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If you’re a sprint freestyler, you know that most races are won or lost by hundredths of a second.
In a close race, everything comes down to who can get their hand on the wall first, so this is something I work on every day.
The first step – and I bet your coach has said this a million times -- is to finish every interval at the wall. If you coast in from the flags, and stop before you reach the wall, you’re training yourself to finish that way in a race.
The next step is to find your ideal body position at the finish. For me, it looks like this.
I’m on my side, my head and eyes are down, my arm is stretched out as long as I can make it, and I’m touching the wall with the tips of my fingers.
The most common mistake that I see is swimmers who lift their head before they get their hand on the wall. Lifting the head makes you de-celerate, and that’s just the opposite of what you want to do at the finish.
I also see swimmers who touch with the palm of the hand rather than with the tips of the fingers.
Or they finish up on the ledge rather than hitting the touch pad.
Or they let the arm come across their body as they lift the head to look back and get their time on the scoreboard.
These are small mistakes, but any one of them can keep you from getting your hand on the wall first.
To get a feel for the correct finish position, try finishing in slow motion.
Start by swimming easy. When you get to the flags, keep swimming easy but don’t breathe from the flags in. Keep your eyes and head down. Finish with a full extension of the shoulder. And finish by sending the tips of your fingers into the wall and not up over the gutter.
Once you get a feel for your body position at the touch, you can start to add some speed.
But don’t lose sight of the basics. No breathing from the flags in. Eyes down. Reach and extend. Fingertip finish.
As you start to add even more speed, you can add the fine points.
The kick should become more intense.
Pick a target on the wall and adjust your stroke so that you hit it just right.
Keep your head down and give it every ounce of energy you have.
Get that last stroke over and your hand on the wall as fast as you possibly can.
If you finish every interval with this kind of focus, you will win more races.
And if you view your races in this way – that it’s all about getting your hand on the wall first, rather than about your time – you can take a lot of pressure off yourself in big meets and you’ll swim more instinctively.
In every race – whether it’s a small dual meet or the Olympic Games – there is only one thing to do and that is to try to get your hand on the wall before anyone else!