Good Catch and Pull from the Front
The swimmer's elbow is never very far from the surface. She gets hold of the water very early in her stroke, with her hand and her entire forearm. Looking at a video clip of an efficient swimmer like this head-on, frame by frame, you will see the hand and forearm perpendicular to the direction of travel in many frames. She is holding the water with that entire surface - from fingertips to elbow - while moving toward the camera, pulling her body over that spot in the water. Other things to notice:
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