Race Strategies of Open Water Swimmers in the 5-km, 10-km, and 25-km Races of the 2017 FINA World Swimming Championships.
Abstract: Despite literature on the pacing strategies of endurance sports, there is an existing lack of knowledge about the swimmers’ tactical decisions in the open water races. The aims of the present research were (1) to compare the pacing profiles and tactical strategies of successful elite open water swimmers (men and women) in the 5-km, 10-km, and 25-km races and (2) to relate these pacing strategies to the end race results. Intermediate split times, positions and gaps with leaders of the first ten swimmers classified in the 2017 FINA World Swimming Championships races were collected from the public domain and were related to the finishing positions. Overall swimming velocities of the 5-km races were faster than the 10-km (d 0.03 0.03 m/s) and the 25-km (d 0.14 0.01 m/s) events with male swimmers achieving relatively faster mean velocities than females in the 5-km (d 0.12 0.01 m/s) compared to the 25-km (d 0.08 0.01 m/s) events. Medallist swimmers achieved moderate faster overall velocities than finalists in the 25- km races (0.01 0.01 m/s) only. Inter-level differences were detected in selected splits for each race distance. Pacing profiles presented lap to lap velocity improvements in the 5-km and men’s 10-km races (from C0.02 0.00 to C0.11 0.01 m/s) but also midrace decreases in the women’s 10-km and on the 25-km races. Successful swimmers were located in the leading positions of the 5-km races but at mid-group in the first part of the 10-km and 25-km races, with time gaps with leaders of 15–20 s. Faster lap swimming velocities, mid-race leading positions and shorter time-gaps were only related to the finishing positions in the last lap of the 10-km and in the three last laps of the 25-km events, but also in the first lap of the women’s 5-km race. Despite different midrace positioning, successful open water swimmers typically presented negative pacing profiles, a consistent control of mid-race gaps with leaders (15–20 s maximum) and great spurts (4–6% faster than mean race velocities) at the end of races. Coaches and swimmers should be aware of the different race dynamics depending to the event distance in order to select optimal race strategies.
- CAFYD