Wednesday, March 16, 2011

speed apnea II: Pieter time

The list of world records for the 100 meter freestyle swimming is mind-boggling if you ever tried to do a bit of a quick swim. First off, you get exhausted after 6 strokes, but also if you're trained and figured out how and when to breathe and not die and things, there still comes a point where the water just turns to custard and your limbs with it. I managed to do 100 meters in 1 minute 20 once, a couple of years back, and spent the rest of the day recuperating and crying. Since starting freediving, i gave up on the whole notion of speed in water.

But then there was that speed apnea thing and messing around with the monofin was quite good fun, the water going 'woosh woosh woosh' by your ears and the sensations of speed washing away all thoughts, so i tried going a bit faster, and ended up doing the 100 meters within 50 seconds. I did that in what is officially called the 'Pieter van den Hoogenband zwemstadion', which is part of a larger swim complex called the Tongelreep (for us Dutch are good at coming up with sexy names), but is known affectionately by swimmers as the Pieterpool. It is a fantastic pool build for a legendary swimmer: Pieter van den Hoogenband was the first man to do the 100 meter freestyle in less than 48 seconds, a record that stood for 8 years.

Less than 48, without fins. That's insane. But when you look at that boggling list of records on the 100 meter freestyle, it starts making a bit more sense. I mean, Tarzan is on that list. It's a list of quite extraordinary people. It begins over 100 years ago, in 1905, with a Hungarian called Zoltan Halmay. Now with a name like that you're destined to become a magician, but he did 100 meters in 1 minute and 5.8 seconds. Impressive, especially when you take into regard this was well before lycra and he was  wearing his woolen underwear. The first to break the minute is Johnny Weismuller, aka Tarzan, in 1922 with a time of 58.6, but he was being chased by a crocodile. It progresses slowly; by the early seventies they're in the low 50's, with Mark Spitz leading the way, probably with dribble out of his mouth. Then in 1976 a man called Jim Montgomery breaks the 50 by 1/100 of a second -whilst leading a tank division. Now Matt Biondi is a name i remember, also because it would be a good name for a futuristic superglue, but mostly because he was damn quick and broke the 49 in 1985. He had the world record until '94, when Popov broke it with 48.21 -but that was controversial because of the really big red shoes he was wearing. And then this dutch boy Pieter comes along.

On the 19th of september in the year 2000 the then 22 year old Pieter swims everyone and everything to shreds with a time of 47.84. And for 8 years, no one is able to beat him. No wonder they build that pool for him.

You still see him around there; he is HUGE, 90% chest and the rest smile. I always get a little starstruck when i see him. I look at him and think "Dude, i can't even swim that fast with a huge fucking fin on." But then i did it in 49 seconds, and that 47 seconds of his started calling me. I looked at the footage of my dive and saw i could improve by applying more backstroke, and pretty much just gunning it right from the start. So i did:

This was last monday -it still hurts. The whole idea of supple strength was thrown out about midway, to be replaced by blunt force. It wasn't pretty, and i swam right into custard at around 60, but it was slightly satisfying to get to Pieter speed -even if i had to cheat by wearing a fin.

There are a lot of kids training in that pool who can break the minute, lots of little Johnny Weismullers -though less vocal- and i admire them. I wonder what they can do with a fin. But can someone please ask Pieter to put a fin on and break one more world record? I would, but i stutter around him.

PS anonymous but German sources tell me the video cannot be watched by our fine neighbors. Youtube isn't always the most forgiving of hosts when it comes to private little parties like this. I hope Vimeo can solve this grave injustice:


Tanguy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tanguy said...

Check this out!
Apnea - 50m - 00:14.51
Although they start with a jump I think.

As for the freestyle: as a good portion of your body is above the water (not completely immersed), that must be quite a good advantage compared to underwater swimming! Less friction.

Tanguy said...

Oh wow
Finswimming record:
Immersion - 100 m - 00:31.52

They use a small scuba tank, so completely immersed.

Daan Verhoeven said...

yeah, those finswimmers are unbelievably quick -but i do think being able to breathe helps quite a bit. You burn so much oxygen, and the legs just kinda go after 50-60.

But don't forget about the surface friction freestyle swimmers get, that's actually such a strong force that it negates the advantage of less friction in air. That's why swimmers are only allowed 15 meters underwater.

Anonymous said...

Hey Daan!

You must have some funky background music, because I can't watch the video here in good'ol Deuschland - or were you swimming nude... and they just simply banned it ;-))
Any way it would be wonderful to see an unabashed version. Could you make this possible?

A curious fan.....

Daan Verhoeven said...


No nudity, though: sorry. Maybe next time -but we'll need a camera with a very mighty zoom.