For one year, a daily alarm at 8:00pm reminded Kathleen Baker of the 100 backstroke world record time: 58.10 seconds. At the 2017 World Championships, it was Kylie Masse from Canada who had set this record, while Baker had to settle for silver. The motivational trick seems to work out: At the US Championships in Irvine Baker snatched the world record in 58,00 seconds. The race analysis carried out by the sports scientists of the Institute for Applied Training Sciences (IAT) in Leipzig, Germany, shows that she was not just highly motivated during the past twelve months, but also worked hard in the pool.

The key to the record: Baker has expanded her strengths. "Advantages come mainly from small improvements among strong dolphin kicks at start and turn," explains Jürgen Küchler, analyst at the IAT. In fact, Baker has her strengths especially in the underwater phase as the direct comparison with the previous world record holder Kylie Masse shows.

In the isolated start and turn move the Canadian is actually better, but during the underwater phase Baker kicks away. At the start of her race in Irvine, she surfaced 1.5m, at the turn even 2.6m later than Masse in the World Championships final 2017. She kicked also much faster than Masse. In the underwater phase after the start alone she was about three tenths of a second faster than the Canadian.

Baker vs. Masse: start and turn

  Kathleen Baker
world record 2018
US Championships
Kylie Masse
wold record 2017
World Champs.
reaction time (s) 0.56 0.54
time 5m (s) 1.62 1.54
time 15m (s) 6.68 7.00
underwater distance (m) 13.9m 12.3m
speed 5-15m (m/s) 1,98 1,83
time 45 - 55m (s) 5.02 4.94
time 50 - 55m (s) 1.80 1.70
underwater distance (m) 11.8m 9.2m
speed 55 - 65m (m/s) 1,69 1,63

The analysis also shows, that on the surface Masse is actually the faster swimmer. In the direct comparison, it is striking that both have completely opposite race tactics. On one hand, Baker has a very fast first lane, but then really has to fight on the final 25m. On the other hand, Masse swims much more consistent and has a higher speed at the end of the race.

Baker vs. Masse: splits and speeds

  Kathleen Baker
world record 2018
US Championships
Kylie Masse
wold record 2017
World Champs.
split times (s)    
15m 0:06.68 0:07.00
25m 0:12.56 0:13.02
50m 0:27.90 0:28.51
75m 0:41.86 0:42.46
100m   0:58.00 0:58.10
split 50 - 100m 0:30.10 0:29.59
finish 95 - 100m 0:03.20 0:03.08
speed (m/s)    
5 - 15m 1.98 1.83
15 - 25m 1.70 1.66
25 - 35m 1.66 1.65
35 - 45m 1.64 1.61
55 - 65m 1.69 1.63
65 - 75m 1.60 1.63
75 - 85m 1.57 1.61
85 - 95m 1.52 1.58

At the 2017 World Championships Masse was able to beat Baker with this tactic. But now the tables have turned. There are two main reasons why the US-American was able to break the world record. One reason is that she has further improved her strength, the underwater phase. On the first 15m alone, Baker was 3.2 tenths faster in her world record race than in the 2017 World Championships final in which she set her previous best time. The better underwater phase has two effects. On the one hand, Baker needs less time during the kick phase itself, on the other hand, she can take more speed into the swimming movement. The reason for this doesn’t necessarily have to be better kicks. "The higher speed at the beginning of the backstroke could also be a result of a more optimal way underwater," explains Jürgen Küchler, saying than an optimized, low-resistance dive or an optimized swimming curve under water could have helped, too. If we look at her underwater stats it is impressive that she had nearly the same kick frequence and underwater distance as in 2017. Still, Baker was significantly faster. Less drag or more power with each kick can be the reason for that.

The second significant improvement can be seen in the turn. Between 50m and 55m Baker was 1.2 tenth faster than at her previous best performance. Otherwise, the pure swimming speeds and stroke rates on the second half of the race are almost identical to the World Championships final of 2017. Also during the last meters the 21-year-old already got a little bit better, but especially at this part of the race there is still much room for improvement and Baker has already set her next target. Her new reminder: 57,99 seconds.

Baker vs. Baker:

  Kathleen Baker
world record 2018
US Championships
Kathleen Baker
final 2017
World Champs.
 reaction time 0.56 0.59
time in the air  0.32 0.32
time 5m  1.64 1.62
time 15m 6.68 6.86
underwater distance 13.9m 13.9m
time 45-55m 5.02 5.16
time 50-55m 1.80 1.92
speed 55-65m 1.69 1.68
underwater distance 11.8m 11.2m
split times (s)    
25m 0:12.56 0:12.86
50m 0:27.90 0:28.29
75m 0:41.86 0:42.40
100m   0:58.00 0:58.58
split 50 - 100m 0:30.10 0:30.29
finish 95 - 100m 3.20 3.14
speed (m/s)    
5 - 15m 1.98 1.91
15 - 25m 1.70 1.67
25 - 35m 1.66 1.66
35 - 45m 1.64 1.63
55 - 65m 1.69 1.68
65 - 75m 1.60 1.60
75 - 85m 1.57 1.56
85 - 95m 1.52 1.51
stroke rate     
15 - 25m 50 50
35 - 45m 50 50
65 - 75m 54 54
85 - 95m 50 50