What Makes A Swimming Champion

By Soichi Sakamoto

 Everyone interested in competitive swimming has constantly been plagued with this question:"What makes a swimming champion?"

First of all, there must be an individual, a person, who has the keenness of mind and a sound body to go along with it. The mechanics involved in coordination to develop a sound working swimming stroke comes from a practical mind that can control the physical self according to his will and a dennite pattern - be it the kick, arms, head, mouth, or the body. All of this involves deep concentration ?

The swimming stroke is a "working tool,": and, therefore it must be one which must be sound in its practical use - "to get the most out of a given effort." It must be simple and efficient, and one, which can be controlled at will by the individual. "Swimming with, and not against the water," is the result of sound technique. The Australians are following this idea.

The interest factor, on the part of the person, must be sincere and constant. He must realize the objective and the necessary sacrifice that must be endured over the years. His foresight and vision must be kept alive for hardships and industry are endless - to dim the weak-at-heart, to give up in despair.

Patience, and above all, is tantamount, and a rule, as improvement, growth, speed and success come only at a snail pace. First, it is learning to swim, training and conditioning, competing and going through the bitter experiences of defeat and chagrin. The light of success comes only when everything seems hopeless and wasted.

 Body development program to enhance the individual's growth and strength for better "horsepower" and streamlining in the water, is fast becoming an accepted rule today. These include a proper balanced diet and supplementing this with the proper vitamins. Besides this, calisthenics, pulleys, weights, running, and other forms of resisting type of execercises are used today for greater swimming efficiency.

Giving the coach a complete free-hand with a swimmer, is a rule that is abused and disregarded by too many. It is from the coach's point-of-view that proper guidance is possible. Besides, proper respect is possible only when this rule is observed. Confusion in the swimmer's mind is the result of listening to, and getting too much advice from others, who feel they know as much as the poor coach. When this happens, the athlete becomes a failure as so many good ones have experienced. There is no more proof of this than in the old saying: "Too many cooks spoil the soup!" American swimming champion Chris Von Saltza's father has this advice to give: "I believe in leaving coaching to the coaches. If more parents would refrain from interfering with the professionals whose job it is to do the training, their children would get a lot more out of competitive sports!"

The champion in action in the water, or on land, is the product of what had been accomplished in the practice pool, or field; he is not, as so many think, how he is swimming - what stroke and style, or what manner, or method he is using, that makes him what he is !