might go 8 x 50’s, then we will go up to 12, then we will go up to 16 and then we will go up to 20. 24 is the furthest we have gone, but we have only had 2 people in the squad that can go all the way to 24. We will come back down as we get closer to the meet. So, before the World Championships that we just had in Rome, I can remember we started with 12. We went to 16, we went to 20, we went down to 16 and we went down to 12 the following week and we went down to 8, as we got closer to the meet. So, we start small. Building up to a high point and then we come down.

Wednesday morning we follow that up with passive rest. That is we don’t swim, we have a sleep in. In the afternoon we normally go a pull-kick set. The example I have given there is a set of 30 x 100. While I like going from arms to legs, I think it is good; we have also done this sometimes as a swim-kick set so you know if you want to vary it up. It is one swim, one kick, two swim, two kick, three swim, three kick, four swim, four kick, five swim, five kick. What we do on this is we reduce the cycles down, so on the smaller numbers, the one and one, we go 1:30 and 2:00, but the 2 and 2 we drop to 1:25 and 1:55. For the 3 and 3 we go 1:20 and 1:50. For the 4 and 4 we go 1:15 and 1:45 and for the 5 and 5 we go 1:10 and 1:40 so it is a pretty challenging set. When we have a group of 20 or 30 swimmers working through this set, it can be quite good to see them doing it. That is the Wednesday afternoon, pretty aerobic in nature.

Thursday morning, we go straight groups and mixed drills so all we do is a 2000 warm-up. Then, we put the butterfliers in 1 & 2, the backstrokers in 3 & 4. The breaststrokers over here, the freestylers here. We normally just work through the stroke drills. I will say, “Stephanie, what stroke do you feel like doing this morning”? She will say “breaststroke.” I will say, “right, go with the breaststrokers. Stephanie will work in with those guys. That is a good way of them really harnessing and focusing in on stroke.

Thursday afternoon we go a combination of lactate reduction and removal. So the series there once again, Steph is very, very good at this kind of work. It is one of the reasons, how well she can usually come home in those 200 and 400 medleys. Just her last 50 is usually really, really good. 4 x 50 hard, the cycles are reducing cycles 1:30, 1:20, 1:10, 1:00. After the fourth one on 1:00, we will go straight into 3 x 100 on the 1:40. On those 3 x 100 will try and be say PB plus 5 seconds. The best for a hundred is 55. She will try and swim that at about 63. Steph, being the competitive person that she is, what you will often see her doing on the 4 x 50 is a great job on those and on the 3 x 100. This is where she holds her own on the 3 x 100, after having pushed a 28 on the last 50. She will get 30 seconds rest and she will go straight into the 3 x 100 and she will go a 63, 62, 60 or a 59 on the last one.

Nicholas Springer, who is one of our representatives, is a 1:47.0 200 meter freestyler I can still remember before Beijing being in the lane beside her and Nicholas was 63, 62, 60 and 59 on the last. I think that someone beside her who is a 1:47 swimmer is swimming the same sort of velocities that she has is just amazing to watch. It is something that I have seen her do quite unlike no other that I have coached before.

Friday morning is swim, kick, pull and is just an aerobic. It might be 300 swim, 200 kick, 300 pull, working through that three or four times. Trying to recover from the hard Thursday night session before. Friday afternoon is aerobic and skills, starts, turns and finishes.

Saturday morning we will do broken swims and we usually work through three of those. I have only got two written up. My 12 year old daughter and I tried to get this power slide going properly. I am a bit of a techno moron if you can’t work it out and we couldn’t fit the third one in. The ones we normally do are things like 8 x 50. What we do on the 8 x 50 is we will dive on the first fly, push all the rest . What I will do on the brokens is give them a reduction in cycle on every second one. So, the first 50 fly will be on the minute. The second 50 of fly we will do on 50 so they are getting less rest on the change of stroke and what she is going to do on this set is try and hold race pace or faster. So, do you all follow that? Sixty and then the second fly is on 50. Putting a little bit more demand on them. The first backstroke is on the minute. The second backstroke is on 50. The first breaststroke is on the minute. The second breaststroke on 50, etc. So that is a good way of putting pressure on their change of stroke. I think people are very good at doing medley work in isolation, but the key to swimming I.M. is being able to transition the strokes from one to the other.

Leading into the next one. What we do on that one is we go a 50, then 3 x 100, then a 50, so it is a 50 fly. On the second broken swim the first 100 will be fly to back so a 50 fly/50 back. The second 100 is 50 back to 50 breast. The third 100 is 50 breast to 50 free. Then we have a 50 freestyle to finish and normally we will do that cycle on the minute base. So, the first 50 fly on the 1:00, each of the 100’s on a 2:00 cycle. The third one, what we will normally do on that one is we will go 8 x 100, where we go one easy 100, one fast 100 and then we just accumulate the times.

It is an easy 100 freestyle, a hard 100 fly, an easy 100 freestyle, a hard hundred backstroke, easy 100 freestyle, a hard hundred breaststroke, easy 100 freestyle and a hard 100 freestyle. We will do those normally on about 2:00. Trying to hit race pace on those. Does everyone follow all of those? That gives you an idea of what we were doing the first four or five weeks, doing more endurance type work and the next 12 weeks we run through this.

I changed the sets up as she went through, but that was pretty much the formula for what we did coming in. What I have done here, this is a slide from the Olympics. This has not been done all that well, but what I have done is that I have asterisked there. If you have a look there at the bottom of that first section. The starts, turns and finishes and you can see the improvement. If you compare the starts, turns and finishes on Stephanie’s Olympics, 37.86, so this is the 200 medley, not the 400 medley.

At the World Championships 12 months before she was 39. I think that is 65 so it was about a second and a half better on just one start and three turns. The comparison we had earlier on in the talk was the 400 medley. You can see she improved quite markedly. I think part of that was the new suit, but I think also a big part of it was the work that we were doing in training on that.

The very interesting thing that we note here. If you have a look at Kirsty Coventry, this is something very, very important tonight. When you look at this race, if you look at free swimming time – so take away the starts, turns and finishes, her time, I think it says 89.8. Is that right? You guys with glasses? 89.8? Stephanie’s time was 90.5 so the person that swam the fastest at the Olympics in the 200 medley was Kirsty. What lost the race for Kirsty, when you have a look at the analysis was the starts and the turns. I sort of wasn’t aware of that until I prepared for this talk. So, I really thank you guys for allowing me to say that.

I didn’t realize that by looking at the results, that Kirsty was actually the fastest swimmer in that 200 medley. So I think it is a very good lesson for you to learn as a coach, if you do see that sort of analysis. (Question from the audience) The question was: how do you calculate that? What the sports scientists normally do is they take out for the start 15 meters and for each of the turns I allow 5 meters coming in. I think it is 5 meters coming into the wall so from the flags to the wall. I think I would change it to about 10 meters off. If used to be off at 15 meters, but they felt there was too much swimming in there. What they do for the starts, turns and finishes is allow 15 meters for the start and each of the turns 5 meters into the wall and 10 meters off and that is how they calculate it.

So just in finishing off, I have come to my end here. I think that it is very important that you got good strength at the top. We are very, very lucky in Australia to have Alan Thompson and the Australian team coaches here. You can see in the slide, the smiles on everyone’s faces. I think it is more of relief. This was taken on the last day of the Olympic Games. We were all very, very stressed before that, but I think Alan Thompson has done a great job. Once again, like I said before, if we wouldn’t have had that period of time. I felt very, very strongly in speaking to Stephanie about this. She said the same thing. That camp that we did. That pre-training camp or pre-competition camp that we did in San Rafael. Competing at that meet for five days was one of the key things, I think in Stephanie being able to perform at her very, very best at the Olympic games. I am very much indebted to Alan Thompson for allowing us to do that.

Obviously, the support staff, along the way are very important. In my program we had physiotherapists that work with the kids on a weekly basis. I think it is very, very important. The thing that I think we learned the last 10 years is: it is just so important for the swimmers to obviously train hard. To train hard you have got to recover well. So a very important part of your recovery is making sure the kids are getting massages and physio-treatment on a weekly basis. That allows them to be able to train at the levels that you want them to train at and I think the third important thing in looking at Stephanie’s preparation for the Olympics was the great support that she had through her training program at St. Peter’s.

I know that Stephanie feels very, very strongly about this. There are a lot of high performance programs around the world that have 5 or 6 or 7 swimmers in their groups. I think somebody like Stephanie would not be able to work in a situation like that. I think a very, very important part for her is having the camaraderie and having different training partners to work with on a daily basis. That makes training that much easier. There was a boy in our squad over the last three years, he is getting too fast for Stephanie now, but every time we get to a Monday morning she would single him out. She would say, “Neddie, come beside me” and she would want to swim beside him. Just push each other all the way through on the series. I think having those training partners that you are able to work with on a daily basis in training has been something that has been very, very instrumental in Stephanie’s success.

When I think back to that 200 medley, it was a real struggle between her and Kirsty and Natalie and Katie. Going stroke for stroke all the way. The only place that Stephanie’s hand was on the wall first was the very last stroke. Kirsty was in front for about 199 meters. I think back to those sets of 16 x 50’s that we did in training. You would see invariably Stephanie would be side by side with another boy in training. I would look at the 25 meter mark on the last three or four 50’s of the series and Stephanie would always be a body length behind this one particular swimmer. I would look at 5 meters out of the wall and here comes Stephanie charging down. She would always manage to get her hand on the wall first at the end of every one of those races. It was a really nice surprise for me to see, as a coach, her come up on that last 50 and just fight like a dog and get her hand on the wall first in that 200 medley. She has been a bit of a challenge to work with.

In closing, I believe, she has a great work ethic and a great training ethic. We haven’t seen much of that over the last 12 months, through what she has been doing, but I am sure in the next 12 months she is going to turn a little bit of a corner and come back fighting for Pan-Pac’s next year. I hope you guys all got something out of it.

Does anyone have a couple of questions? Yes, she came to my program in the year 2003. She was working with a guy called Matthew Brown at Brother’s Swimming Club. She was doing a middle distance program there, but she was performing better in the hundred fly and the hundred backstroke at that stage, but she came from a reasonably strong club program. Matthew Brown coaches Emily Seebohm. Emily is a hundred backstroker that got a bronze medal at the World Championships in Rome.

Do you have any other questions? Yes, we had gym training. I think the gym training is important to Stephanie. I think it really gives her a great turn and she feels a lot stronger and a lot better. I think a big reason for her starts and her turns improving was the fact that she was on a gym program.

The gym program was just a very, very general program. There is a lot of core work in it. You know, she was doing chin-ups. She is not a particularly strong swimmer. She has got very long levers, not a great chin-upper, but I think she could do something like 7 chin-ups is probably about the most that someone like her could do, but it was a very, very general program. As I said earlier – a lot of our older swimmers are farmed out to other gym coaches for their dry land programs. They get the program together – they shout it to me and the physiotherapist. What we normally do is we screen our swimmers for a physio and the physio in consultation with the gym coach get together and work out the gym program specific for that swimmer.

YES? The cycle is 2 minutes, so 2 minutes for the easy ones and 2 minutes for the hard ones. So, to give you an idea of the time, she would dive maybe a 1:02. Which is slower than race pace, but that is how it is going to be when they are tired at the end of the week. The backstroke hard one, she is trying some 1:08 or 1:07. The breaststroke, she would be looking for some 1:16 or 1:15. So try some at race pace. In the freestyle she would usually push a minute at the end or better.

YES? During taper we used to always wear nylons. Just nylon togs. What we have started doing or what we did before the Worlds, Stephanie had a bit of a weight issue. She was 4 kilos at Rome. I was trying to get a little bit of confidence in her, I suppose. What we did with her before Rome was she wore the Jacked suit in some of the time trials. Wearing the Jacked suit her times were incredibly fast having that suit on. What we would normally do with most of the kids is just get them doing that in nylons.

Any other questions? Do we wear the suit? What we normally do with them, I am just thinking back before Rome, we did that on the Monday. The competition started on the Sunday so what we did with the suit, the last set if you remember that Tuesday night set. The week before she competed we dropped down to eight 50’s. I think a lot of coaches, I might be a little bit different, I think a lot of coaches float their swimmers through taper and rest them and rest them. I am a big believer in: you have got to make sure that you are spiking and you are working the three energy systems through the last 2 – 3 weeks of taper. I think the lactate system is a very, very important system to work. It must be exercised. It must be used and I have allotted to a certain extent during that last week so right about six days out of the meet she did a set of 8 x 50’s on 2 minutes. She wore the suit on that set and did the best she had ever done before Rome. I am just trying to think, I think the fly was, two 50’s of fly were 27’s. The two 50’s of backstroke were 28’s. I couldn’t believe that. The two 50’s of breaststrokes were 34 and the two 50’s of freestyle were 26’s. That was with the Jacked suit on.

I think that Jacked suit was an unbelievable help to a lot of people at the World Championships. Especially to Stephanie, because of the extra weight and everything else, it really helped hold her in a lot better. I am thinking about getting one myself. Thank you very much for that.

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