An Unbiased Analysis of the Four Strokes
by Laurie Kilmartin
This piece is an objective look at the four strokes as seen through the eyes of a breaststroker. The reviews of the strokes themselves are presented in no particular order.
Oh yes, let us begin with the aquatic F-word, freestyle. Truly a dull and unimaginative stroke. Left arm, right arm, left kick, right kick. We detect a pattern here. What kind of person finds intellectual stimulation in this sort of repetition? Clomp, clomp, clomp. Freestyle is an elephant's stroke, all apologies to elephants. It is a stroke for people who stop at yellow lights and excel at algebra. Informal polling has led us to conclude that, to a person, freestylers prefer Windows to Macintosh, Kenny G to Miles Davis and day to night. Coaches wanting to see eyes literally bug out of sockets need only move a freestyler to the breaststroke lane. Yes, Virginia, there is more to life than catch-up drills and flutter kick.
Breaststroker's recommendation: Use this stroke for warmups only.
We have many questions to ask of the world's backstrokers. First, what is the matter with you? That's right, you heard us. What is your problem? Do you not realize that you are upside down? Does light not shine in your sinister eyes? Are you reptiles with a second pair of eyelids, opaque in nature, that protect you from the sun's rays? Speaking of eyes, what about the ones in the backs of your heads, allowing you to spot the wall? Is it true that you can see through Speedos? And what of your start...crouched in front of the blocks as if praying to your "god." Who sent you to Earth? What have you done with Elvis? And why, when you grab at our private parts in practice, do you pretend that it is an accident?
Breaststroker's recommendation: Skip this one altogether; it is wholly unnatural.
Good Lord. When will this most violent of strokes be committed to an insane asylum? With a recovery that emphasizes arms oustretched and hurling dangerously through the air, we wonder how many more breaststrokers have to be smacked across the face by an errant flier's paw before this experiment gone awry is canceled. Butterfly is a bad seed, borne out of breaststroke and mistakenly given its own place in the medley relay. The loud uncle of swimming, butterfly boorishly hogs the remote control, making all the other strokes watch football on Thanksgiving Day. We cannot help but think that witnessing butterfly is like babysitting a spoiled child who constantly screams, "look at me!"
Enough, butterfliers, enough. It's time to grow up. You are making a scene. You are hereby grounded to your room, where you shall consume copious amounts of Ritalin and think about the turbulent waves your savage dolphin kicking has caused decent, hardworking breaststrokers.
Breaststroker's recommendation: Swim only if you want to scare little kids out of your lane.
Breaststroke is all that is noble and good in this cruel world. Many deities, including God, Allah, and John F Kennedy Jr, enjoy the solitude of this most subtle of strokes. Unlike its neanderthal brethren, breaststroke has refined tastes. It reads the New Yorker and paints abtracts with oil. It hates both Demi Moore movies and the first half and last fourth of the IM. Breaststroke, we suspect, enjoys a martini now and again. Contrast this with the alcoholic butterfly, which pounds Budweisers from cans, shoplifted from a 7-11. It soothes the inner beast and acts as a gentle tonic on a troubled heart. In fact, whenever we use our upgrade coupons to fly first class, just thinking about breaststroke drowns out the moaning of the rabble back in coach.
Breaststroke, you see, is in harmony with the universe; its pull and kick chase one another in playful symmetry. And if that weren't enough, breaststroke also boasts the crown jewel of competitive swimming, the pulldown. Comprised of a long sinewy pull followed by a spry frog kick, the pulldown is a holy moment of shrouded watery silence. Breaststrokers go to chapel during the pulldown, (often giving thanks that they are not backstrokers), and break to the surface only when their brave lungs are nearly burst. We have yet to see the fishkick or streamline that invokes such spiritual repose. Breaststroke is Yin and Yang, Rum and Coke, and the Captain and Tennille. Man does not go to breaststroke; man waits for breaststroke to come to him. Amen, brothers and sisters.
Breaststroker's recommendation: Join us.
Laurie Kilmartin is a stand-up comic, writer, Master swimmer, and breaststroker. Visit her web page (kilmartin.com). Especially visit her section on swimming (including her personal guide to pools she has practiced in while on the road, and read her other articles about swimming).
Her analysis of the four strokes, above, appears on her web page.