Glamour. Swagger. Preening. Machismo.
Think pecs. Think posturing. Think pouting. And that’s just the boys.
Staring down the lane before the start of the race with an intensity akin to a matador about to challenge the bull in the ring. A duel.
Is it man or woman against the water or is the water a friend, helping the freestyle sprinter make their way through at maximum speed.
There is an exhilaration borne of a sprinter at peak form, seemingly gliding along the top of the water.
Fran Halsall’s mum Diane once revealed she doesn’t breathe during her daughter’s races. So it’s a good job Fran didn’t choose the 800 free. Or the 25km open water.
Fran – with world, European and Commonwealth medals in the sprints – points to the stardust element of the freestyle.
“I think it is the most pure stroke because it’s the fastest, it gets you from A to B quicker than anything else,” she laughs.
“It is quite glamorous. I suppose with the 100m – fastest man in the world, fastest woman in the world – and the fastest through water.”
The 24-year-old also has an opinion on the male of the freestyle species.
“I think the boys in the sprint freestyle are very confident – they have a very big presence about them and not just because they are 6ft 6in because not all of them are!”
Every corner of Fran’s life has been affected by the sprint freestyle. When she was 14, the Loughborough swimmer bought two goldfish and named them Inge and Thorpey. After Dutch four-time Olympic medallist Inge de Bruijn and Ian Thorpe, winner of world and Olympic medals from 100m freestyle upwards.
There was, however, no happy ending. Inge and Thorpey succumbed to a watery grave. “My mum accidentally killed them – their scales fell off.”
While that may be a fishy tale, Fran remains a student of the sprint.
“I’m going to put it out there – I think freestyle is the hardest stroke to be good at because everybody learns to do it first and everybody does it.
“So it is highly competitive, probably more competitive than any other stroke.
“I have to be very regimented in it. I overthink it. If I get anything in my head about my freestyle I’m like I’ve got to get this right.
“Perfectionists – that is the word I am looking for.
“But I am not organised, I am very scatty when it comes to everything else apart from when I am focused on what I am doing in the pool.
“I think we are fiery and feisty – especially sprint freestylers.”
Her words are echoed by Bronte Campbell, four-time 2014 Commonwealth medallist.
“Freestyle is special because we get to swim the fastest.
”We are flamboyant and enjoy bright colours and to stand out, particularly in the 100m free, as this is the race people really enjoy to watch
”We are always having fun and never serious. While others sit waiting in silence for their races, we are making jokes …In other words, we are the coolest to hang about with.”
“You can spot the male sprinters in the training pool, as they are the ones with the big lats!”