«It looks quite good when you don’t breathe»

Patrick Bardelli
Zurich, on 27.11.2018
Today, I’m in Uster and meeting up with a swimmer. In Switzerland’s largest indoor swimming pool, I’m getting physical with Svenja Stoffel. The 21-year-old from Grisons is aiming for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. But before that, she’s signed up to swim with me.

We’re going to swim back and forth once and include a flip turn. How hard can it be? Maybe I should mention that water is not my element. It makes me feel like a stone. Nonetheless, my goal for today is: A 50-metre crawl followed by a flip turn and another 50 metre crawl back. Thankfully, I’ve got professional help. It’s provided by 21-year-old swimmer Svenja Stoffel. The dream of this lady who trains at swimming club Uster is the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. So if I’m the stone, Svenja’s the fish.
All videos available with English subtitles

Don’t hold your breath

Not only do I swim like a stone, I breathe wrong. Let’s be honest, I don’t breathe at all. Never a great idea when you’re exercising and frankly just a bit silly when you’re swimming. So the first thing Svenja does, is give me the lowdown on a sensible breathing technique. Three strokes, inhale once or inhale with every second stroke. First, I try three strokes but eventually switch to two. I soon realise that it doesn’t actually matter. Instead, I need to force myself to breathe when I’m in water. Svenja suddenly exclaims: «Hey Patrick, it looks quite good when you don’t breathe.» Okay. So I stop breathing and pass as an amateur swimmer. But seriously: Developing a good breathing technique isn’t as easy as it might sound. It takes time and there’s no way I’m going to get it right in such a short time.

No way I’m breathing!
No way I’m breathing!
Breathless peanut head
Breathless peanut head

That flipping flip

I swim like a stone, I breathe wrong or not at all and am incapable of mastering a flip turn. How can this be? All I need to do is an underwater somersault, squeeze in a half turn and push myself off the pool wall with my feet. Et voilà – a flip turn! In theory, that is. But I just can’t get it right. When the somersault’s good, I mess up the half turn and vice-versa. On those rare occasions I get both right, I’m too far from the pool wall and can’t push myself off. As always in life: Practice makes perfect.

The stone and the pro
The stone and the pro

Showdown

After three hours of practice, it’s crunch time. A 50-metre crawl, a flip turn and a 50-metre crawl back. With some concessions, I should manage. On my crawl back, I backstroke for a few metres and my flip turn is more of a flip-thingamejig. But still, it’s not too bad for a stone, I guess. After my efforts, I take to the pool’s edge to talk to Svenja about her swimming career.

My equipment

The next episode of «Patrick gets active with...»

I enjoyed being in the water so much, I’m staying in it. Or on it, to be precise. I’m swapping the indoor pool for Lake Zurich. Oar in hand and ready to row. Helping me stay afloat is Jonathan Perraudin from Belvoir rowing club.

Don’t want to miss the next story? Get on board and float my boat by clicking on my author profile.

25 people like this article


Patrick Bardelli
Patrick Bardelli
Senior Editor, Zurich
What matters isn’t how well you play when you’re playing well. What matters is how well you play when you’re playing badly.

These articles might also interest you