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Friday, August 12, 2016

Olympics, Part III: Swans

I couldn't help but notice that some of the swimmers in these Games have extraordinarily long necks:

Aliaksandra Herasimenia, the silver medalist in the 2012 Olympics in the 50 and 100 freestyles, and silver medalist in Rio in the 50 free:

Penny Oleksiak, the 16-year-old silver medalist in the 100 fly and gold medalist in the 100 free (on right):

Kevin Cordes, a finalist in both the 100 and 200 breaststroke:

Michael Phelps:

I have no idea whether a long neck is an advantage in swimming, and if so, how that advantage would work. But it seems more than just coincidence that some of the better swimmers are a little swanlike.


Anonymous said...

Those are some seriously long necks. Extremes of body type seem to dominate certain sports. I would guess that long necks are pretty closely correlated with wingspan and torso length, two things we know are highly advantageous to swimmers.

John Craig said...

Anon --
That's a good point, the correlation with long arms and torsos, hadn't thought of that.

Lucian Lafayette said...

I agree. The relationship probably is that the body type which is suited for swimming well is also tied to the genetics for long necks.

But the proportions do look a little odd in some cases.

This seems to be a bit of a recent development. Glancing back at older (20+ years) photos of swimmers, they don't seem to have the torso proportions of modern Olympic swimmers. The rather broad shoulders were present in some cases but you would expect that with years of training in a sport that emphasized the deltoid, pectoral, and generally shoulder muscle groups (especially in developmental years).



John Craig said...

Luke --
Yes, 40 years ago a regularly proportioned guy could still make it based on hard work and dedication. But in recent years, swimming has become more a sport of freaks, not quite like track and field, where you can identify a guy's event just by looking at him, but in the sense of height being pretty much a necessity for some events. Breaststrokers and distance freestylers can sometimes get away with being normalized guys, but otherwise you pretty much have to be tall. An exception would be Joseph Schooling, who just won the 100 fly, I'd guess he's around 5' 11", but if you look at him closely, you can see that he has abnormally long arms for his height, and long arms are basically 90% of the advantage of being tall.

Jokah Macpherson said...

If there is a correlation between neck and torso length and the length of limbs, then I am definitely an outlier. I have a long torso and a neck like the ones in the pictures but my arm span is 3 inches shorter than my height. So I definitely underperform my height in sports like basketball, although I have a vague impression that people with long necks "look" taller than they actually are.

John Craig said...

Jokah --
Good to hear from you, it's been a while. I was about to say you shoulda been a swimmer, until I finished your second sentence. Not sure what sport your build would have been ideal for.