We now come to that particular stroke which, in our opinion, and in that of most professional swimmers, is by far the most valuable.
This is the celebrated side stroke, so called because the swimmer lies on his side.
There is no stroke that enables the swimmer to last so long as it does, and for this reason: instead of employing both arms and legs simultaneously int eh same manner, the side stroke employs them simultaneously but in different manners; so that when the swimmer is tired of exercising one side he can just turn over and proceed with the other, the change of action resting the limbs almost as much as repose would do. Mr. Beckwith, the ex-champion of England, who held the belt for so many years, always employed the side stroke when swimming his matches, and the present champion follows his example. Indeed, out of all the professionals, there is scarcely one in twenty who adopts the old-fashioned breast stroke.
The side stroke is thus managed.
The swimmer lies on his right side, stretching his right arm out as far as he can reach, keeping the fingers of the right hand quite straight and the hand itself held edgewise, so as to cut the water like a shark's fin. The left hand is placed across the chest, with the back against the right breast, and the swimmer is then ready to begin.
He commences by making the usual stroke with his legs, and the right leg, being undermost, doing the greater share of the work. Before the impetus gained by the stroke is quite expended, the right arm is brought round with a broad sweep, until the palm of the hand almost touches the right thigh. At the same moment, the left hand makes a similar sweep, but is carried backwards as far as it can go.
The reader will see that the hands act directly upon the water like the blades of a pair of oars, and do not waste any of their power by oblique action.
In ordinary swimming we seldom use the left arm, but allow it to hand quietly in the water, so that it may be perfectly ready for work when wanted. Then, after some little time, we turn round, swim on the other side, and give the left arm its fair share of labor.
There is a modification of swimming on the side, which is sometimes called thrusting, and sometimes the Indian stroke, because the North American Indians generally employ it.
These terms are rather vaguely employed, but the former is generally used when the swimmer thrusts his arm forward, and the latter when he swings it.
In performing this stroke, the swimmer starts upon his right side, and sweeps his right hand through the water as above mentioned. While that arm is passing through the water, the left arm is swung just above the surface with a bold sweep, the hand dipping into the water when the arm is stretched to it utmost. This movement brings the body over to the left side when the two hands change duties, the left being swept under the body while the right is swung forward.
This is rather a showy style of swimming, but we do not think very much of it. It certainly propels the swimmer with great rapidity for a time, but it requires so much exertion that he is sure to tire before very long. We recollect seeing a race for a silver cup, in which the merits and defects of this stroke were well shown. The swimmer shot ahead of all his competitors with ease, and if the course had been a short one, he would quickly have won.
But the course was a tolerably long one, and the consequence was that when he had traversed almost half the distance, his exertions began to tell on him, and his strokes got rather wild and irregular. Before very long some of the steadier swimmers began to creep up to him, and before two-thirds of the distance was traversed he was passed by two of them. The result of the race was, although he was well ahead half way, he did not even get a place at the finish.
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