Well Gee, I Guess No One Really Tried Very Hard In Swimming Before

Does the falling of all those Olympic swimming World Records solely reflect the freakish abilities of Phelps (but also others), or does it imply that the talent pool (as it were) in past years was shallower (as it were)?

I don’t mean to take anything away from this years’ guys. They’re clearly good and conditioning/training is obviously much different now from what it probably was even a decade ago.

But to see so many records broken almost casually, and in some cases, by broad margins – any reason to suspect that maybe in the past there weren’t a critical mass of really good swimmers, or that it wasn’t as competitive as, say, track events, where one-hundredths of a second increments seem harder to come by?

Utter dominance can suggest utter dominance, but it can also suggest lack of much competition – I’d suspect most would agree that the NBA was a bit lacking in balance or a broad talent base in the years when the Celtics won the championship almost every year, and while I’m sure that Karch Kiraly is a good athlete, I’m not as impressed by total domination of a sport that is played competitively by 200 or whatever people nationwide.

So – just how impressed, or less-impressed, should we be by the feats of the U.S. swimmers this year?

Be impressed. In a number of cases, it was these same swimmers who set the old records in the first place.

It’s a high-tech pool, built for speed. It’s deeper than usual and it’s equipped with sophisticated wave-damping technology. There shouldn’t be any surprise that times are so fast.

It’s not just U.S. swimmers. Apparently the Australian women’s 4 x 200 metre freestyle team went into the race not expecting to win a medal and won, breaking the world record by 5 seconds.

How many times do we have to have this discussion on this board?

It’s a fast pool. There’s a lot of technology that goes into it that’s all coming together at the same time here. The Chinese went through great efforts to make the pool perfectly conducive to fast times. They tweaked the chemistry of the water, made it deeper then a typical Olympic pool, they added some engineering to reduce waves and turbulence all in order to make it a very vast venue. This has merged with the fact that swimmers are now wearing the new, low drag LZR suits and the trainers are learning how to best take advantage of those aspects. Perhaps even the chemistry of the pool has been tailored to work in unison with the new suits in some new way.

This doesn’t discount the fact that the current crop of swimmers are all incredibly good. These new swimmers have spent their entire lives training with the aid of computers and high speed cameras and various techniques to create the perfect stroke. They are just figuring out how to get the most out of a persons ability.

The pools and the body suits are contributing to the fast times. There’s no doubt about this - but this has been going on for decades.

Training is much better, you’ll see more techniques on the turns, the starts, the time spent underwater. The athletes are in better shape due to new training regimes.

But, also, these are the best swimmers of all time. If someone like Mark Spitz was at his peak, with these pools, and this type of training, he might have been this good. But there’s no way to know.

OK, I have to ask - just how do you tweak the chemistry of water?

I’m giggling over here - just last night we were talking about what the Chinese had done to the water and the favorite suggestion was that they’d taken out an “H” to make more room between the molecules.

I don’t know exactly what they did, but conceptually it’s very easy to understand. Salt water offers much more buoyancy than fresh water. Adding various chemicals can easily change the surface tension. Temperature plays a role in the way water interacts with it’s surroundings.

I have no idea what Omniscient is talking about with “fast pools,” but I think it’s safe to attribute the marked increase in world records to the advancement of suit technology

Nah, that doesn’t really add up. The suits have been in use since 2000, 8 years ago. All these previous world records were set wearing the same suits, some as recently as the 2008 US trials, and the only new variable is the venue and the mental aspect of it being the Olympics.


If this were the first time these guys wore those suits, then it might mean something, but they’ve all been wearing those suits their entire careers. It’s a cop-out to attribute these record to that. It’s 20% the venue and 80% the athletes when compared to times put up in 2004.

It’s not like the suit technology has stayed static since 2004, they’ve been developing the suits constantly since 2000. I can see the specially designed wide pools decreasing wave interference on the outside lanes, but it doesn’t really explain the fast speeds we’re seeing even in the middle lanes.

A specially-designed system that whisks chlorine fumes off the surface of the pool though…that’s pretty bad-ass. :slight_smile:

I’m on my iPhone so cannot look up the cite I read but the suits are not the same. Yes, they are full body suits as before but new tech in materials and construction.

Beyond the suit, new uses of tech in training methods also plays a part.

…and Phelps is on “the juice”!

(I kid, I kid!)

Yeah, the suits have been getting improved, but that doesn’t really address the fact that the suits haven’t really changed in the 40 days since qualifying. These records they are breaking aren’t years or decades old, most of them are just weeks old, set by the exact same athlete wearing the exact same suit.

The only difference is the pool and the setting. You can argue that the adrenaline of Olympic pride and competition is the cause or that the training between now and last month has somehow intensified and that it’s not the pool. But it’s not the suits, they haven’t changed since these records were set.

You realize that he isn’t wearing the suit in that picture, right?

Wikipedia claimed yesterday that the Israeli swimmers have been setting national records in every event they’ve competed in.

The athletes are tapering for the Olympics. They wouldn’t be peaking 40 days ago - they target their training for the big events. It’s not surprising they are swimming faster now then in the trials.

Another striking difference over the years. Have a look at Mark Spitz 1972 and compare him to say Alain Bernard.

Yeah Spitz looks positively skimpy compared to these guys.

Very few people wear the full suit in the breaststroke, he was wearing the LZR bottoms though, just as he did when qualifying for the final in the breast stroke tonight.

Although the fact that they don’t wear the full suit in certain strokes probably strengthens my argument since they are still setting records in just the bottoms.

Yeah, the mustache alone probably cost him half a second per lap!