Just what goes into producing a top, world record breaking Olympic swimmer ?
Goggleblog‘s Chris Price was put through his paces with Rebecca Adlington’s coach, Bill Furniss, to find out….
How representative was the training session I’ve just done compared with what you do with Rebecca Adlington?
It’s just a little taster really. The fundamentals are the same, it’s just the amount of swimming that is different.
So how many hours does Rebecca train in the pool each week?
Rebecca does 20 hours a week, 10 two hour sessions. She swims up to 80 kilometres a week and on top of that she does three gym sessions. It’s a pretty hard lifestyle.
How important is the gym workout?
It’s really for core strength and stability as well as injury prevention. Rebecca’s a distance swimmer so we don’t do a lot of power work. She doesn’t do any heavy lifting. There’s more circuits and muscle endurance.
At what age did you recognise that Rebecca was such a huge talent?
Around 12 years of age. She’s always had a tenacity about her training and a desire to do things well. She’s a perfectionist and even at the age of 12 you could see that. She wanted it very badly and was prepared to work very hard. We could see she had great feel and good technique – she was a bit rough around the edges, a bit raw, but with the attitude she had we fast tracked her.
It does seem that we are getting some good swimmers through. What do you think our chances are for the 2012 Olympics?
Yes, I’m pretty excited. We’ve got some great swimmers. Not just Rebecca, but Jo Jackson, Liam Tancock, Fran Halsall, Elizabeth Simmonds. The list goes on. We have quite a few medal prospects. That being said it’s not easy to win a medal. We will be going into those games with a lot of opportunities and the more opportunities the more medal chances.
Do you think we’d do much better if we had more 50m pools where people could train?
I like 50m pools and would like more of them. The facility argument is very important, but I think as important, if not more important, is to have good coach/swimmer relationships. If you have good coaches working with good swimmers in good pool time then that’s the critical thing. Ideally that pool time is 50m, but don’t think that if you haven’t got a 50m pool you can’t become an Olympic champion. Rebecca proved you can. She does most of her swimming in a short course pool.
Do you have to be so determined even as young as 12 to make it as an Olympic champion?
There are some people who come through quite late. What I would say to most age group swimmers is don’t worry if at the age of 15, 16, 17 if you are not one of the very best. People improve at different rates and maturation has a lot to do with it. Boys are definitely later than girls coming through and at a young age the limiting factor is technique so what I would say to young swimmers is concentrate on improving your technique, improving your skills as well as your fitness. By the age of 18 it is usually a much more level playing field.
What are the main faults you identify with ordinary swimmers? What do they typically get wrong?
People tend to focus on effort rather than technique. I’m not saying I don’t want swimmers to work very hard. I do. But it’s counterproductive if you are working very hard with poor technique. The main four things around technique, especially on freestyle, are a very good six beat kick, nice and low breathing action, stroke length and relaxation.
Bill Furniss is a Speedo coach. For more information go to Speedo’s website