Tonight, Katie Ledecky swims the final of the 800 meter freestyle at the Rio Olympics, an event in which she owns the top 10 or so performances in history, and in which her closest competitors will probably be far behind by the halfway point.

As yesterday’s NY Times article Long Swims Are Boring? Not When Katie Ledecky Is Racing the Clock notes “The distance freestyles used to be swimming’s equivalent of baseball’s seventh-inning stretch: a convenient time to take a commercial break or make a trip to the restroom or concession stand.”

No more. As with millions of others, Katie’s race will be “can’t-miss TV” for me. And I hope for you too. Not only for the thrill and inspiration of seeing her break a world record, but for what you can observe about her form and apply to your own swimming.

TI and the Olympics

This week I’ve been invited to comment on Olympic swimming on  two occasions. On Monday, I appeared on the public radio program The Takeaway, to talk with host John Hockenberry why the US is so good at developing Olympic medalists and horribly ineffective at teaching beginners.


On Thursday I joined Slate sports editor Josh Levin for a podcast to explain the techniques that make Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky so special–and seemingly so different from the rest of us.


But you can swim more like Katie than you think, by studying these aspects of her technique this evening then emulating on your next pool visit:

  1. Head Position and Breathing (i) Her head is quite low in the water and aligned with her spine–though I think she could do even better with this. If you study TI video, you’ll see even less of the head visible above the surface. (ii) She breathes inside the bow wave, often with only on
  2. e goggle above the surface and water at the corner of her mouth. (iii) When she breathes, her head moves in synch with her body not independently. Compare my breathing position–at super-easy pace–with Katie’s–swimming super-fast–at the same point in the breath.katie breathWS1
  3. Stroke Length. As I wrote in last summer’s blog Swim like Katie Ledecky? You Can!  the most obvious (and measurable) advantage Katie has over her peers is a longer stroke. Click to read ‘secrets’ of Stroke Length.
  4. Streamlined Kick Katie will probably use a 2-Beat Kick (the one TI teaches for distance and OW swimming) during parts of her 800m race (she uses it for most of her 1500m), before shifting to a 6-Beat Kick for extra speed near the end. In either case, her kick will be controlled, integrated with core-body movement, and–most of all–streamlined. No matter how she kicks, her legs will remain in the ‘slipstream’ behind her upper torso.

Katie in Flow

My favorite aspect of Katie’s swimming–and the one I consider most significant–is psychological, not physical. She takes a zen-like enjoyment in the wonderfulness of how her stroke feels. This was best illustrated by her attitude while racing at a low-key meet in June 2014. I wrote about it in the blog Zen and the Art of Breaking World Records.

Learn both the physical and psychological skills that make Katie a 1-in-7,000,000,000 phenomenon with TI Self Coaching Courses–the Freestyle Mastery course if you’re a TI vet; the Ultra-Efficient Freestyle course if you still have a lot of upside potential in efficiency. unknown