Interesting article here on The New York Times, about USC Trojan head Dave Salo, coach of top breaststrokers Kosuke Kitajima, Eric Shanteau, Michael Alexandrov, Rebecca Soni and Jessica Hardy. Renowned for his somewhat controversial low-milage, high-quality, technique-driven training regimen.
The breaststrokers who train under Salo catch the water on their pulls in the same place, but that’s where the similarities end. Hardy, who also is expected to contend for an Olympic medal in the 50 freestyle next year in London, has a core of steel to complement her Gumby-like leg flexibility.
Her strengths are not to be confused with those of Soni, who has neither an extraordinary pull nor an extraordinary kick, but her timing when she puts the two together is exquisite. Kitajima has a powerful kick, but his technique is what makes him hard to beat. His body position is so efficient, he skims the surface like a water bug. Shanteau has a powerful kick that compensates for a weaker upper body.
Different strengths call for different approaches. At one workout last month, Shanteau was swimming a breaststroke set in the 50-meter racing pool, which was set up for short-course yards. Kitajima was in the adjacent diving well doing his best impression of a yo-yo. He was performing a drill in which he swam breaststroke while wearing a belt with a surgical tubing tail that a teammate held to create extra resistance. When he was done, the teammate reeled him in as Kitajima continued to stroke, a sensation akin to riding a wave into shore.
Soni and Hardy were in the same pool as Shanteau, but Soni was in a middle-distance group that included Shanteau, while Hardy was ensconced with the sprinters.