The Tokyo Olympics cost Kyle Chalmer just six hundredths of a second, but the champion swimmer believes he has found a game-changer that will make all the difference in Paris in 2024, and he hopes his rivals won’t take advantage of it.
Chalmar has joined the team of Australian sports technology company Euer, who has created a swimsuit, a device that can be used to track a swimmer’s technique in real water.
It gives coaches access to information they have never seen before, such as handballs and angles when going through water.
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“I’m very excited to have access to it,” Chalmer told Wide World of Sports.
“I lost in Tokyo by 0.06 seconds, so for me, anything I can find that will make me a little faster is beneficial.
“Being able to access technology has helped me find the slightest flaw in my stroke and where I can improve.
“It really got me excited and teaming up with them was no-brainer.”
Chalmers says he was surprised when he first swam with the device.
“Initially I didn’t know what to think, but for them to keep me in the pool and swim with the technology, then explain all the graphs and what that means, that little bit was incredible,” he said.
“They gave me a few tips and tricks directly, and I knew I needed to get involved, because I knew it would take me to the next level.
“When my race comes down to such a narrow margin, you have to find every possible advantage to be a winner and it will help me find that extra little bit.”
Chalmars won the 100m freestyle in Rio in 2016 with a time of 47.58. He improved in just half a second in Tokyo, swimming 47.08, but was overtaken by American superstar Caleb Dresell.
While he won’t be impressed with how much this new technology can improve, he admits it could be significant.
“If you look at other sports and there’s a lot of technology available, swimming was probably a bit behind there,” he explained.
“It’s always about whipping yourself and getting you as fit as possible, but technology allows us to be better athletes and swim more efficiently and smarter.
“It will definitely be a huge game-changer.
“If it improves my every single stroke, and I get close to 60 strokes in a run, you want to think I can get off at a fair interval.”
Chalmer’s enthusiasm is shared by head coach Brant Best, who guided James Magnusen for most of his career.
“It’s invaluable to us, it’s something we didn’t really have before,” he told the Wide World of Sports.
“When I saw that my brain was full of potential, it opened up an understanding of questions we hadn’t been able to answer in the past.
“The coaches we have in Australia are talented, but it takes guesswork to figure out exactly what’s going on.”
The latest big revolution in swimming was the development of high-tech body suits, which took a long time. As Best mentioned, there are two ways to get faster: increase the strength of the stroke, or reduce the drag.
Although high-tech suits have been outlawed since 2010, a measure of their effectiveness is seen in a quick glance at the men’s long-course world records, which include freestyle marks for every distance up to 800 meters and
“Changes in swimwear in the late 1990s and early 2000s helped swimmers navigate the water much more efficiently,” Best explained.
“They gave more benefits to swimmers who were probably less talented, who couldn’t even float. It made the playing field somewhat even.
“We are now coming to it from another direction, pulling swimwear, this device enhances the power of application of swimmers.
“But at a higher level, the swimsuit didn’t really change our understanding of the sport. This device changed everything for us.”
The men’s 100m freestyle field in the final in Tokyo lasted just over a second, and Best noted the extraordinary potential that the new technology could make the difference between a gold medal and a finish on the field tail.
“A lot of things that can go wrong with a stroke are related to how well the swimmer goes through the water,” he said.
“When we anchor at the beginning of our stroke when we leave behind, the distance we travel is absolutely crucial and it comes down to a matter of centimeters.
“There may not be more than five centimeters of sound per stroke, but when you add it up to the distance of Kyle’s race, you’re running 100 meters and talking three meters or more.
“This is the difference between the first and the last in the Olympic final.”
Best explained that this would help athletes test their stroke changes outside of the competition to understand how these changes would affect other variables such as heart rate.
“Maximum energy is not always the way to go, because it can then have an impact on other areas,” he said.
“This will help us determine the optimal amount of water to handle with each stroke.”
While best describing how a swimming coach needs to be a salesman, he is able to convey to athletes that a change in the technique they have followed over the years will lead to an improvement.
“If you have information in front of you that says you made this change, and you were swimming this time last week, and now you’re swimming a tenth faster, it really helps to buy,” he said.
“They’re more involved, and they’re not anticipating the change, because you can show them evidence that it works, it’s not just the gut feeling.”
With the Tokyo Games delayed by 12 months due to COVID-19, the race in Paris is one year less than usual.
Already 12 months after Tokyo, the Chalmars are watching the Paris Olympics on the horizon.
“The thrill is that Paris is two years away. The sooner I can use it, the better,” he said.
“It’s an Australian company, so it’s exciting to be able to access it first. Hopefully it will help me and all my Australian colleagues.
“I’m not saying I’ve had a bad stroke right now, but there’s always room for improvement.
“Hopefully I got the best stroke in the world by Paris.”
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