The 2016 Rio Olympics: A Surprising Turn

Even though we had the great Sarah Sjostrom, the Olympic defending champion Ranomi Kromowidjojo, and the former world champion Jeanette Ottesen in the same heat, Kate Campbell was by far the favorite to win the 100 freestyle in 2016. She had just broken the world record a month before and she qualified with the fastest time of the final.

So it was no surprise that lane 4 was winning by the 50-meter mark. What was surprising, though, was that she was swimming under the record pace and ahead of everyone by half a body length, except for her sister in lane two.

The Weight of Expectations

What happened next was an important reminder of how the weight of expectations can crush a swimmer’s performance. Those of you who have felt this just by watching through the screen can still feel Campbell’s muscles tensing to the point of not being able to move at will.

Simone Manuel and Penny Oleksiak both passed her and, against all odds, they both touched the wall at the exact same time, breaking the Olympic record and making history. They both won four medals at those Olympics.

Historical Achievements

Manuel became the first Black American woman to win an Olympic gold in swimming and set an Olympic record. She also became the first American to win this title in 32 years. Oleksiak became the first Canadian to win four medals in the same Summer Olympics and the country’s youngest Olympic champion. She was the first athlete born in the 2000s to claim an Olympic gold medal in an individual event.

The 100 Freestyle: A Prestigious Challenge

Defending the most competitive title in swimming has proven to be almost impossible. The 100 freestyle is the most important and most prestigious swimming event. It is the oldest and the most contested, having been a part of the Olympics 26 times. If you’re the best at this event and your team is strong enough, you have a chance of winning four medals at the Olympic Games just by swimming this one event.

This doesn’t happen in any other event, making it the most sought-after podium. This makes it the hardest event to win. If you do, you become a hero to the communities you belong to, but the weight of the expectations can crush you.

A Historic Feat

Defending this title has proven almost impossible. I say almost because there has only been one woman in history to defend this 100 freestyle Olympic title. It wasn’t Fanny Durack, the first Olympic champion, nor were the Dutch legends Kromowidjojo or Inge de Bruijn, nor the German champions Britta Steffen or Kristin Otto. The Chinese team won this event back-to-back, but with different swimmers: Zhang Yufei and Liu Xiang.

The only swimmer to defend this title has been the Australian swimmer Hall of Famer Dawn Fraser. The 100-meter freestyle record was hers for 15 years, from 1956 to 1972. In 1962, she became the first woman to swim the 100-meter freestyle in less than a minute.

The 2024 Paris Olympics: A New Challenger

This brings us to the upcoming 2024 Paris Olympics, where another Australian has the chance of defending this title. Emma McKeon, the current Olympic champion, will face fierce competition not only from international rivals and possible comebacks from Sjostrom and Manuel but also from within her own country. Last year, Molly O’Callaghan from Australia became the favorite by winning this 100 freestyle title at the World Championships in Fukuoka at 19 years old.

O’Callaghan has already made a name for herself in the swimming world, breaking records and winning multiple medals in international competitions. Her meteoric rise has set the stage for a thrilling showdown with McKeon and all the other stars in Paris.


The Importance of Technique

If you look the picture and think, “How is that even possible?” it’s important to remember that swimming is a sport that relies heavily on technique and body mechanics. One crucial aspect of swimming faster is the ability to raise your shoulder blades effectively. The shoulder blade, also known as the scapula in swimming, plays a vital role in streamlining and generating power in the water.

Understanding Shoulder Mobility (exercise for you)

To understand the importance of shoulder blade movement, try this simple exercise:
Hold your shoulder blade with one hand and prevent it from rotating upward. You’ll notice that the shoulder’s range of motion is immediately limited. Now let it go.

In swimming, where wingspan and overhead movements are essential for speed, a lack of proper shoulder blade mobility can severely hinder performance.

The Role of Streamlining

This streamline position has become one of the most crucial components of swimming, especially since the retirement of swimming legend Ian Thorpe. If you can’t streamline effectively and extend your wings during the dive and after pushing off the wall, you’ll be at a significant disadvantage. While some may argue that this is purely genetic, the truth is that with proper training and technique, the vast majority of people can improve their shoulder blade mobility and streamlining.

Looking Ahead to Paris 2024

As we eagerly anticipate the 2024 Paris Olympics and the thrilling battle in the women’s 100 freestyle, remember that the key to success in swimming lies not only in the skills and talents of the swimmers but also in how they handle the pressure. If you want to improve your swimming, follow us in all our social media.
See you there! Swim fast!

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