Fast Swimming Pools, More Specialized Training Than Ever… The Origins of Waltz Records

A frown of disappointment. To the world gold he won in the 100-meter butterfly final, Hungarian Christoph Milak had hoped to add a world record, a feat he achieved in front of his fans three days earlier in the 200-meter butterfly, on June 21. In total, during the World Swimming Championships in Budapest at the end of June, two world records, seven continental records and five junior world records were broken. Already in Tokyo, about fifteen continental signs and two planetary signs have been planned. Will that waltz ever run out, as the European Championship begins on Thursday, August 11th?

In chlorinated water, the oldest world mark dates back to the 2008 Beijing Olympics (Michael Phelps, in the 400m medley). In the 50-meter pool, only 11 world records are ten or more years old, out of 34 singles events. Most of these vintage brands date back to 2009, the year swimmers wore polyurethane wetsuits. The latter was banned from 2010, without canceling the records made with this “magical” swimsuit.

Another leading Olympic sport, athletics has a distinct trajectory in this topic. Fifteen world records date back to the end of the eighties, which were also marred by doubts about doping. “Various scientific articles have proven. The slope of progress has reached its level in athletics, and this is not the case in swimming”, says Robin Pla, technical advisor to the French Swimming Federation (FFN). Why this difference? “Firstly because swimming is still a sport that is only 120 years old, athletics is much bigger,” he said. Answers to the scientific reference. point as well “Later Professional” swimmers;

“The scientific methods that allow for better calibration of training are now also more efficient in the water,” Robin Bella points out. The researcher cites underwater cameras and physiological measuring instruments (for example on the presence of lactic acid). “It allows you to be more fulfilling in training. Before that, coaches were groping more. This is another aspect of professionalizing the discipline.” Robin Pla places the emergence of scientific data consideration in the early 2000s.

Like other athletes, some swimmers have also begun to incorporate issues related to sleep, diet, lifestyle, or mental preparation. Robin Blae praises Michael Phelps’ sternness which, he says, has led to an evolution in the vision for the profession. “We see more and more swimmers who are mastering their project, like Florent Manaudou. And we see that those who succeed have an individual programme.”

The data specialist also explains the waltz of the continental records by “Intensification” of discipline, driven by the gradual diversity of present nations. However, the expert is surprised by the continued progress in the men’s 100m butterfly and women’s 100m backstroke, while times for other events are stagnant. Among the hypotheses he put forward: improved swimming technique at these distances. At the end of the nineties, the trend was to reduce strokes. Today, swimmers tend to increase frequency without losing amplitude.

French & nbsp;  Emma Teribo (left), Dutch Mikey de Ward (centre), and Swedish  Hannah Roosevel, during the semi-finals of the 100 meters backstroke, on June 19, 2022, at the World Championships in Budapest (Hungary).  (OLI SCARFF / AFP)

Another notable development is flows. An art in which the French Leon Marchand excels. By studying the references of the 8 best countries in the world, Robin Pla found that the best are not the fastest at swimming “But they improve their castings.”. At the Ensip Basin, one of France’s high-profile sports magnates, Maxime Groste was able to perfect his underwater technique under the watchful eye of the FFN’s technical advisor and scrutinize new technological gadgets. “We observed its trajectory and its speed. Then we could give it objective elements such as the exact angle, the number of ripples to make, so that its casting would be perfect”, Robin Bella explains.

In addition, swimmers benefit from changes in swimming pools. Twenty years ago, it was not uncommon for a swimming pool to exceed the regulatory limit of 50 meters by a few centimeters. In a sport where victory is determined by the percent, this difference may have affected distances such as 800 or 1500 metres. “Today, swimming pools are often temporary and are built to the nearest millimeter. To get approval, the pool must measure 50.020 metres, to which we will add chronometers one centimeter thick on each side,” Says Basil Gaziod, Equipment Manager at FFN.

Dona Stadium, the Budapest swimming pool that hosted the FINA World Swimming Championships, June 18-25, 2022. (Jastrzybowski/Siba)

Another notable innovation: the water lines that break the waves, which limit the eddies. From now on, the IAAF regulations require that each lane be marked with two lanes. Thus, swimmers placed outside are no longer deprived of having a wall as an edge. “For five years, with each new pool project, we required the design of tie-down points for these auxiliary lines to make sure there were eight fair lanes,” he said. Explains Basil Gaziod.

Last factor to advance, starting pads have included a starting block since 2009, allowing for better support and therefore a greater blast for swimmers at the whistle. Backrest athletes have benefited from stirrup mounts since 2013. This removable non-slip rim allows swimmers to have better control. When placed close to the surface, this plate, which is a maximum of two centimeters thick, is tilted very slightly, blocking the foot.

On the other hand, there is no scientific data that supports the negative feelings of swimmers who develop in pools of different depth from one side to the other. If some say they feel drawn to it, “It’s subjective because only very low depth produces more water returns,” Basil Ghaziod says. The 2.5-3m flat bottom pool is for professionals the ideal pool to perform well.

In 2009, under the era of polyurethane suits, he set 43 world records in the pool in Rome, which was the host of the two worlds at that time. How many will be in that same pool, this year, during the European Championships?

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