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In a swimming race, you are at maximum speed when you hit the water after your start.

The key to a fast swim and a gold-medal performance is MAINTAINING that speed into your breakout and first few strokes. Remember: Races are not always won by the person who SWIMS the fastest, but by the person who slows down the least.

The key to maintaining momentum is something your coach tells you every day, and that Cullen practices every day: STREAMLINE. Notice how Cullen gets BOTH ENDS of his body into streamline. His hands are in thumb-lock, with one hand on top of the other, and the top thumb wrapped around the bottom hand. And notice how he points his toes and keeps his feet TOGETHER to make his body streamlined from point to point.

To work on his streamline from the blocks, Cullen likes to dive in, get into streamline from fingertips to toes, and then do NOTHING but hold streamline until he rises to the surface.

If we slow it down, we can see the components of a great streamline. One hand locked on top of the other, eyes looking down, shoulders tight against the head, feet together, and toes pointed.

From the side, you can see how Cullen’s tight streamline -- fingers to toes -- helps him MAINTAIN the momentum from his dive. By maintaining momentum, he’s setting himself up for a forward-moving breakout and better speed on his first few strokes.

If we slow it down, you can see another way to maintain momentum AND to help direct your energy FORWARD rather than down after the start. Notice that as Cullen’s legs enter the water, he uses a slight downward dolphin motion, which straightens his body and starts sending him FORWARD.

Here it is again at full speed. The legs push down JUST as they slip through the water, and this sends Cullen forward into his streamline.

Before we move on to the freestyle breakout from a dive, let’s review the basics for all forward entries.

• STREAMLINE is the key.

• Hands should be in thumb-lock from the moment they enter the water.
• Feet should be together with toes pointed.
• Maintain streamline and send your energy FORWARD as you enter the water.