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Let’s face it. If you want to go under 21 seconds for 50 meters long-course freestyle, you need to focus on your kick.
Roland has an incredibly powerful kick – a thunder kick – and he uses it to power every other aspect of his stroke. In Roland’s words, he builds his stroke from the back – from the kick.
Let’s watch it once more at speed.
Then slow it way down to look at the fine points of the kick and how Roland uses it to drive the rest of the stroke.
Roland uses a 6-beat kick, which means he completes 6 downbeats on every stroke cycle.
Let’s count them. As the hand enters and extends, that’s one…two…three. As the other hand enters and extends, that’s four…five…six. Six downbeats for every stroke cycle.
We’ll speed it up just a bit to see the rhythm and flow – and to notice how steady the beats are, even when he turns for a breath.
Roland throws in a slightly bigger downkick as his right hand enters and extends, but he still maintains a steady rhythm with the kick. There are no pauses or stops.
In these next few clips, notice how the kick is connected to the hips. Notice how Roland uses the kick to drive the rotation.
If we slow that down and freeze-frame it right here, we get a snapshot of Roland as he prepares for the most powerful part of his stroke. His left hand is anchored out front. His right hand is poised to enter the water. His left hip is rotated to its deepest point. And his feet are at their widest separation, which means he’s getting ready for the most powerful downbeat of his 6 kicks.
Roland uses the downkick to drive the hand to full extension and to drive his rotation. By the next freeze frame, his right hip and right foot are down, the right arm is extended, and the pull is complete.
As Roland continues in slow motion, focus only on the connection between the kick, the hips, and the hand. Watch how the downkick drives or snaps the hips into rotation…and drives the hand into full extension.
And notice that the kick never pauses or stops. Roland uses a steady, consistent kick to power a steady, consistent rotation.
In the next few clips, let’s look at the amplitude or width of Roland’s kick. As you can see, he makes quite a bit of whitewater on the surface.
If we slow it down, we can see that on nearly every kick, the top of Roland’s foot clears the water. This gives him more foot speed than if the kick remained below the surface. On each kick, he’s catching a bit of air and dragging it down. This allows his feet to travel quicker through the water.
From under water, you can see that Roland has a rather large kick but notice that it is consistent and steady…and fast.
Roland kicks from the thigh, but he also bends the knee to add a snapping action to his kick. If we slow it down you can see that he works the upkick just as much as the downkick.
Here are some different angles. Watch how the kick helps initiate the rotation…how it remains steady and consistent throughout the stroke cycle…and how it starts at the hips, but finishes with a snap of the knees and toes.
And, of course, when you try this on your own, don’t forget to point your toes.