The Corner

Putin’s Breast Stroke

I asked Jeanne’s swim coach, Terry Laughlin, who is the founder and guru of Total Immersion, the swimming technique that he invented, to comment on this shot of Vladimir Putin swimming.

             

 This is what he said: 

Definitely an attempt at butterfly. No style points here. Putin swims fly as most people do–influenced by the notion that it’s about raw power, rather than supple grace. Come to think of it, I wouldn’t bet against his choosing to be photographed swimming a “manly” butterfly as a demonstration of virility.

Like most people who have little understanding of the stroke, he’s diverting most of his energy into moving up and down, rather than forward, by lifting his head far higher than necessary to breathe. 

His arms are tense and likewise clear the water far more than necessary. 

We should always be mindful that any body part lifted above the surface weighs 10x more as a result of losing the ‘buoyancy benefit,’ than when it’s in the water. As you lift it higher, that energy cost soars as well.

He’d travel farther forward–and expend far less energy–on each stroke if he kept his head moving forward, while grazing the surface with his chin, as he breathes. And his arms would do a more effective job of transferring momentum forward if he recovered with a relaxed, wide, sweeping action–leading with the back of his hand rather than his thumbs, barely above the surface.

And who better to illustrate my points than Michael Phelps.

Richard Brookhiser — Historian Richard Brookhiser is a senior editor of National Review and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

Most Popular

Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More
PC Culture

Kill Chic

We live in a society in which gratuitous violence is the trademark of video games, movies, and popular music. Kill this, shoot that in repugnant detail becomes a race to the visual and spoken bottom. We have gone from Sam Peckinpah’s realistic portrayal of violent death to a gory ritual of metal ripping ... Read More
Elections

Romney Is a Misfit for America

Mitt’s back. The former governor of Massachusetts and occasional native son of Michigan has a new persona: Mr. Utah. He’s going to bring Utah conservatism to the whole Republican party and to the country at large. Wholesome, efficient, industrious, faithful. “Utah has a lot to teach the politicians in ... Read More
Law & the Courts

What the Second Amendment Means Today

The horrifying school massacre in Parkland, Fla., has prompted another national debate about guns. Unfortunately, it seems that these conversations are never terribly constructive — they are too often dominated by screeching extremists on both sides of the aisle and armchair pundits who offer sweeping opinions ... Read More
U.S.

Fire the FBI Chief

American government is supposed to look and sound like George Washington. What it actually looks and sounds like is Henry Hill from Goodfellas: bad suit, hand out, intoning the eternal mantra: “F*** you, pay me.” American government mostly works by interposition, standing between us, the free people at ... Read More
Film & TV

Black Panther’s Circle of Hype

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) first infantilizes its audience, then banalizes it, and, finally, controls it through marketing. This commercial strategy, geared toward adolescents of all ages, resembles the Democratic party’s political manipulation of black Americans, targeting that audience through its ... Read More