Stroke Analysis by Genadijus Sokolovas (2010)


Published


[introduction]
This morning, I have the pleasure of introducing Genadijus Sokolovas. He’s going to talk to you about stroke analysis and stuff. Genadijus have worked with G, which is what we found is the easiest way to refer to him and I’m always excited about the research he’s doing. Genadijus got his undergraduate degree in Lithuania and then worked at the University of Moscow. He got some advanced degrees and got interested in testing for strength and that kind of whole scenario plus coming over here and observing our swimmers and eventually working with USA swimming starting at 2000 to 2009. He really worked on doing a lot of stroke analysis stuff. He’s always finding out interesting things about, in the stroke that we can apply to make our swimmers faster.

First of all, we’ll have to keep a lid on him because Genadijus can talk about stroke from now until tomorrow afternoon. He loves to do it. I know that at the end, you are going to have some questions. So there may be times that I kind of try and move him along a little bit. But he knows that, he knows I’m going to be on top of him, but I am not going to waste any more time. I am going to introduce you to G and he is going to tell us about analyzing stroke.

[GS starts]
Thank you, Bob. Good morning to everybody. Thank you Bob for introduction and I don’t have to waste your time and thanks for coming over here. We will go straight to my presentation. I know that there are many other presentations going at the same time and I appreciate that so many coaches came to my talk.

In the past, I was primarily interested in training and physiology. But as Bob mentioned, I tested a lot of strength which is biomechanics as well and analyze strength. Then eventually we developed great equipments with circled parts [Inaudible] [0:02:26.5] empowered device. Today’s talk is based on the research that we did in the last two or three years.

In fact, in the last two to three years, I learned about swimming biomechanics much more than 25 years before. I know what mechanics. I studied biomechanics. I did my PhD. I did a little biomechanics as well so that’s why I think there are some unique things you discover once you begin analyzing swimming technique. Some things in textbooks that they read in the past doesn’t work, doesn’t match with my studies that we did.

Let’s start and I will explain a little bit the Swim Power Test first, what it includes. It includes measurement of velocity and force. Because you know, from velocity and force, we always can calculate power which is the product of velocity and force, as well as accelerations and decelerations and many other parameters. All these stuffs we can report and overlap over the video in real time.

So in real time, even if it gets synchronized with the video and that’s an advantage. Because once we are testing, we already see changes in the velocity, force, power, and other parameters. We can stop athlete in the middle of the pool and show him, “Okay, what’s going on with your stroke and what are the mistakes that you are doing. So we’re providing detailed analysis using the Swim Power Test, designing the drills and even strength training program. If we see that some muscles are too weak to keep a correct stroke and definitely also giving DVD for athletes and coaches.

The best thing protocol is also unique. We used the same protocol in the old test that we had. So for length, water strength test and some coaches probably heard about that and read my articles in different magazines, is also pretty interesting and provides a lot of feedback to coaches. But the recent Swim Power Test is much more advanced because we can measure velocity and force 60 times per second.

Protocol that we carry on from land to water strength includes pull, kick and swim. Why we didn’t separate pull, kick and swim? Because once you see just swimming, you don’t understand what’s going on because there might be mistakes in stroke but you don’t see it because it’s hidden by kicking for example or by pulling. But once you analyze separate pull and kick then you can understand much better how [Indiscernible] [0:04:55.8] are generating velocities and forces in the water.

So these are just examples from the test. We see there are two graphs on the left side. Velocity on the right side, force [Inaudible] [0:05:05.9] we can plot. Many graphs are there; power, acceleration. The more the graphs, the harder for coaches to understand. So that’s why normally when we are testing, we get overlying the most important graph which is velocity graph and then from the velocity, everybody understand that means fast or slow.

So let’s go a little bit to the videos and look at some videos, how athletes are swimming. First, we’ll start with the butterfly. So this is one of the national team swimmer swimming the butterfly. I will go through the video and explain to you what you see on the screen.

So athlete is leaving the wall, definitely velocity is pretty too high and athlete leaves the wall, we see the velocity number in the left top corner. It reaches more than 3 meters per second, 3.3 or so. Some athletes are a little bit faster; some are a little bit slower. Then velocity begins to fluctuate. The video is synchronized at the green line which is in the middle. Right now, you see athlete is a bit low velocity 1.21 meters per second in this valley at the green line. Everything is done in the real time using patented software, that’s why it helps us to analyze very quickly.

So then athlete is kicking down, velocity increases, 2.52 at the peak at the green line, again right in the middle of the picture. Then athlete is kicking up, again velocity increases. So it looks like there are two kicks during the butterfly cycle; kicking down and kicking up and that’s very important. That’s one of the lesson that we learned also. That there is not only kicking down during the butterfly swim, there is also kicking up.

Some athletes, when I am asking athletes and even coaches during presentations, how many butterfly kicks you are doing in the butterfly cycle? Almost everybody answers two. But if you answered two, then you’re teaching probably two kicks. In fact there are four kicks . You should kick down and up. Then you will be accelerating much more and maintaining higher velocity. Athletes will not be losing velocity as much.

Again, for example, for fishes, it doesn’t matter which direction to kick and a fish definitely would kick four kicks or tail four times if the fish would swim butterfly. So that’s why kids also should be taught four kicks during the butterfly cycle, not two kicks. And that’s, I think, very important message to teach kids because they will be thinking them more not only in one direction down kicking but also up-kicking.

And there is also a big drop of the velocity between the up and down kick. Velocity drops, in this case, even less than 0.9 meters. That’s a pretty big to be dropped and why it happens? Primarily because we are bending knees and a lot of swimmers bending knees too much including national team swimmers. And as you see here, by bending the knees, swimmer drops velocities 0.97 and that’s at the beginning, just few cycles after the wall. And the further are you from the wall, the more velocity drop.

So, therefore, by kicking underwater, there are some fast phases; there are slow phases. And we definitely can increase probably upkick for most of the swimmers because most of the swimmers are not even thinking about upkick. And if you will begin teaching how to kick correctly up, we can improve that and there are many different drills that we’re developing in order to teach athletes how to kick up correctly.

So then after you begin swimming, you see the velocity begins accelerating over here during the [Indiscernible] [00:08:45] reaching velocity 2.38 and there is a drop in the middle of the cycle, why drop [Indiscernible] [00:08:49]? Look at the body position. There’s just two vertical problems for this swimmer. That’s why knees are so low, creates a lot of frontal direct and velocity drops significantly at that time.

Not everybody drops so much velocity or actually [Phonetic] [00:09:03], some elite levels so much like Michael Phelps and some other swimmers; they don’t drop velocity over here. They just accelerate towards the end of the stroke and then maintaining at high velocity at this point.

So that’s probably one of the reasons why Michael Phelps is so good. He is good because he can maintain velocity much better during the butterfly cycle. And if you look at this swimmer, even on national team, he still drops velocity in the middle of the cycle. And there are probably some other reasons because you’re definitely going into the breath, [Indiscernible] [00:09:33] higher.

Also, some athletes squeezing arms inside too closely and they also know that from our tests that whenever you’re moving laterally in the water, you’re losing velocity. And in the past, I was taught and probably most of you learned from different textbooks that there is an S-shaped curve in freestyle or butterfly. But once we are testing here, we clearly see whenever you’re moving your arm laterally either outsweep or insweep, you’re losing velocity a lot. So the four questionable, if you need to do any S-shaped curve.

So then, there is a second acceleration in a butterfly. You see velocity drops pretty significantly to 116 during the recovery phase, which is normal, and then another acceleration to 189 on the entry. Is it good or not? It’s hard to tell if you’re testing just one swimmer. But we already tested 25 Olympic champions in swimming, more than 40 medalists in swimming from Olympic Games from various countries. And definitely, I can tell that 189 over here on the entry that the kick is not high velocity. Some girls are swimming more than two meters per second velocity.

And it’s interesting for me also analyzing the differences between girls and boys. We clearly see that girls and boys swim in different technique. Girls are accelerating much more on the entry, which is a strong kick, and boys are accelerating more on the exit on the finishing the stroke, exit arms out of the water.

And that’s probably because boys are physically stronger. They emphasize it more at the end of the stroke, but I think the boys can improve a lot if they will learn from girls how to accelerate on the entry when you’re recovering your arms and entering in the water.

That’s why one of the important things in a butterfly is throw arms forward during the recovery phase very fast. You don’t need to recover. You see then, at the elite level, even athletes are recovering too slowly and then velocity drops significantly at that time.

So let’s go back to the presentation. So we’ll look at the [Indiscernible] [00:11:47]. What are typical mistakes in swimming technique in butterfly? So there are many areas where athletes may make mistakes and we already saw some. I already mentioned some of them such as underwater kick, upkick, head and body position. A lot of athletes are moving too much head. Head goes too low below the body line and that creates extra frontal resistance. You need to keep body in line and completely horizontal as small frontal area as possible in order to maintain higher velocity.

We cannot overcome the direct underwater. There is no swimmer that would be strong enough to overcome the direct underwater. So that’s why you need force to build good body position underwater before developing other elements of the swimming stroke.

So beginning of the stroke is very important as well when you begin accelerating at the beginning of the stroke. You saw on the video. That swimmer doesn’t accelerate from the very beginning; accelerates only when approaching the shoulder line. However, there are some swimmers who accelerate from the very beginning of the stroke. Once pointing just fingertips down and they begin accelerating in this position.

So that’s a big difference and that all probably depends how well your arms are connected to the core. If your arms are connected through the muscles to the core and you’re using your core muscles to begin moving forward, then your body will begin moving forward earlier and you will have higher velocity.

But a lot of swimmers swimming just with arms and they never thought about the core. And I’m talking now and teaching athletes how to swim correctly, make the changes in swimming technique. I clearly see that some athletes are accelerating only when they’re reaching shoulder line like vertical – their arms are vertical underneath of the body but not right here.

Again, many elite level swimmers begin to accelerate very early in the stroke phases. Point fingertips down, connect through the muscles to the core and begin moving forward. That’s a skill that they’re probably learning and a lot of coaches probably already begin teaching that way, but some athletes just [Indiscernible] [00:13:54] naturally.

I asked some athletes, “If anybody taught you how to swim, why are you accelerating so early in the stroke?” “I don’t know. I just naturally feel that this is better.” Yes. So, therefore, some athletes are learning themselves how to do that.

Middle part of the stroke, also there are many different mistakes such as lateral movement primarily. Athletes are sliding with the arms inside and that again can probably – this skill may come from [Indiscernible] [00:14:18]. Athletes are not strong enough to press the water straight line backwards and they’re sliding [Indiscernible] [00:14:22] just trying to find easier way to move their arms backwards.

But they probably need to insist and control that with our athletes making sure that they’re pulling straight line.

You have a question?

[00:14:36].

[GS]: Yes, yes. We’re testing thousands of so much a year now in various clubs, visiting various clubs. So younger swimmers, the velocity curve that you saw with the elite level swimmer, so younger swimmers have even larger losses of the velocities in the middle of the stroke because as I talked, mostly likely they’re squeezing too much lateral movement during the stroke, and understand, they do not have enough power to do the straight line.

However, if we will teach them correctly how to engage the core, it will be easier. They can save arms and use more core muscles, which normally are not using too much during the swimming.

Finish of the stroke also is important, because finishing the stroke, you want to finish the stroke stronger a little bit. If you are pulling the straight line, you still need to find still water, so-called, OK? Like a lot of coaches in the past had been teaching that you need to find still water that’s why we’re doing this S-shaped curve. But as I talked, you’re losing too much velocity during that time, too much timing as well.

So in order to find the still water, you have to move your arms with acceleration towards the end of the stroke. Then you will be catching the still water instead of moving the same pace of your arms. And there are many swimmers, who we see in the videos that are not accelerating towards the end of the stroke. That’s because they are not moving arms with acceleration towards the end.

So that’s why you need to teach them also how to move with acceleration. And another thing, important thing, is then this acceleration at the end of the stroke will match with athlete’s kick and once you’re matching kick and pull together, you have much higher velocities and much larger velocity peak on the graph. And some swimmers, actually very few swimmers, are doing this element pretty efficiently.

And then we see that there is no hesitation, no drop in the velocity, just accelerating and adding the kick at the end. And some athletes are matching pull and kick in one emphasis, in one big peak; other athletes are not matching. And again, then probably with the test, we can teach athletes how to do that better because we see again several, sometimes several accelerations during the stroke, one acceleration, second and third acceleration.

Too many times, athletes are losing velocity. It’s like running a car and pressing on the brake constantly, pressing on the brake, accelerating, pressing on the brake, accelerating. Stroke is not very efficient and athletes are using a lot of fuel at that time.

Kicking technique, there are also many different mistakes and I mentioned one of the most typical mistakes is when athletes are kicking just down. They’re not thinking about upkick and they’re also kicking too much amplitude especially in the butterfly and you saw this that we just saw in the video also kicking too much amplitude. Knees are going too low below the body line and as a result, that creates a lot of frontal direct.

So again, just a few of some pictures [Indiscernible] [00:17:40] on the videos, you see underwater kick, an athlete is moving arms down and bending knees too much and at that time, velocity is 0.5 only. That’s a very slow velocity. I can swim 0.5 very easily and this athlete could swim much faster than that.

So another upkick example, you see the velocity curve is different. Athlete is emphasizing down kick, but there is nothing upkick. Athlete is not bending knees too much, but upkick is very weak. So that’s why this athlete needs to do the [Indiscernible] [00:18:13] kick. How to do the [Indiscernible] [00:18:15] kick? A lot of backstrokers have very nice upkick in the butterfly. Why they have nice upkick? Because they’re kicking a lot on the back and looks like athletes are more emphasizing down kick of gravity direction, kick in any position, on the back or on the stomach.

So that’s why you probably need to do a lot of kicking on the back for butterfly swimmers in order to develop upkick.

Question?

[00:18:37]?

[GS]: Good question. Again, I can give analogy with fishes. If you look at fish how fish swims at slow velocity, they’ve a lot amplitude kick. The higher velocity, the smaller amplitude.

So most likely the higher velocity should be small amplitude kick. But there is some optimal. I cannot tell exactly how small it should be, but most of athletes are kicking too large amplitude. They should kick much smaller amplitude in order not to go with feet too much outside the body line because the higher velocity, the more frontal direction it will create.

Alright. Again, head-body position that I mentioned already, you see the head definitely too low. And this position is not streamline position. That creates a lot of frontal direct and you’ll see athlete is on deceleration phase in this position. He creates a lot of direct and until athletes will not be in streamline position or pull with the arms, it’ll be hard to overcome the strength. It’ll create a lot of frontal direct.

And many swimmers, even including Michael Phelps moving the head too much, too much down below the body line, it may create some momentum. You can move more. I mean, engage more muscles, but as I talked, water density is so high, it’s impossible to overcome the [Indiscernible] [00:19:57]. The most important is the body position in the water.

So beginning of the stroke, you see athlete is watching forward early and again, that’s typical mistake which relates to the breathing. The athlete is lifting the head early and that creates a lot of frontal direct. Why lifting the head creates more direct? Because when you’re lifting the head, you’re relaxing your neck muscles, you’re bending your neck, and as a result, your head becomes unstable. It moves a little bit.

Once you extend with your neck, then your head is more stable. You’re engaging these muscles. And even the small things are very, very important in swimming because you will create less frontal direct once your head will be more stable.

Again, I was thinking about fishes and always giving examples, comparing fishes to athletes or any other animals like dolphins in the water. Dolphins, fishes, they’re not moving their head, and very simple reason, they don’t have neck. Nature designed – so that’s a very simple reason. The nature already designed fishes. Fishes don’t have too much brain. They’re not thinking about keeping heads strong. But nature already designed fishes without neck in order to swim fast in the water.

So just head goes straight to the body and they cannot move their head at all. Yeah. So, therefore, in swimming, you also probably need to mimic nature. Just look how fishes, dolphins, they look in the water. They’re keeping very stable neck. They never move the neck. So that’s why we need to ask athletes to always keep neck extended and maybe train in these muscles to improve stability of the head and there are many ways to train that.

And again, once we’re testing, we see different mistakes. Then we develop different drills for athletes.

[00:21:35].

[GS]: That’s a good point. I think there are two things to consider, OK? If the athlete is doing that pretty efficient and [Indiscernible] [00:21:47], then you don’t need to lift your head too much. That’s probably a good thing and you don’t need to lift it early as well as your body position will not be gently too high above the surface that’s why it will be better by mechanical position. So I like breathing to the side.

However, if athletes are moving too much their head, they may lose balance a little bit. So therefore, they need to learn how to breathe very smooth with smooth rotation and keep neck probably engaged always in this motion. Make sure you’re not losing the balance at that time. But in general, I like more breathing to the side than breathing forward, OK?

So middle part of the stroke, again, you see this athlete is not efficient as we saw on the video. Many accelerations, decelerations during the pull like three accelerations only. That definitely indicates that athlete is not moving arms with acceleration towards the end and is not matching the kick with the pull together.

Like some swimmers as I talked have just one peak; some swimmers, two peaks; other swimmers, even three peaks. Three peaks. The more peaks you have, the more decelerating through the stroke, the more energy you’re using to swim.

Finish of the stroke. Again, this athlete is reaching the peak not at the end of the stroke and by finishing the stroke is not accelerating towards the end. We need to keep accelerating towards the strength. I really want to see the peak right at the end. Then you’re kicking at that time. Then you will match your pull and kick emphasis in one big peak, alright?

Let’s go to the backstroke because time is running pretty quickly. As I talk, we can talk a lot about just one stroke.

[00:23:40].

[GS]: Correctly. Nobody is perfect, I’ll tell you.

[00:23:45].

[GS]: Close. They can look maybe Michael Phelps or some other swimmers how they do it. At least there are some elements that is doing really well. Nobody is even closely [Indiscernible] [00:23:54] the wall. Does the upkick still need to improve? But he’s doing really well pulling and kicking. You see this big peak? It reaches 3.50 meters per second. That’s an example how to match pull and kick in one emphasis. Nobody in the world can do that.

As I talked, we tested already 25 Olympic champions, about 40 medalists in various events, nobody is even close to that. That probably separates Phelps from many other swimmers. So he can kick and pull with really high velocity.

Then there are some phases that are not very efficient but this element, pull and kick, and again, he reaches three meters per second from the second cycle after the wall. So this is very good. Look at that. and most of butterfly swimmers reaching 2.5, 2.6, some of them 2.7. Phelps can reach three meters per second. So that’s a big difference.

But there are some phases that Phelps is not the best. So that’s why I talked nobody is perfect. We need to pick up probably phases from many different swimmers, maybe from three or four different swimmers and then build the optimal cycle and optimal swimming technique like a model.

Alright. Also, you may look at the upkick how some swimmers are doing upkick. We got one here. So this swimmer is not emphasizing down kick. If you look at down kick, so she is kicking down the last 184; in the upper level corner, 189 actually right here. And then she is kicking up and reaching almost two meters per second, 199. That’s a pretty good upkick. Phelps gets 1.7. OK, the girl can kick 189 or two meters per second, 189.

So looks like we can’t –some athletes can kick really strongly up and actually, this is unique example of Natalie Coughlin on how she kicks and she is really good underwater. But she kicks completely different than some other swimmers. So that’s why I have a strong opinion that you can teach athletes how to kick up strongly as well and maybe even stronger than down kick.

Alright. So let’s go now to the backstroke. Look at some video and just comment on some videos that we can see. So athlete is pushing from the wall during the kick and the first mistake you see, knees are moving up, the last she drops. Whenever you’re moving knees too much, bending knees too much in the backstroke, you will lose more velocity over here, OK?

Then upkick is not very strong. You see this very small peak to 155 only. Yeah, it’s different. Looks like swimmer is on the back. Looks like it should be almost identical like a fly-kick but for some reasons, athletes are overemphasizing always gravity direction. And one of the drills that we also came up that we need to teach athletes, kicking on the side, butterfly underwater. We don’t need to ask them to kick on stomach or on the back because they are always overemphasizing gravity direction. We need to teach them on the side.

Now that I’ve been working with athletes at the pool, I’m always telling them, just do on every practice you’re kicking just on the side. Once you’re swimming during the race, you may kick even most in the fastest position if you feel that stronger you are on the stomach. But once you are in practices, just kick on the side. Then you will not be overemphasizing gravity direction. You will be kicking more equally in every direction.

So then she is kicking down you see and velocity increases more than two meters per second, very strong down kick. And again, athlete is overemphasizing down kick. Head probably is slightly too high that creates more frontal direct as well. You need to keep head between arms and especially when she is breaking the surface, the head is definitely high.

And if you look at backstroke in general, there are many accelerations, decelerations in backstroke. But also, in general, backstroke velocity curve doesn’t change as much as in butterfly that we saw, because backstroke, probably, is the smoothest stroke that we see when athletes are swimming.

But then I see accelerations from 179 velocity of the people over here down to an athlete is losing the velocity to 116. And definitely, the slowest velocity is between kicks happens as well as at the beginning of the stroke when athlete is not catching the water well over here.

And again, this athlete is in national team. So there are many things that can change even national team athletes. They swim pretty fast. This athlete has, I believe, it’s like 100 backstroke. So there are many things that athletes can change and there are also differences. You see the right arm here is more consistent and athlete is reaching velocity more towards the end of the stroke than with the left arm. Left arm, there are more decelerations, accelerations through the stroke. We need to keep as consistent as possible these peaks. Then velocity will be higher.

And mostly, again, athlete is not using too much core muscle. She pulls just with the arms and there are many other things such as changing laterally or vertically the hand position. She is pressing down a little bit, pressing up, pressing down. At the end of the stroke, you see finish below the body line. That all creates – I mean, during these vertical movements, athletes are losing much more velocities and also creates more direct, because the more arms are outside the body, you’re moving forward. You’re also creating more frontal direct.

And also when athletes are finishing too deep in the water or here, it takes very long time than to move your arm out of the water. In the backstroke, you don’t need to finish deep. It should be very shallow finish. Then you can go quickly with your hand outside or move your hand outside the water and go to the next cycle.

Alright. So, let’s look at typical mistakes again what athletes are doing. And then again, after that, we’ll look at the video again . All right, so typical mistakes in backstroke. Again under working kick, a lot of mistakes they’re doing, over kicking down and not kicking a stroke up and a lot of swimmers also kicking too much amplitude.

You don’t need large amplitude with a high velocity, always should be small amplitude. Body position and rotations, very, very important in the backstroke. So, we analyze many different techniques, many different swimmers and I clearly see that you can generate more power if you’re pulling in the right position and your body is in the right position.

We have many presentations, many talks and our coaches are emphasizing to be very flat and not move too much, in the shoulders will not rotate too much, but the more we’re analyzing, the more we’re studying backstroke, the more convinced that rotation is an important part of the backstroke, because you can generate more power if your body is in the right position.

So once I’m teaching the backstroke, if you’re putting your arms to the sides, I call it zero degrees. If your arms are below the body line, I call it negative angle because you don’t have too much power in this position. It’s not convenient, I mean, that is a really weak position here. You then pull and you’re not generating any power. In fact, that test of tension with different positions, if you have below the shoulder line and doing the pull in this position, you are about 30 to 40 percent weaker than right here in the front position.

In the front, you can regroup your 4 muscles very easily. Here, when you are in line with your shoulders, then you’re generating less power. Right here, it’s very weak. We want to be in the strongest position during the stroke. We’re in the weakest position. For some reason, a lot of swimmers, especially they are not rotating at all, very flat, it’s always in the weakest position at the beginning of the stroke in back stroke, and you cannot generate good power in this position.

So that’s why we need to rotate and I’ll show you how some swimmers are rotating, almost 90 degrees on the side and they are like in freestyle position and pulling very strongly and then receive a very high velocity, with good power than athletes are generating.

Probably not really so soon, very high tempo like in short distances, 50 or 100, it’s got to rotate too much but there will still be some presence of rotation. If your athletes are very flat, not rotating at all, I think they’re in a disadvantage because it’s hard to generate any power once you are in negative angle with your arms.

Beginning of the stroke also is important. If athletes are entering too close to the head, I saw many examples when the athletes are entering too close to the head, the first motion will be just pressing the water through the side. Can you move forward if you are pressing the water to the side? Probably it’s very hard to do that. You’re just moving your body to the side. You’re opening your shoulder, creating more frontal drag. There are many different things that are happening at that time and athletes are just slower. Again, you see the same on this analysis of the swim power first and swimming velocity that the athletes are losing, velocity and power as well.

So, what’s the most optimum? Most likely athletes need to enter on the shoulder line in order to go straight to the catch of the rotation. Another factor is also rotating too late.

[Question from audience] [Indiscernible] [0:33:39]

[GS]: Good question. I think it’s hard to rotate first probably. I think with entrance, arm entry, you should rotate at the same time. You’re entering and rotating on the side.

[audience]: Same time?

[GS]: Same time, yeah. Why you should rotate early? Because you want to catch the water from the early beginning of the stroke and engage the core muscles. If you are in this position, you cannot engage your core muscles. We’ve frequently seen athletes in this position, they begin generating velocity and force only in the middle of the stroke. It is nothing from the beginning because they’re not rotating at the right time.

So, middle part of the stroke, a lot of athletes are doing this so-called S-shaped curve. Again, pressing too much down, bending elbow in the middle, pointing fingertips up and at that time, drop of the velocity. Do we want to drop the velocity in the middle of the stroke? Probably not if you want to move forward. That’s why you don’t need to move your hand in the water.

Once you’re entering, point fingertips to the side and it’s like a rowing oar. You’re just pressing straight line backwards, that’s it. You don’t need to create any S-shaped curves and back over, because whenever you are moving your hand, bending your elbow, you clearly see that velocity drops significantly at that time.

Finish of the stroke, again a lot of swimmers are doing this S-shaped curve and because the fingertips are high in the middle, they’re pressing just straight down, and they need to change in direction from pressing down to moving out. That’s a lot of time they are losing. Based on my estimate, if you’re one foot below your body line finishing with your hand, it’s about 0.2 seconds.

You’re not losing velocity at 0.2 seconds but the timing, you swim with much slower tempo than you could if you would finish shallow, close to the surface with your hand. So do you want to swim higher tempo or you want to swim, finish deep and then move your hand out of the water and just waste your time? I know that some swimmers can generate a little power from this position that they’re finishing deep and then moving out of the water isn’t strong. I don’t think that it’s strong. Try it yourself, how much power you can generate with straight arm underwater. It’s really hard for generating power at this position at the end of the stroke.

So the form, you can generate much more if you’re just pressing straight line, keeping your hand very stable in the water. You’re like catching something and pressing towards your feet. Then, you will be moving forward. Kicking technique, again another kicking technique depends a lot how strong, engaged is your abdominal muscles, your gluts in the kick. Athletes are kicking a little bit too much, bending knees too much, it’s not the strongest kick.

You’re creating much more frontal drag, frontal resistance and the best way to teach athletes, put them in the vertical position and ask to kick in streamlined position at the deep end of the pool just for 10 seconds, as intense as the camp. Then try to mimic the same technique in horizontal position. You will see that that is like kicking with a completely different technique than you would kick normally because they’re too relaxed when they’re kicking. You cannot be relaxed, your muscles should be connected and strong. There are many techniques that we are using as well. Yes?

[00:36:58]

[GS]: What, the hand position?

[audience, indiscernible] [00:37:09]

[GS]: Yes, the arm, you should operate in this plane always, like above your shoulder. That’s the position where you should operate. You don’t need to go in any other direction because you are losing the balance whenever you’re moving too much to the sides. We don’t want you to lose the balance and create more frontal resistance, because the body then will begin to always go to the side slightly. It’s not a lot but slight motions and that also affects your streamlined position.

All right, so let’s look at different pictures again, underwater kick as a swimmer definitely moves knees above the body line and the last is at the slowest point at this picture. Head position is not good, as I told between arms, the head should be in between the arms. The arms should be more extended when doing this.

This is from the front view pictures, after just catching the water and rotating, you see rotation I think is pretty good in this picture. The athlete is rotating almost 90 degrees on the side and then she can generate much more power in this position. Beginning of the stroke, [Indiscernible] [0:38:17] is over reaching. So right here, you’re changing your body position and then first motion, you’ll be just pressing to the side but there’s no power in this position. Question?

[comment from audience, indiscernible] [0:38:27]

[GS]: Yeah you’re probably right. The taller the athletes, the harder to connect legs to the core. However, you need to always train that. Look at our top swimmers, they’re doing a lot of exercises in order to build quarter muscles, connect next to the core and there are many different types of exercises that you can do on land as well as in the water to connect feet to the core.

As a swimmer, we want to connect arms to the core. We should connect feet to the core as well. Muscles should be connected strongly. Once you’re kicking, you should feel that the muscles are always engaged. Actually people, humans are not built to kick and swim fast in the water. Again, not only because of hip position, you have wrong connection relatively to animals in the water.

Also they have knee joint. I think knee joint is the biggest problem for us to kick, except breast stroke where we have to use knee joint. But knee joint underwater, it creates a lot of drag because if you look here in this position, a lot of swimmers are kicking from knees. They’re moving their knees too high. So that’s why even for taller people, we need to build connection between feet and core.

How to build connection? One of the exercises, our drill that we came up also is to kick the pool board between your ankles. The athlete will pull between the ankles and asked to kick butterfly. Definitely, athletes will not move fast but will create a really good connection between feet and core, by kicking with butterfly with the pool board between the ankles, butterfly kick.

Also, those knees create a lot of problems. If you look at fishes or any other animals, nobody has knees in the water to swim fast. So therefore, we need to imagine that we don’t have knees when we are swimming butterfly kick, or even freestyle, flatter kick. We don’t have knees, we need to kick just from the core, all muscles should be connected, definitely knees though the bends, still a little bit, but bending on the knees should be minimum.

All right so middle part of the stroke, you see the athlete is not rotating enough and elbow is below the body line and below the shoulder line. So in this position, you cannot generate good power and also too much bending elbow 90 degrees or so. You don’t need to bend your elbow. The more you’re bending your elbow, the more hand is moving underwater. Question? Sorry.

All right, finishing the stroke, very deep. From this position, it will take 0.2 seconds to reach the surface. Do we need to waste 0.2 seconds? It’s definitely not a strong position here. So we probably don’t need to waste 0.2 seconds of every stroke. How many strokes are you doing from the swim distance? This athlete can swim much higher tempo and much faster and much more efficient in the water.

All right, let’s go to the breast stroke, because time is running very quickly as I thought. We can talk about one stroke only probably for several hours and discuss all the details, looking at a lot of videos. Let’s go to the breast stroke.

So breast stroke is a very, very interesting stroke. Similar like in butterfly, unlike breast stroke but there are so many accelerations, decelerations, so many changes of the velocities. I am sure that we can optimize this stroke much more and athletes can improve in breast stroke more than any other stroke.

So what areas of improvements, what typical mistakes? So athlete is gliding underwater at a very high velocity, good body position, rigid body position as I said is very important, to keep good reach and body position. A little bit head goes down in this position, that creates more frontal drag, and then the athlete begins pulling, is velocity increasing at that time? No. The athlete pulls how many, 10, 15 percent of the stroke already? The velocity didn’t increase, what’s happening here?

The athlete is pressing the water to the sides, and this is a former world record holder. Do we need to press to the sides to move forward? Probably not. So what would be the solution? We need to catch the water similar like in a butterfly and begin pulling your body forward as early as possible?

So there are some skills that athletes are learning, nobody probably pointing to them and they definitely don’t need to press the water to the sides. So then, he changes direction a little bit to the last, increases over here, see? Then drop a drop of velocity. What happens here, dropped to 121? From 1.6 to 121, that’s a lot of drop, about 35 percent of drop of the velocity in just a fraction of a second. Can anybody tell me what happens here?

[0:43:45]

[GS]: Lateral movement, sculling, that’s right. Do we need to teach sculling drills at the pool? I doubt that. The more I’m watching the videos, the more doubt that we need sculling drills at the pool because we are teaching wrong skill practice. Maybe synchronized swimmers needs sculling because they want to keep on the same position, but I’m not sure about competitive swimming if it needs sculling.

So, because so much loss of the velocity and then the athlete transferring this drill into their stroke, they think, “Oh, that’s really good. Coach is teaching me to do sculling.” So, you see here 121 and then athlete points fingertips down, hands and forearms in vertical position and look at the velocity, what happens at that time. The velocity just accelerates and then he kicks, very nice combination between pulling and kicking. The reach is 2.43 meters per second at the tip.

That’s the most efficient stroke. So why is he doing this part? You just catch and pull a straight line. Then, you do the moving forward. So therefore, just analyzing one swimmer, we’d clearly see what you should do and what you should not do in an underwater pool.

Then the athlete begins gliding, you can see it increases here a little bit here once the athlete is in a more streamlined position, and then glides, glides, glides. The question is how long for you to glide? My answer would be, as long as your velocity is higher, then [Indiscernible] [0:45:08]. If your velocity is lower, you should go to the surface.

So if you look here, the athletes continue to the glide, moving arms forward, definitely velocity drops because you’re recovering to your arms, bending knees. So velocity drops over here, unavoidable but you probably should glide for a shorter time because eventually the last he goes to 0.19, it’s just pretty low. The rest of the swimmers can maintain high velocity with you.

Definitely everybody drops here. Don’t get me wrong, everybody drops, nobody can swim and they recover their arms and swim forward fast. Everybody probably can do shorter at this pace. If this pace is very slow, you need to make it as short as possible and maybe sometimes even recover arms faster. I know that may create a little more frontal drag, but some swimmers stop at the zero velocity and still slow when they recovery comes. It doesn’t matter if you’re under zero velocity, just move your arms faster. Or, don’t do any pull up, pull down underwater. In some cases, athletes are faster at the pull down. They’re doing the pull down underwater.

With the test again, we can tell exactly how long you need to glide underwater, when you need to break the surface and if you are faster doing the pull down or not doing the pull down. I don’t care if it [Indiscernible] [0:46:29] with your coach. Before the 2008 Olympics, he has been asking me all these questions, is it faster with pull down or without? We tested it and she was much faster without pull down underwater. So once she raced at Olympic trials, she didn’t do any pull down and she was good. She didn’t make the Olympic team but she didn’t do pull down because that’s what’s faster.

So even at that level, sometimes we are teaching athletes to do pull down but it might be even slower. Other coaches are asking me, “Okay, I want to glide a little bit longer in order to swim less strokes on the surface.” But the question again is, are you swimming extra strokes slower or faster than you’re gliding right at the end of the glide? Probably you’re still faster on the surface and the velocity is 0.19 at the end of the gliding. So that’s why it’s better sometimes to do extra stroke on the surface instead of gliding too long underwater.

All right, now let’s look what velocities are during the swim. You see the kicking velocity, peak 223 but very sharp peaks. What do I mean by very sharp peaks? That means that you are losing velocity very quickly. You’re generating good power but you are not keeping good body position. Something is wrong. You’re creating too much frontal drag right at the end of the kick. That may be not for this particular swimmer but a lot of swimmers kicking in the wrong direction. They’re kicking too much down or too much to the sides and that creates a lot of frontal drag.

If you are kicking too wide, then it takes a long time to bring your feet together and you’re gliding partially in this position by moving feet together and you’re creating a lot of frontal drag and your velocity drops.

[0:48:10]

[GS]: Correct. There are many different details that we can talk for several hours about one stroke and I don’t want to just talk too much in these details because we have just 12 minutes or so to finish the presentation. I’d still want to cover a little bit freestyle for you. But once we are testing athletes and covering, then we are going very in detail through every stroke, very detailed and analyzing how to make body position, better gliding and many other things.

So then the athlete begins pulling. Again, too much pressing to the sides, is velocity increasing? No. Only from this point to the last that it begins increasing and you are pointing your palms backwards. That’s the most efficient position, but unfortunately in breast stroke, it’s a very short position. Can we change that? Yes, based on our experience we can change a lot in the breast stroke. Instead of doing too wide, opening your arms, creating frontal drag when you’re opening your arms, you should do much not only at breast stroke.

Look at top swimmers now, Rebecca Soni, she’s very narrow. She’s not going wide. I remembered back like 8 to 10 years ago, lapping from your pool but it looks like the pool is very efficient. I don’t know if the coach taught her or she just naturally learned how to do that, but the more we’re analyzing breast stroke, the more we can understand that narrow pool is much better than wide pool.

If you were opening your arms, you’re moving forward in this position, it’s like opening your parachute. Moving forward with the parachute, it’s very hard to do that. So that’s why it should be very narrow, you should catch the water from the very beginning and probably work a lot on dry land for the athletes developing this catch, early catch, really efficient.

I’ll just give you one example, one swimmer before the 2009 World Championship game at Colorado Springs and worked with us for the camp, from my home country, nobody probably heard this swimmer before. We changed his catch at the beginning.

We changed a little bit underwater. He went back home, worked on the muscles that I suggested him to worked on. In three months, went to the World Championship, dropped four seconds when [Inaudible] [0:50:24.3] and won one bronze medal [Inaudible] [0:50:25.2]. Nobody heard about this guy before.

So I think there are ways to fix the stroke and make much narrow and much more efficient than the breaststroke. I feel that breaststroke probably is the stroke as I mentioned where we can improve the most in the next few years.

So drop of velocity occurs definitely between pull and kick and some swimmers drop to the zero velocity. Some swimmers are still maintaining a little bit velocity. Again, there are many different things that you can do at this time between pull and kick, not to drop too much. I mean you will still be dropping velocity, don’t get me wrong because of the knees position. I think his hips are slightly too high. It creates a lot of frontal drag in this position. Some coaches want hips keep high in the surface and still kick in this position because streamline position of the body, we can generate more power. But the problem is that you cannot overcome the drag that you are creating. That’s why we need to adjust body position first and then see how to generate more power.

In this position, you’re creating too much drag than you are — knees are so low. That’s why you probably need slightly slow motions in the hips to have a larger angle over here. Not 90 degrees but at least 120 degrees then you’ll be generating less frontal drag and you’ll be moving faster, forward faster.

Then athlete is kicking very strongly as I told you, 52 meters per second. Again, velocity picks up very, very sharp. He generates a lot of power but is not maintaining the power because of probably body position, probably chest is low, head is slightly, many different things that we can tweak in the stroke in the body gliding position that would allow him to maintain higher velocity for a longer time.

All right, so let’s go to freestyle. Again, time is running very fast. Oh, sorry, breaststroke.

Just quickly the typical mistakes. I already mentioned many of them. Pull down during the breakout. A lot of swimmers are doing incorrectly. Underwater fly kick. Athletes should match emphasis of the pool and kick in one big peak, similar to the one in the butterfly as well as athlete don’t need to bend knees too much. We see a lot of athletes are over emphasizing down kick. They think that, “Oh, I can accelerate really well bending knees too much” and then you’re opening your parachute, you stop yourself and then you kick. It doesn’t matter how strong you kick after that. You need to maintain velocity first.

Beginning of the stroke; too wide. Many swimmers are doing too wide. They’re not pointing fingertips down at the beginning of the stroke and they are not moving forward, they’re just opening arms.

Finishing of the stroke. A lot of swimmers also finishing of the stroke. They are all emphasizing that they can generate good velocity by squeezing arms. Based on our test, some swimmers can generate power, some not. If you’re not generating power you don’t need to squeeze your arms. You just go straight against [Inaudible] [0:53:29.5], she just pulls and go straight, pulls and go straight, very simple. If you are generating good power then I understand you should probably squeeze your arms but if you’re not generating, just keep high swimming tempo.

Gliding in the water. A lot of different mistakes again such head position, body tone, how strong you’re keeping your body. When you are in the gliding position, you should be in the gliding position as early as possible. That’s why narrower stroke and not squeezing your arms will help you to keep your body position streamline early before the kick. Because if you’re kicking when you’re not in streamline position, you will be just wasting your energy. You need to be in a streamline position to keep and to generate good power from your kick.

And the kicking, the last one as I told. There are many different mistakes as the timing of the kick as well as what direction you’re kicking. Are you kicking too much to the sides or too much down then you will create much more frontal resistance? The best way to [Inaudible] [0:54:35.2] on based on our experience that we have is to do the vertical kick in vertical position. Ask athletes to go in the vertical position and jump as high as they can, like three, four or five kicks in a row and then repeat the same in horizontal position, the same direction. Once you’re kicking vertically and once you jump as high as possible then you will be kicking in right direction. You will see that the athletes are not kicking too wide. They will be much narrower.

All right. Let’s go now to — Oops, I’ll probably skip some slides so — maybe just go quickly, just five minutes, different positions during the breakout for national team swimmers. You already clearly see that’s not the best position.

Breaststroke with the high head position at the beginning of the stroke and also athlete rise to catch the water but elbows are so high, it’s really hard to catch in this position. As I told, this is like a zero or even negative angle between your arms and your shoulders.

Jumping too high. The athlete is jumping very high above the surface. Again, butterfly and breaststroke should be very low.

I also have discussions in the past. I remember many leading coaches in the country as well as overseas and a lot of them, “Oh, need to jump high to relax during the swimming — jumping high.” But once we see jumping high, velocity drops to the zero and stays on the zero. In some cases up to 0.2 to 0.3 seconds between pull and kick. You want to jump high or just swim forward? You’re not competing in vertical velocity; you’re competing from horizontal velocity so you don’t need to jump high. The lower you’re keeping your head, the more you’re leaning forward, the faster you will reach the wall. If you’ll compete in vertical velocity, that might be different technique. But in this case, just horizontal.

Gliding. Again, athletes glide over here. You see head position, definitely it’s too high, that doesn’t allow to glide fast in the water.

Kicking. See athlete is kicking very, very low feet and maybe that’s a little bit exaggerated. Elite athletes are not swimming like this but with age group swimmers, there are so many examples, they are kicking just too low. That creates a lot of frontal drag because it takes long time than to hide your feet behind your body and you’re gliding in this position.

Freestyle. Go to the freestyle. Let’s look some freestyles, how they swim. We did separate test as [Inaudible] [0:57:45.0] can swim, that helps us trying to analyze much of pull and kicking. Eliminating kick or eliminating pull. So this is the swimmer. He’s pretty good. Olympic champion in middle distances from 2008 so let’s see how he swims.

His kicks are very consistent as you can see here. He’s not losing velocity too much during the stroke. That’s a good thing. He applies strong force and not releasing this force. However, he has some room for improvements in the body position. His head is slightly too high that creates a little bit more frontal drag. Once he points the fingertips down over here, he doesn’t accelerate a lot. Just a little bit, very small acceleration over here which means that he is not connected at the beginning of that stroke. Even at that level, there are many things that athletes can change and become much faster than they are now.

That’s why swimming will be improving and improving. I don’t have any doubt that in next year, we’ll see swimmers who will begin to break world records again because there is so much room to make our swimmers better.

So athlete is pointing fingertips down here, you can see major acceleration comes on when the athlete reaches the shoulder line. I can show you some other videos that athletes accelerate from the beginning of the stroke. That’s why there are some swimmers who are even better than Olympic champions by certain phases. It doesn’t mean that their swimming speed is faster but at certain phases, they’re better. Swimmers should learn from each other and we can pick the best phases of different swimmers and combine in one swimmer. If we would combine in one swimmer, I’m sure the swimmer would break all world records. Unfortunately, it’s not so easy.

So now swimmer accelerates really well then passes the shoulder line, reaches the peak and then continues to keep this peak which is pretty good, he’s keeping. I did remove the problem, he still continue accelerate towards the end of the stroke but he’s doing really good on this phase.

A lot of swimmers have very narrow peaks. They just accelerate in the middle of the stroke and then releasing at the end, accelerate and releasing. A lot of coaches are teaching also that way and asking athletes to just swim easy at the end, release, not finish the stroke strongly.

In my opinion, it’s a mistake because you can generate much more power in this position at the end of the stroke. It’s very easy to improve your core muscles, your lower back muscles in this position.

At the beginning of the stroke, it’s very hard to improve core muscles. You need to teach and work constantly on that. But at the end of the stroke, it’s very easy. If you are shortening end of the stroke, you’re limiting your power of the stroke. I think that’s the strongest part of the stroke and athletes should work really strongly towards the end of their stroke with accelerating your hand towards the end of the stroke.

So then again, athlete begins catching stroke. Velocity doesn’t increase up to this point so he is missing entirely, probably like one flip of the stroke. That’s the area where he needs to work on in order to make him better.

Danica again accelerates. It’s a little catch up stroke and a lot of athletes are doing catch up stroke including even Michael Phelps when he is catching during the breathing. But once he swims in the catch up stroke, velocity drops a lot. So probably you don’t want to do catch up stroke with your younger athletes.

I noticed some athletes are trying to even mimic Michael Phelps or Peter Vanderkaay who are doing a little bit catch up as well. The more you’re doing catch up stroke, gliding longer, then you’re losing velocity because you’re not pulling yourself. In the sense, sometimes distant swimmers want to do the catch up stroke and they want to glide a little bit, save energy. But if you train the right way and you’re always pulling and working hard during the stroke, you don’t need to glide.

Look at our top distant swimmers in the past; Brooke Bennett, Janet Evans, they didn’t glide. They are just like an engine, just catch, catch, catch and swim. So if you are good-trained, you have good conditioning, you don’t need to glide. Then your velocity will be high, you will be able to maintain velocity at the high pace.

All right, so just quickly go through the typical mistakes in freestyle and then I’ll leave time for the questions.

Head body position. Again, it’s very important in many strokes. If athletes are keeping too high head position, they are creating much more frontal drag, the neck isn’t lax and they are not gliding fast.

Breathing. Breathing also is important. Timing of the breathing when you are finishing the breathing. Many athletes are, the breathing is too long and the head is still watching from the side when they’re entering their arm in the water, the hand in the water. You need to watch only your down when entering hand in the water, otherwise athletes are losing balance. We see many times the athletes are losing velocity a lot at that phase, at the end of the breathing because of the too long breathing. They need to do much quicker breathing and watch down or stop breathing [Inaudible] [1:02:59.2].

Beginning of the stroke. Again, there is no acceleration. Athletes gliding too long, They’re not connecting arms to the core and that doesn’t allow them to generate good power from the beginning of the stroke.

Middle of the stroke. The typical mistake is bending elbow. Athletes are gliding and sometime fingertips even pointed to the side. What happens when you glide? You’re losing power. Try to jump out of the pool and move your hands. Is anybody moving their hands when jumping over the pool with arms on the deck or hands on the deck? Nobody. I didn’t see any swimmer doing that. But for some reason, in horizontal position, the swimmer again moving the hand constantly. Any time, any lateral movement they’re doing, they’re losing velocity a lot.

Kicking technique. Also, there are many mistakes similar to latter kick on the back. Athletes are kicking a lot from the knees. They’re not generating good power and they’re not recruiting the core muscles and they are also working. A lot of open water swimmers triathletes analyzing sighting techniques, but probably I will not stop at the sighting technique over here unless somebody or if you have any questions that I can answer.

Again, just some pictures from various videos, videos of athletes, that’s it.

Head position is definitely too high here. Athlete is watching too much forward and again that probably comes from a lot of age group swimmers. There are many swimmers in one lane and they are just watching not to hit feet of other swimmers. You have teach athletes, always watch out.

Breathing. Very long breathing. Athlete is losing balance. You see arms are extended fully, losing the balance. If you teach balance, how to maintain balance for this athlete, much better.

Again, another breathing. Actually, it was the beginning of the stroke, this is also breathing and beginning of the stroke. Athlete again is not catching, just straight arm pressing down. You cannot move forward if you’re pressing the water down. You only move forward when you’re pressing the water towards your feet.

Also kicking, there’s very large amplitude, here you see bending around 75-80 degrees in the knees, that’s way too much.

Losing the balance in the middle of the stroke. Athlete is bending too much, body position is not strong and this is the sighting but again, I’ll probably not talk about that.

All right. Any questions? I would be more than happy to answer so there is five minutes, slightly longer but as I told, one hour is not enough time to cover everything, all the details. Yes?

[participant]: Yeah [Inaudible] [1:05:32.1]

[GS]: Sorry, I can’t hear you. Can you tell, a bit louder please?

[participant]: [Inaudible] [1:05:42.4]

[GS]: Yeah in freestyle, you don’t need to come to the center line by the way. If you have center body aligned, okay like this and you’re catching the water over here and if you’re moving inside, there is a lateral movement. You’re sliding with your hip. You don’t want to slide with the hip. The best again example why you don’t need to slide, look at the swimmers how they’re jumping out of the pools, placing hand on the deck, correct? Nobody slides the hand. You’re just pressing straight line. Why? Because this is the strongest position and nobody questions them because this is the strongest position. Why they should do sliding in the water?

[participant]: So [Inaudible] [1:06:36.6]

[GS]: No, it’s just straight line. You catch and pull straight line then you’re moving forward because you want to press as much the water possible towards your feet, straight line then you will be moving forward. I understand there is still water but as I told you, once we stop to analyze all these stuff, we see any time after the sliding, velocity drops. You don’t want to lose velocity or you want to gain velocity during the swimming.

[participant]: [Inaudible] [1:07:05.5]

[GS]: Anybody else? Yes?

[1:07:12.8]

[GS]: What’s the fastest velocity? In the full body swim, probably around 2.7, 2.8, like you’re reaching the peak during the stroke for elite level swimmers. I’m not talking for age group swimmers. Yes?

[1:07:32.8]

[GS]: We don’t have for sale DVD but we have free samples. You can stop at our booth 612 in the exhibition hall and grab CDs over there. 612 at the exhibition hall. All right. Yes?

[1:08:00.7]

[GS]: That’s correct. Because then, you are in streamline position back, but don’t drop too quickly. It should be smooth. Thank you. Thank you.

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