Fast swimmers make fast pools, but science lends a hand

Fri Jul 22, 2016 9:08pm EDT
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By Alan Baldwin

LONDON (Reuters) - To those who dip into swimming only when the Olympic Games come around, it may seem odd to hear a pool described as 'fast' when it looks much like any other large rectangle filled with water.

And while coaches hammer into their young charges that fast swimmers make fast pools, like swimmers, some pools are faster than others and even Michael Phelps goes quicker with the application of science.

In 2013, after British swimmers had flopped at the London Games and that year's world championships, head coach Bill Furniss suggested Sheffield's Ponds Forge Olympic standard pool was hampering their development because it was too fast.

Cue jokey headlines suggesting swimmers were training in the "wrong kind of water" -- an echo of the "wrong kind of snow/rain/sunshine" excuses familiar to downtrodden commuters when Britain's weather halts the trains.

At the international level, however, the biggest waves are the ones given by the swimmers to the crowd as they climb out.

Rio's new 50-metre Olympic pool, where records may be set as dreams and duels play out, should stand out like a gleaming Ferrari among functional family runabouts.

The technology in such a pool, from energy-absorbing lane dividers and wave-swallowing drainage to the depth and temperature, is all designed to help the world's best swimmers go faster than ever.

"Years and years ago, when pools had gutters on the side and walls, if you were on the outside lane then the waves were splashing back and hitting you," Britain's 4x100 mixed medley world gold medalist Chris Walker-Hebborn told Reuters at an Adidas event.   Continued...

Swimmers dive into the water to start heat 5 of the women's 50m freestyle event during the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre August 3, 2012. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne/File photo