How important is height in swimming?

Forums General General How important is height in swimming?

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    • #12916
      swimUK
      Member

      I’m wondering how much height plays into someone’s potential in swimming, specifically for girls? Looking at the elite swimmers, most of them are at least 5’10”. College rosters are full of girls ranging from 5’7″ to 5’10”. My daughter is almost 15 and is only 5’1″ (should have been a diver!). I think it’s safe to say she won’t grow much anymore. She has to compete against 11 y.olds that are taller than her! It’s pretty discouraging for her, but I’m wondering if it is possible to compensate in other areas. Her best are fly and free (28.2 in 50 free, 1:01.3 100 free and 1:07:2 in 100 fly as mid-year freshman), but how much can she improve before the height will become a real limitation? Does anyone know of any good female swimmers who were this short? Thanks for any thoughts.

    • #42398

      @swimUK wrote:

      I’m wondering how much height plays into someone’s potential in swimming, specifically for girls? Looking at the elite swimmers, most of them are at least 5’10”. College rosters are full of girls ranging from 5’7″ to 5’10”. My daughter is almost 15 and is only 5’1″ (should have been a diver!). I think it’s safe to say she won’t grow much anymore. She has to compete against 11 y.olds that are taller than her! It’s pretty discouraging for her, but I’m wondering if it is possible to compensate in other areas. Her best are fly and free (28.2 in 50 free, 1:01.3 100 free and 1:07:2 in 100 fly as mid-year freshman), but how much can she improve before the height will become a real limitation? Does anyone know of any good female swimmers who were this short? Thanks for any thoughts.

      Janet Evans is a little runt. She’s pretty fast.

    • #42399
      Rudy Shingle
      Member

      I would say shape height wingspan are all big factors, but remember there is an exception for every rule.

    • #42400
      Low Tide
      Member

      Janet Evans was not very tall, if I recall. Height is a definite advantage, however. — Just looked it up, she is 5’5.

      That is only to say females at 5’1 will probably not break many world records. The sport is chock full of “short” swimmers who do just fine based on talent and work ethic… especially DIII. I consistently placed third in the nation to two guys that were around 5’7 – 5’8 in the butterfly while I am 6’2.

      Shorter swimmers can do very well by working on their start and turn mechanics — especialy in short course yards. Shorter, quick limbs are an advantage in turns.

      Mike Barrowman was a short guy for the sport, and he shattered the breastroke record and held it for years.

    • #42401

      Generally speaking, I think tall athletes excel at sports that require speed and power. Short athletes excel at sports that require grace and agility. Swimming is all about speed and power, so short swimmers are at a huge disadvantage. There are tons of sports which require both speed and agility, so people of average height fit well into these. Soccer and hockey come to mind.

      As for your daughter, 5’1” is on the verge of dwarfism. I’m not trying to be rude, but you might want to look into growth hormones. Modern medical technology can add 2 inches to kids height if you hit it at the right age. Americans are generally very tall. Your kid will feel much better about herself is she can get even a few inches closer to average height.

    • #42402
      Low Tide
      Member

      That’s a great suggestion — growth hormones are injected daily, cost around $10k – $30k a year, do not work well for fully grown individuals not seriously deficient in human growth hormone and not to mention she would be disqualified from virtually any serious competition.

      Great idea though, seriously.

    • #42403
      Monkey Boy
      Member

      Maybe she can look into plastic surgery as well… you know, so she can feel better about herself.

    • #42404

      @Low Tide wrote:

      That’s a great suggestion — growth hormones are injected daily, cost around $10k – $30k a year, do not work well for fully grown individuals not seriously deficient in human growth hormone and not to mention she would be disqualified from virtually any serious competition.

      Great idea though, seriously.

      As ever, Mac of the MIAC is here to help.

    • #42405
      Colbybr
      Member

      Erik Vendt is probably somewhere between 5’9 and 5″10. Immensely talented, but short. When it all comes down to it height is just another factor in people’s natural ability. I have seen girls at 5’2, 5’3 throw down senior national times so don’t let it get into yours or your daughters head that she is not capable of being a fast swimmer.

    • #42406

      Tide and Mac, where did you get all that info on growth hormones? I’ve thought of getting my nephew some for Christmas. Either that or Greenies. They don’t test for that stuff in coach-pitch yet.

      I remember watching one of those Michael Jordan videos, and he talked about hanging from a pull-up bar as a kid to get taller (he saw it on the Brady Bunch). That would be a cheaper option than hormone therapy. Jordan had short parents, so I think it actually worked for him.

    • #42407

      Generally, taller swimmers are faster.

      But, as with everything, there are exceptions (a few, at least):

      Kitajima, probably about 5’7″
      David Berkoff, 5’9 or so (look at him in the 400MR picture from 1988: he’s much shorter than Biondi, Jacobs or Schroeder)
      Daichi Suzuki, the guy who beat Berkoff in the 100 back in 1988 was about the same height

      On the D-III level:
      Dave Hutchison, the 1991 mile champ (Kenyon) was about 5’9 or so
      Greg Sampson, the 1990 and 91 breaststroke champion (Carleton College) was about 5’9-10 or so
      Matt Johnson, former 100 fly record-holder (JHU) was about 5’9 or so

      (I might be totally mis-remembering those though.)

      I was always the shortest guy in my heat at NCAA’s (5’9″: I am not saying I was all that good: I’m saying there were lots of better swimmers, almost all of whom were taller). I sometimes wonder if I was limited by my height. However, now it’s pretty cool, since I run marathons and train for ironmans: I don’t have to schlep around all that extra weight and those long limbs.

    • #42408
      Rudy Shingle
      Member

      what about carlos vega that guy was only like 5’7″ champ 200 fly Kenyon

    • #42409
      Colbybr
      Member

      Generally shorter swimmers are more successful in breaststroke and butterfly. A lot of elite breaststrokers are under 6 ft tall and there are always fast butterflyers that are shorter. I swam in the same league as Norman Scott, last years d3 fly champ. He cannot be taller than 5’6

    • #42410
      Rudy Shingle
      Member

      It’s the short axiss. It allows the shorter swimmer to rotate faster. Long axis strokes the swimer rotates still about the same amount, so that advantage it definitely on the taller person long axis.
      It is funny because it was only the first time I wrote it that it came out wrong. I probably wasn’t thinking

    • #42411
      JHU84
      Member

      @PioneerSwimming wrote:

      Generally, taller swimmers are faster.

      But, as with everything, there are exceptions (a few, at least):

      Kitajima, probably about 5’7″
      David Berkoff, 5’9 or so (look at him in the 400MR picture from 1988: he’s much shorter than Biondi, Jacobs or Schroeder)
      Daichi Suzuki, the guy who beat Berkoff in the 100 back in 1988 was about the same height

      On the D-III level:
      Dave Hutchison, the 1991 mile champ (Kenyon) was about 5’9 or so
      Greg Sampson, the 1990 and 91 breaststroke champion (Carleton College) was about 5’9-10 or so
      Matt Johnson, former 100 fly record-holder (JHU) was about 5’9 or so

      (I might be totally mis-remembering those though.)

      I was always the shortest guy in my heat at NCAA’s (5’9″: I am not saying I was all that good: I’m saying there were lots of better swimmers, almost all of whom were taller). I sometimes wonder if I was limited by my height. However, now it’s pretty cool, since I run marathons and train for ironmans: I don’t have to schlep around all that extra weight and those long limbs.

      I was 5’9″ on a good day and won some events – could do a good hundered relay split 45 high. but prev posters are right have to really work turns and have good kick

    • #42412

      True, Matt Johnson was only 5’9″, but he could dunk. Mad ups.

      Also, he could leap tall buildings and cure cancer and even instill fear into Chuck Norris. Just from what I’ve been told though.

    • #42413

      It is called “short AXIS” for breaststroke and fly. Though, short “access” is sorta funny.

      One name I forgot to add, and this goes with the short axis strokes: Penny Heyns from South Africa, the 1996 double gold-medalist in the breaststrokes. She is probably 5’5″, but had incredibly strong quads and hips. Her stroke was almost completely leg-powered, it seemed. Contrast her with successful tall breaststrokers like Kristy Kowal (6’2″). In the short axis context, she was able to activate those strong kicks on a very quick cycle, and created a higher frequency of kick and wave-action undulation.

      Natalie Coughlin and Maritza Correia, two of the fastest women in history, aren’t super tall either.

    • #42414
      99 Red
      Member

      I’m not sure exactly how tall they are but one of Denison’s top sprinters, Olivia Zaleski is certainly short, and Amy DiVito, the varsity record holder in the 400 IM at DU was also short. I’ve seen many more short good swimmers than I have seen tall good divers.

    • #42397
      swim5599
      Member

      I think the length of your arms plays a part as well. I was 6’2 which is not necesarrily short but I had really long arms also.

    • #42415
      sluggo
      Member

      There are some good Asian swimmers and Asians are not generally known for having great height. I think for women, body type/shape is more important. Females tend to put on fat during the teen years as breasts and hips develop. The larger the breasts and hips, the harder it is to power through the water. Many of the female college swimmers are not particularly big or tall.

    • #42416

      There was a Backstroker from Univ of Ten. who was only 5’7″ and was NCAA champion (help with the name). He was quick off the walls. William (Bill) Bishop, who swam on the Univ. of Minn. and the I think Arizona was about 5’7″ as well (hard to remember, but he was short, no taller then 5’8″). He had a quick mile (he was the record older at MN, until Mortimer broke it).

      Being short and a sprinter is much more difficult, but there have been short fast sprinters. With eveything else, a lot has to do with ability. When I was 16 or so I Volunteered at Senior nationals when it was in MN and I chatted with a Girl who qualified for Nationals in the 100 fly. Amazing to watch her swim. She was 15 yrs old, and no taller then 5’1″. She might have been even shorter (I was about 5’10” at the time and I remember her head not even reaching my chin). Smallerst swimmer I have ever seen.

    • #42417
      swimUK
      Member

      Thanks everyone. My daughter is not looking to shatter world records, she just wants to be competitive in div. 3 when she goes to college in 3.5 years. From what I can see, level varies quite a bit, with some teams much stronger than others. At least it looks like there is hope for her even if she stays the same height she is now. Who knows how much time she can drop in the next few years, but hopefully, it will be enough to make a team in a decent d3 school!

    • #42418
      Colbybr
      Member

      @Its all an ACT wrote:

      There was a Backstroker from Univ of Ten. who was only 5’7″ and was NCAA champion (help with the name).

      I believe that was Michael Gilliam.

    • #42419
      franchise
      Member

      From the top of my head.. Alex Lim, Thomas Rupprath and Kamerling (female sprinter from Sweden) I believe were all pretty short..

    • #42421
      lost at sea
      Member

      is 5’9 really that short? you guys are making me feel like a midget…haha.

      btw, Matt Johnson’s left boot is now proudly on display in the Hopkins Hall of Fame room – the right boot was sent to the Smithsonian.

    • #42420
      JHU84
      Member

      @lost at sea wrote:

      is 5’9 really that short? you guys are making me feel like a midget…haha.

      btw, Matt Johnson’s left boot is now proudly on display in the Hopkins Hall of Fame room – the right boot was sent to the Smithsonian.

      doug morgan and I are both shorter than matt and we are in there “long live midget swimming”

      sorry on wall of fame long before your time

    • #42422
      swim5599
      Member

      I think it is awesome that someone mentioned Bill Bishop. Yeah he was not very big but he was an animal. Too bad we never really saw what he was capable of.

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