Do Olympic swimming events have lifeguards?

I didn’t wonder about this until I watched some synchronized swimming, with lots of legs and arms swinging close to heads, and then it occurred to me that some of the diving stunts could be perilous too. Are there official lifeguards at the Olympic swimming events, or would other swimmers be expected to help someone in trouble, or is trouble considered too unlikely to think about? (What would it be like for some high school kid with a Red Cross certificate to fish an Olympic athlete out of the water?)

I don’t know about the events in the pool but I did notice during the Triathlon there seemed to be lifeguards in attendance. The swimming part takes place in the open sea. Travelling alongside the swimmers were people on body boards who seemed to have life-belts with them. Then further away there were small boats which might have just contained referees but could also have contained rescue people.

Would Olympic swimmers be capable of saving someone’s life? I’m thinking that any Olympic sport is mighty different from trying to get a struggling, terrified person to safety.

I really don’t think an Olympic swimmer would be struggling and terrified in the pool, do you? Anyway, in all my years of competitive swimming (not including the Olympics!) there was never a lifeguard on duty. And yes, certainly any reasonably competent competitive swimmer could save someone from a pool; the training for pool lifeguards is far from strenuous or technical. more like ‘reach, throw, go’.

Witness what happens to a runners (short or long distance) when they push themselves to the extreme. Pulled muscles, cramp, fainting etc. Now imagine the same happening in the water. IMO it is not reasonable to expect a fellow competitor to act as rescuer. So, it would be sensible for there to be rescuers among the support staff and crew. I would be surprised if they didn’t.

Yes they do. A workmate who was a volunteer at the Sydney Games said she thought the best job was lifeguard at thw swimming - perve on all the hot swimmers, watch the races and do nothing. I thought she was joking but because it’s a body of water (several actually) with the public and various workers milling around apparently it is a legal requirement.

When you’re competing at this level you are surrounded by people whose life is swimming. Competitors, coaches, officials, facility staff, various hangers on. I think it’s a safe bet that a large percentage of them have lifeguard training. It’s probably the safest place you could nearly drown.

Coincidentally I was wathcing a diving competition the other day and actually saw a lifeguard there (in Athens). He was in one of those lifeguard chairs and had one of those orange floaty things.

I believe it was the women’s springboard…

As others have mentioned, there are lifeguards present, and are sometimes needed in higher level competitions. I don’t remember when or where, but a young man was performing a dive off of the solid black platform and struck the back of his head quite forcefully. IIRC, a lifeguard(s) had to jump in to save him and the competition was delayed for quite some time.

Greg Louganis?

See here…

That may be him, but I seem to recall it being a stationary platform for some reason. I may be wrong, of course!

It was NOT Greg Louganis. I don’t have an online source, but I have my *Complete Book of the Summer Olympics * (Wallechinsky 2000) handy. Louganis came out of the pool, had temporary sutures applied and completed another dive. Louganis, HIV positive, was worried about his blood possibly infecting others.

As a former lifeguard, and can assure you that we got much more training than that, and rescuing a panicked victim isn’t easy at all.

Having said that, I doubt any swimmer in the Olympics could reach that state of panic.

You’re right about qualifications. The Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre is currently advertising for pool attendants. They require Bronze Medallion, Pool Lifeguard Licence, Advanced Resuscitation with Oxygen Certificate, Senior First Aid Certificate.

I think you may be mistaken with your second point. When I did my Bronze Medallion we were taught to be wary of approaching the “victim” even if they appeared coherent. The idea was to get behind them so you could not be grabbed and instructors stressed that the victim could have the overpowering urge to climb on your head and drown you both at any moment.

A few years ago I saw a TV program about some remarkable work done by (I think) a British scientist. He wanted to work out why people do the wrong things when they are in trouble in water - for instance the moment you lift your arms you sink. His surreal experiments consisted of him tying weights to his legs and jumping in a pool where he would try to stay afloat. Eventually he would “drown” and his assistants would jump in and pull him out. After “drowning” himself many times he concluded that a series of misguided reflexes made it impossible for us to take appropriate actions once we have the sense that we are going to drown.

I had the same training, and I agree that a panicked victim is an extremely dangerous situation. However, I still maintain that an Olympic swimmer, one who spends hours in the pool each day, would never reach that level of panic. As a competitive swimmer and diver, I’ve been run over in the pool, swallowed huge quantities of water, cramped up in the deep end, and nearly knocked myself out screwing up dives, but never approached panic. The swimmers in the Olympics are so far beyond me in “pool sense” that I have a difficult time believing that they could panic in a pool without something truely exceptional happening.

Originally Posted by liirogue

I think that might have been a Russian diver at the Olympics in Calgary. As I recall, he later died from his head injury.

I would be surprised if there weren’t just lifeguards but rescue crews standing by at diving events - especially platform diving. Injuries aren’t that uncommon.

It was a Soviet diver who died attempting a 3 1/2 somersault at the 1983 University Games. I can’t find his name (I believe he was Georgian). He hit his head on the platform and I think he was unconscious as he fell.

I remeber hearing about it as a kid (the 1983 Unvirsity Games where here in Edmonton) althought at first I thought it happened when we hosted the Common Wealth Games.

The diver’s name was Sergei Shlibashvili and he was only 21 when he died as a result of head injuries suffered after hitting the platform during a dive at the World University Games in Edmonton in July of 1983.
Newspaper accounts say that Shlibashvili had come perilously close to the platform during practices of the dive (a reverse 3 1/2) that coaches from other countries were begging the Soviet coaches to tell the guy not to attempt the dive.

I’ve seen an interview with Louganis in which he told the story of the Soviet diver. Louganis was on the steps of the platform, IIRC, and he ran off the platform into the pool to try to rescue the injured diver. He didn’t go on about it, but it obviously is the same one mentioned here.