Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Throughout sports history, great athletes have created great athletic moves:

* track-and-field: Fosbury Flop
* gymnastics: Thomas Flare

* gymnastics: Omelianchik
* boxing: Rope-a-dope
* wrestling: Karelin Lift
* marathon swimming: The Illchenko

Sports fans have associated certain great moves with great athletes.

In the open water, balanced kicking and leg strength have long been seen as an important tool of competitive open water swimmers – and elite professional coaches are increasingly incorporating more and more kicking sets in their daily workouts.

Like an engine in overdrive, the 6-beat kick of the fastest swimmers is a pleasure to observe. The lower-limb booster slightly lifts the body and propels it forward in synchronization with the faster arm tempo. Strong legs helps streamline and balance the body for enhanced efficiency and speed when it most counts.

The greatest swimmers of the past, from Greta Anderson to Larisa Illchenko, have the strongest legs in the sport.

Jordan Wilimovsky, the reigning world 10 km champion, is typical of the contemporary athletes with a tremendously strong 6-beat kick that is developed with years of practice.

With the 25 men and 25 women qualified for the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim, the importance of a strong kick has never so evident in the open water. “Those who can sustain a strong kick are not only able to make important tactical surges within the race, but they can also most importantly shift gears at the end. Every medalist in the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim will have this ability,” predicts Steven Munatones.

Japanese 2-time Olympian Yasunari Hirai was training at high altitude (2,100m) in Flagstaff, Arizona under Olympic coach Bill Rose of the Mission Viejo Nadadores and Tunisia’s 3-time Olympic medalist Ous Mellouli. Hirai described the importance of kicking.

We trained 80,000 meters at high altitude and realized that training the thighs is critical as well as having flexibility in the ankles and feet to maximum propulsion.

We did kicking sets in the 50m pool with a kickboard, holding pace under 35 seconds in intervals less than 60 seconds. I had to keep up and am getting faster each workout. Training with Ous Mellouli is inspirational. I know that I have to significantly increase my kick to be able to make a rapid change of pace and utilize in the final sprint [at the Olympics].”

Copyright © 2016 by World Open Water Swimming Association