Below are five tips to get your starting going – these are aimed at a traditional grab start rather than a track start.
1. be prepared
Some swimmers like to wipe the bock dry before a race. This is a personal preference but can only help your feet get a grip on the surface of the block. Nick Gillingham for example, dried both the block and his feet before getting to his marks to make sure that his feet had as little chance of slipping as possible. Make sure that, when you are called onto the blocks that you get ready, that you get your toes over the edge of the blocks and make sure that your feet are comfortable. The rules allow you to place your feet immediately at the front of the blocks so you should have plenty of time to get everything right. Remember to breathe at this point – with so many other things to think about, its very easy to forget!
2. get your weight forward
When called to take your marks, make sure you get your weight over your toes, not over your heels, and grab hold of the front of the block. Its important to get your weight as far forward as possible without losing your balance, as this will save you time in getting away from the block, so practice to find a position that is comfortable and that you can hold for a second or so, while the starter is holding you.
3. pull down
When the gun goes, its vital that you don’t rock back on your heels. A good way to ensure this is to pull down on the front to the block. It sounds odd, but it works. Make sure you do this as the first movement after the start – as Linford Christie famously said, pull down on the ‘B of Bang’ – or for swimmers bleep. Shift your weight forward and drive off the block with your toes.
4. go up then down
When you start moving forward you should aim first to go out and up, as though you are trying to grab hold of the backstroke flags. Keep your hands and arms pointing downwards during this movement though – if you get your arms over your ears you will get to flat as you move towards the entry to the water. Once you have fully extended your body, push your head down and go for the entry in a good streamlined postion
As you enter the water, keep your streamline – hands one on top of another and arms tightly over your ears. Don’t start swimming to early and in particular don’t start kicking until your feet are in the water.
Finally remember that whatever you may get from these tips, they will be of no use if you don’t remember to dive properly every time you do a start – only perfect practice makes perfect!